Interest in and development of viable supersonic aircraft continues with one United States-based company eyeing flights by the mid-2030s. Startup company Exosonic is designing a supersonic jet that has the potential to fly at Mach 1.8, or twice the speed of conventional jets. They’ve also picked up a contract from the United States Air Force (USAF) to develop supersonic executive transport.
Exosonic wants to make supersonic travel viable
Exosonic’s core business is developing a commercially viable supersonic jet capable of carrying 70 passengers. Exosonic is not the only company trying to do this. Startups working on supersonic aircraft are popping up like mushrooms these days. But Exosonic has two points of difference.
From a technical perspective, Exosonic is trying to mute the sonic boom. That’s the crashing sound from the shock waves created when a plane travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. In most jurisdictions, aircraft are not allowed to go supersonic over land. In turn, that limits where the planes can fly or substantially adds to flight times. It undercuts the viability of supersonic aircraft. Exosonic is working to overcome this.
Exosonic also wants to make supersonic flying affordable – around the level of a business class ticket. That’s still out of reach for many potential passengers but does open up a customer market potentially large enough to fill a 70 seat plane.
Exosonic needs to overcome technological, economic, and regulatory hurdles to get its supersonic plane in the air. But the company and its backers are pouring millions of dollars into doing so. Last year, the United States Air Force got onboard.
“Transporting key decision-makers and teams around the world in half the time can be the difference between success and failure. Exosonic is a key player in getting us there,” said Brigadier General Ryan Britton, boss of the USAF’s Presidential and Executive Airlift last year.
A supersonic Air Force One by the mid-2030s
Exosonic’s potential presidential jet is a business jet version of Exosonic’s passenger jet. Instead of seating 70 passengers, this future Air Force One jet will seat just 31 passengers.
Last week, CNN Traveller scored a virtual walk-through of the future presidential plane. It will feature a three-passenger meeting room, secure video teleconferencing, and an eight-passenger suite with lie-flat seats. In the main cabin, there will be 20 business-class seats, two galleys, and two lavatories. CNN Travel was told the plane should be flying by the mid-2030s.
As CNN’s Maureen O’Hare notes, that’s all very nice, but the plane is probably too squeezy for any long-haul presidential flights. There is also the matter of range. Exosonic’s supersonic jet will be able to fly 9,260 before refueling. That will comfortably get you from Washington DC to Seattle but not to Tokyo or the Middle East. It on long-distance flights that any supersonic flights will come into their own.
From Brigadier-General Britton’s perspective, that’s not the point. The USAF’s involvement with Exosonic is about exploring new frontiers and seeing where it goes.
“We are proud to be leading the charge to deliver cutting-edge technology to the world,” he said. “By teaming with industry, we are proving the United States Air Force can deliver technology leaps while maximizing return on taxpayer investment.”
In addition to Exosonic, the USAF has teamed up with other companies working on similar technologies, including Boom Supersonic and Hermeus.
What do you think? What’s the likelihood of supersonic presidential travel and supersonic travel in general? Post a comment and let us know.