Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Sonic Cruiser

The Sonic Cruiser was born from one of numerous outline projects in a Boeing R&D program known internally as "20XX" (hinting that, had it entered production, it might have spawned a new "20 series" of Boeing aircraft), the goal of which was to look at potential designs for a possible new near-sonic or supersonic airliner.
The strongest of these initial concepts was dubbed "Sonic Cruiser" and publicly unveiled on
March 29, 2001, shortly after the launch of the A380 by rival Airbus. Boeing had recently withdrawn its proposed 747-X derivative from competition with the Airbus A380
when not enough airline interest was forthcoming, and instead proposed the Sonic Cruiser as a completely different approach.
Instead of the A380's massive capacity, requiring a
hub and spoke model of operation, the Sonic Cruiser was designed for rapid point-to-point connections for only 250 passengers. With delta wings and flying just short of the speed of sound at 0.95 Mach (about 1010 km/h or 627 mph at altitude), the Sonic Cruiser promised 20% faster speed than conventional aircraft without the noise pollution caused by supersonic Concorde's sonic boom. The aircraft would have flown at altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet, and would have possessed a range somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 nautical miles
According to Boeing's own estimates, the Sonic Cruiser would burn fuel 15-20% faster than conventional aircraft. However, it was estimated the aircraft would burn roughly the same amount of fuel as a conventional aircraft flying the same route due to the faster travel-time.
The Sonic Cruiser concept originated in 1999 and a variety of concepts were studied, including supersonic aircraft, aircraft with the engines mounted above the wing, aircraft with a single vertical tail, and aircraft with rectangular intakes. The initial sketches released to the public were highly conjectural. A patent drawing filed by Boeing on
March 22, 2001
put the baseline aircraft's dimensions at 250 feet in length, with a wingspan of 164.9 feet.
Wind tunnel testing and
computational fluid dynamics analysis further refined the Sonic Cruiser concept. Based on artwork released by Boeing in July 2002, the Sonic Cruiser now sported two taller vertical tails with no inward cant. The forward canard was set at zero degrees dihedral. At this point, Boeing had yet to decide on the size or layout of the aircraft's fuselage cross section.

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