The last two decades have seen major growth in the air transport industry, with more aircraft and more customers, there has been a need by the aviation industry to bring back supersonic jets. Supersonic aircraft are aircraft that can fly faster than the speed of sound. These fast-speed aircraft have a lot of technical challenges that make it harder for them to fly like other commercial airlines. Currently, a lot of research is being done to correct the shortcomings of the original supersonic flights. Modern technology and research are in place to build supersonic aircraft that are fuel-efficient, with low noise to enable them to increase their travel routes over areas inhabited by humans. Faster speed airline is gaining prominence as a method that will be used to attract more customers to the air transport industry. With the extensive efforts in research to bring back safer, faster, and sustainable supersonic flight, the aviation industry will eventually realize its dream of having fast-speed airlines.
The aviation industry began in the early 20th century (Jacobs and Goebel 2020); the wright brothers developed and tested the first flight in December 1903. In 1908 the brothers secured a contract by the US army to make an aircraft and they licensed their patents soon allowing the Astra Company to make the plane in France. In 1909 Glenn Curtiss started selling his aircraft and soon entrepreneurs realized an opportunity of making and selling aircraft. Over the years the air transport industry has seen tremendous growth, from building different types of aircraft to the industry going global because of the increase in customers. The aviation industry now connects different countries, continents, and cultures. The most recent estimate shows that the demand for air transport will increase by around 4.3% per annum over the next two decades. In recent years, the need to fly faster has increased and the aviation industry is looking forward to bringing back supersonic jets. The biggest advantage that supersonic travel will offer is the reduction in flight time, making the aircraft very viable. Many of the policies and regulations surrounding air travel will have to change to bring back the fast-speed airlines.
The supersonic jet operated from 1976 until 2003 when it was retired. It had a speed of over twice the speed of sound, at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180km/h) at cruise altitude, with a passenger capacity of between 92 to 128 passengers. It operated for thirty-one years before it was retired. Concorde and Tupelov Tu-144 are the only two commercial flights to have flown at supersonic speed. The Concorde was built by both France and Britain. These European countries agreed to share risks and costs to build the Concorde. The supersonic jet was only used by wealthy people who could afford to pay for very expensive tickets, in exchange for the high price they got to enjoy the fast jet speed and luxurious cabins and services. The supersonic jet was a reliable airplane and had enjoyed a good record when it comes to safety. The fatal France flight 4590 accident was the only recorded accident in the thirty-one years of its operation. The Sonic airline was retired in October 2003, three years after the accident where all the passengers and crew were killed.
The Concorde accident
The Concorde aircraft was jointly built by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) and the Sud Aviation Company. The first fatal Concorde accident happened two minutes after take-off; minutes before the Concorde a continental flight had used the runway and dropped off a titanium alloy strip. During take-off, a piece of the continental flight cut the Concorde left tyre. As the aircraft moved down the runway, the tyre broke and part of it got stuck under the wing where a fuel tank was located. Due to a pressure wave inside the tank, the tyre ruptured and fuel started flowing leading to ignition. The Concorde was at a velocity where it could not safely stop, it lifted with two of its left engines burning and soon crashed. The accident was due to human error, as the runway was not inspected after the continental flight had used the runway. The protocol before any flight dictated that the runway must be inspected before a Concorde flight takes off. In April 2003, The United Kingdom decided to retire the Concorde aircraft. The decision to discontinue the aircraft was because the airline experienced a low number of passengers and high rising maintenance costs.
Future of the air transport industry
The future of the aviation industry has seen a lot of innovation being put in place to have a better aircraft experience in the coming years. A major area of interest is airlines with faster speed, which will bring about sustainability for the future generation. There are plans to build an aircraft that will hit four times the speed of sound. Supersonic jets are aircraft that move at a speed that is more than the speed of sound, the first jet to fly supersonic was built by Bell X-1 in 1947. A lot of tests are being carried out to bring back a better version of the supersonic which will have dealt with the challenges faced by the original version of the supersonic jet.
Research and technology are being put in place to create an aircraft with the same specifics but on a bigger scale. The aviation industry is set to benefit from this because a lot of career opportunities will come to play. With more customers interested in using supersonic aircraft, there will be a need to build more planes, meaning more engineers will be employed. The number of flying jets will increase therefore the aviation industry will employ more pilots to run the planes and the need for more air traffic controllers will increase. Creating job opportunities in the air transport industry will maintain healthy and stable economic growth. In 2019, Lufthansa Group’s Customer Insight Team conducted a survey to find out if customers are willing to pay more to travel supersonic, most customers voted yes.
The supersonic Era
Boom supersonic company and Japan have formed a strategic partnership to bring back the supersonic aircraft. After close to two decades since the Concorde was retired, there has been a need to resurrect the fast-speed airline. More people are traveling the world, either for work, to visit a family, or for vacation, these passengers will need to reach their destination faster hence the need for supersonic aircraft. The Concorde could fly its passengers from London to New York in less than three and a half hours while the normal airlines could fly the same route double the time it took the Concorde. The supersonic future will be built on safety, speed, and sustainability. Over the years research has been done to address the main challenge with the supersonic which is noise disturbance. Engineers and other experts are working on a way to make the aircraft produce less noise so that it can be allowed to fly over land and resume services.
The loud noise produced by the supersonic jet compares to that produced by the Eurostar; the fast-speed train. With Eurostar, its high speed increases the magnitude of the noise generated by the railway and increases the vibration. NASA has developed the X-59 Quiet supersonic technology aircraft which can fly at supersonic speed with little noise. The aircraft is pelican shaped which helps to reduce noise, the shape changes the shock waves produced by the aircraft. The Japanese have created a jet called the Overture which is a commercial aircraft flying at supersonic speed.
Passengers using the Overture will be able to enjoy affordable fast-speed flights on business class following transoceanic routes. It is currently undergoing thorough testing including test drives and is expected to roll out in 2025 while being fully operational in 2029. With people and cargo moving faster from one destination to the other the air transport industry will dominate the transport sector. More profit will mean the aviation industry will have more money to channel in research about how they can improve their services and build a better plane that will be safer and sustainable.
Impact of speed in the aviation industry
The future of air transport is very promising, as more people are changing from other forms of transport to using air because air transport is faster compared to the other modes of mobility. The aviation industry is serving customers in times of emergencies, when people are rushing to beat deadlines at different geographical places and when there is a need to transport perishable goods over a big distance. The air transport industry is seeking to bring back an airline that is reliable and easy to maintain. The supersonic jet was hugely respected because it was reliable, customers trusted in its services and that is why decades later the aviation company is seeking to bring it back.
Customers could rely on their safety while using the aircraft, until its retirement it only recorded one accident. Though the accident was costly to the airline, it could still not be compared with the other types of aircraft that had recorded more accidents in their operation. Currently, people are still challenging the aviation industry to bring supersonic speed jets back into the market. The fast-speed airline will be able to complement the rest of the aviation fleet and act as a good addition. When the Overture will start its operation people across cities and countries will be more connected, families that live far from each other will enjoy the convenience of speed to meet and interact on a personal level.
Since the legendary supersonic airline was retired close to 18 years ago, it has been a challenge to build a high-speed aircraft for both business and commercial aviation. With the technological objective of achieving a fast-flying aircraft, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) requested the National Research Council (NRC) to carry out a study that will identify approaches for realizing the dream of having commercial supersonic aircraft. The results of this research should guide the future in realizing areas where more work should be continued, to bring about an aircraft that is economically viable and environmentally friendly. The air transport industry should be able to build a supersonic flight that is sustainable, an aircraft that can fly over land at very high speed in the next coming few years. Going forward the following recommendation will help the aviation industry to realize the supersonic dream.