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Supersonic Flight Without The Boom

SAI QSST (Image courtesy Popular Science)
By Andrew Liszewski

Remember when the Concorde came out and made that long flight from Los Angeles to New York a thing of the past? No? Well that’s because the Concorde was never able to fly at supersonic speeds over land due to the loud sonic booms it produced that the FAA felt could be dangerous to people on the ground. As a result the Concorde was really only ever used for transoceanic flights where the sonic booms weren’t a problem.

But the dream of supersonic commercial flight is alive and well and a company called SAI (Supersonic Aerospace International) has contracted none other than Lockheed’s own Skunk Works (the people behind the SR-71 Blackbird and F-117 Stealth fighter) to create the QSST or Quiet Supersonic Transport at a cost of nearly $25 million.

The Skunk Works has been working on the QSST for six years now and has managed the near impossible with a design that allows the plane to travel up to 1,188 mph (Mach 1.8) with a sonic wake that apparently sounds quieter than a kite flying overhead. At that speed the flight from LA to NY would take about 2 hours.

Of course a lot of science went into the QSST’s design which really can’t be summed up in a few paragraphs but the basic idea is that the plane uses fine-tuned aerodynamics to control the pressure as air is displaced at supersonic speeds. This evens out air disturbances along the craft resulting in several smaller, quieter shockwaves instead of two incredibly loud ones.

The QSST is designed to sit 12 passengers which means it’s being targeted more as a private jet for busy diplomats or executives who like to travel in style. Whether or not this design can be applied to larger, commercial aircraft is not known.

[ All Sonic, No Boom @ Popular Science ]







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