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So Fast, Yet Couldn’t Make It – The Sonic Cruiser

written by: Ricky•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 5/16/2010

We all love to fly in jetliners and reach our destination in the quickest possible time. Of course there are some like me who want the flight to be as long as possible so as to enjoy the fun of flying. It was perhaps due to such people that the Boeing Sonic Cruiser just didn’t click.

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    Introduction

    Time is money these days and everyone wants to save whatever amount of time possible in activities such as travel. This is thought to be a universal principle and even the giant airplane manufacturing company, Boeing, had similar notions until they learned otherwise, the hard way. They knew that the greatest hassle for people traveling on long trips is the time spent in air and changeovers which need to be done due to the limited range of aircrafts. Of course the machines such as Concorde were traveling at supersonic speeds but then flying above the speed of sound has its own problems and a huge cost as well. So Boeing decided to bridge this gap by trying to design a plane which would cruise very near to the speed of sound (but below it) and could fly continuously to a longer distance but with a lesser number of passengers. They named this project the Boeing Sonic Cruiser.

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    The Sonic Cruiser

    As already mentioned above, flying at super sonic speeds causes tremendous noise pollution problems caused by the sonic boom. There are also many technical challenges for manufacturers and operators. Hence Boeing unveiled a plan to build the Sonic Cruiser aircraft which could travel at nearly 95% if the speed of sound. The company hoped that there would be lot of orders pouring in from all the major airline companies to purchase this aircraft. With this hope, Boeing spent much money on R&D in order to achieve success in its venture.

    The speed of this aircraft was supposed to be in the region of 1000 km/hr which would be around 15-20% faster than conventional aeroplanes. Wind tunnel tests and other calculations were done in order to make this ambitious plan a reality in the production shop. Various dimensions were established based on these tests and the shape of the aircraft at various sections was nearly finalized. The figure below shows a sketch of the Boeing Sonic Cruiser airplane with the main dimensions and shape.

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    A Sketch of The Sonic Cruiser

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    The Final Destination

    The aeroplane which was supposed to be so fast never managed to reach its destination (namely the actual production line) and was scrapped by the end of the year after it had been publicly announced, i.e. towards the end of 2002. The main reason for this was that the research and manufacturing of the Boeing Sonic Cruiser would significantly increase costs to airlines, and could only offer a marginal increase in speed. Obviously this price had to be passed on to the end customers which meant that they had to pay lot more money for the small savings in time that they would get. Airline companies thought that this would not be a wise option and hence there were hardly any orders placed for the Sonic Cruiser. Boeing had no choice but to scrap the project.

    You might be wondering what happened to the research and efforts which went in the R&D of this project. As you know hard work never goes in vain so the technologies that were refined or developed for use in this machine were used in the subsequent projects within the Boeing company.

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    References

    "Boeing Sonic Cruiser Completes First Wind Tunnel Tests" Boeing: http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2001/q3/nr_010917a.html

    "Boeing Sonic Cruiser" Aerospaceweb: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/jetliner/sonic_cruiser/

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    Image Source

    Boeing Sonic Cruiser. (Supplied by Boeing; Used with Permission)