The Russians were first to launch supersonic flights with Tu-144 which had its maiden flight on the last day of 1968. In 1969 it delivered first cargo and in 1977 implemented a few passenger trips. However, in 1985, after two tragic incidents commercial flights were canceled.

In 1976, seven years after its first flight, famous Concorde jet, the offspring of French-British cooperation, made the first commercial trip from London to Washington. It took less than 4 hours to reach the other side of the Atlantic.

Concorde, which was launched in the early 1950s, was a common business project of both Britain and France purposed to strengthen ties between often uneasy neighbors. This technological masterpiece with its extra-narrow body and a long sharp nose was capable of boarding up to 100 passengers and reaching Mach 2.04. Concorde used to make flights for nearly four decades until October 2003, when the last aircraft raised into the air to be placed later in aviation museum in Bristol.

Is the story of commercial supersonic aircraft over?  With less than a decade passed after last flight of Concorde, a group made of former Concord stuff representatives created so-called Club Concorde. Members of the club believe that it is actually possible to bring Concorde jets back to air. The club has access to £120 million reserve fund and intends to use this money for the purchase of a jet displayed at Le Bourget airport in Paris. When ready the jet is expected to be used for air shows, special events and as a private charter. The nearest milestone club hopes to achieve is the implementation of a flight commemorating 50-th anniversary since Concorde’s first taste of air scheduled for 2019.

A new hope for supersonic jets

In current decade several other companies seek to develop new supersonic jets for commercial flights. They differ in design and accent on certain criteria, but all try to overcome the drawbacks of the past experience to make flights workable.

For example, NASA together with Lockheed Martin is developing one of its X-planes. A particular concern is to reduce sonic boom and make new supersonic jet environmentaly-friendly. Aerion from Reno, Nevada, founded in 2002 has invested more than 100 mln $ in R&D for developing of jet’s concept and supersonic technology. Aerion AS2 business jet is capable of flying at 1,5 Mach. Its distinct feature is smaller wings, longer fuselage and supersonic natural laminar flow technology (SNLF) used which allow less fuel and longer distance with significant reduction of friction and wave drug – by 80 % and 20% respectively. The jet however will only carry 8-12 passengers, who, according to Aerion, will be promised to have an unrivaled comfort as in the current best business jets.

Will XB-1 bring the dream back?

Probably one the most promising companies is Boom Technology, a Denver-based startup, which launched its jet project, called XB-1 expected to take a test flight next year. Boom states it already has the technology to correspond to FA requirements, which involves composite fuselage and heat-resistant material systems for efficient, economic and safe supersonic flight. It is worth mentioning that Virgin Group is involved as it assists the company with research and development. 

XB-1 will be capable to achieve Mach 2.2 what equals to 3.5 hour flight from New York to London. The aircraft will fly at 60000 ft. altitude and passengers will have a great opportunity to overview the curvature of the planet. Company expects to have its first passenger flight in early 2020s.

The company considers all the major drawbacks of previous supersonics. XB-1 model is designed to have 45 seats, and Boom expects to use the same amount of fuel consumed during subsonic business class flights. The same goes for emissions. Refined delta wings help considerably reduce the drag effects and the third engine to make take-off noise much lower. Although Boom will offer a private jet and VIP options it claims to make flights much cheaper, claiming tickets to be around $5000 for New York-London round trip.