Defying The Speed of Sound

sonic.jpgEver imagined that you can reach your friend before your voice reaches him/her? This going is to be commercially possible six years down the line. Although the supersonic jet Concorde exists but with the technology of the 60s, it will soon turn obsolete with the Delta Wings, which, increased its operating costs when it operated below the speed of sound. Nevada-based Aerion Corporation has announced that it is venturing into production of eight to twelve seater SuperSonic Business Jets (SSBJ), priced at a whooping 323 crore rupees and will be launched only by the end of 2014. Currently, the aircraft exists only in design and on paper and has obtained a patent for its unique wing structure. It is capable of supersonic speeds of 1.15 machs over land and 1.6 machs over sea and shall have a range of 4000 nautical miles. That would mean that a Mumbai-Singapore flight, currently pegged at four and a half hours in a regular 0.85 mach business jet, can be completed in less than three hours. The popular Mumbai-London route will be shorter by 2.20 hours if the aircraft flies at 0.95 mach for half of the flight time.

The order for the supersonic jet requires a down payment of one crore rupees. Eighty orders have already been placed worldwide excluding orders from the United States of America. Five orders have been placed from India. The names of the Indians who have placed the order haven’t been disclosed. But it is not hard to guess the names.

The Indian aviation industry is yet to catch up with technology and no supersonic jet is licensed to fly in the Indian air space. Peter Smales, executive director, ExecuJet says that they are hopeful that India would relax its rules for supersonic flights in the future. The United States allows supersonic jets to fly only over the sea.

The next decade will see a return of supersonic flights in form of business aircraft. The company Aerion, which has got five orders from India, will not manufacture the aircraft on its own. “By the end of this year, the partnership agreement to manufacture these aircraft will be signed with a business jet major”, said Smales. Other companies slated to bring out their creations are the Supersonic Aerospace International and the Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. The Las Vegas Supersonic Aerospace international has tied up with Lockheed Martin’s Skunk works to manufacture a Quiet Supersonic Jet (QSSJ) which will reduce the sonic boom to a mere sonic whisper. The Savannah based Gulfstream Aerospace Corp is developing a SBBJ that can fly at 1.8 mach and carry up to 15 passengers.

The development is welcomed but one needs to introspect into the amount of money involved and the opportunity cost, i.e., the cost of the next best alternative. If five Indians are planning to own the jets, the initial total money spent would be 5 times 323 that is, 1615 crore rupees and that too for saving two hour of travelling time and as the status symbol. What other purpose does it serve other than the two reasons stated above? It is a perspective which needs further introspection by the purchasers of the aircraft.



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