Transport Technology

Supersonic Air Travel

Supersonic air travel is defined as aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound. Developed in the twentieth century, the aircraft has primarily been used for military purposes with only two forays into the world of commercial aviation. These were the Tupolev Tu-144 and the celebrated and much more famous Concorde.

The technology for producing an aircraft that can fly at supersonic speeds has great challenges when compared to subsonic (regular) air travel. The planes require increase thrust to propel them at greater speeds and must also be much more streamlined to reduce drag and increase the performance of the aircraft. Early models used rocket engines to provide the necessary power but later model relied on low bypass turbofans.

One of the most interesting features of a supersonic aircraft is the supersonic boom which is generated when the plane breaks the sound barrier. Waves are created when an object travels faster than the speed of sound which is heard as a loud bang to the human ear. In short, the waves are formed when the waves created at the front and the back or the aircraft crash together.

Since Concorde ceased its operations in 2003, no commercial supersonic aircraft have been in existence.