Concorde gets a facelift


It seems like we may be getting shorter commute times if you’re a frequent flier. Good news as it pulls closer the 4 corners of the earth even more.

However, there are some massive engineering challenges which this phoenix has to overcome before it can take off.

The sheer speed of which this will be travelling: whenever an object breaks the ‘sound barrier’ it makes a sonic boom, which is bad as these can be very loud.

To alleviate this, the aircraft would have to be very long, so that the volume and the lift of the plane are allowed to gradually build up and then decrease, instead of doing this quickly: the quicker it does this, the bigger the sonic boom.

The engine is also extremely important. Under the N+2 program, Lockheed Martin has worked with General Electric and Rolls Royce to look at engine concepts that have high fuel efficiency and can meet the take off and landing noise constraints.

“The engine itself does not contribute to a sonic boom but you have to have a good integration of the engine into the airframe,” said Buonanno.

Lockheed Martin’s N+2 concept has a tri-jet configuration; one engine is on the top of the aircraft and the other two are located under each wing. Though not physically hidden, these locations are essentially concealed from the sonic boom because of the tailored volume and lift distribution of the plane. Therefore, the disturbance simply blends in.

And while passengers won’t be buying tickets for these aircraft in the next five years, Buonanno estimates the technology will be ready around the 2025 time frame. Don’t hold your breath.

“We calculate that time frame by gauging the technology readiness levels,” said Buonanno.  He explained that one of the pacing items would be the availability of a propulsion system. “Having something that’s efficient at high speeds and quiet is a big technical challenge.”

By choosing Mach 1.7 design, the team has been able to significantly simplify the problem of developing a propulsion system that’s compatible with low emissions and take off and landing noise. Although slightly slower than Concorde’s Mach 2 cruise speed, this enables the use of higher bypass ratio engines for lower take off noise and would still permit approximately a 50 percent reduction of trip time compared to today’s aircraft.

“Our work with NASA has laid the groundwork for any future activity,” said Buonanno. The tools we’ve put in place really open up future opportunities.”

Would you fly on it?