With all the manufacturers busy working on new products to appear over the next year or so, proponents of supersonic business jets are struggling to get a hearing. It’s particularly tough for the two independent teams that need an OEM to get their designs off the drawing board.
There are essentially three players with three approaches. Gulfstream says an SSBJ, to be viable, must fly supersonically over land and so must be low boom. It also believes a demonstrator is needed to convice regulators to lift the ban on supersonic flight over the US.
Gulfstream noses ahead with Quiet Spike
Supersonic Aerospace International (SAI) agrees supersonic overland flight is essential, but says it does not need to first build a demonstrator to prove that its Lockheed Martin Skunk Works-designed Quiet Supersonic Transport will produce no perceptible boom.
Skunk magic tames QSST’s boom
Aerion says supersonic overland flight is not essential if the SSBJ can cruise as efficiently over land at a boomless Mach 0.95 as it can over water at Mach 1.6 – which is exactly what the company claims for its patented supersonic natural laminar flow design.
Smooth flow cuts Aerion’s drag
But while Gulfstream is pursuing its own SSBJ design, Aerion and SAI are trying to assemble industrial consortia to certificate and produce their designs. This is hard to do when the engineering resources at the OEMs are already committed to their own new product priorities.
Aerion and SAI remain hopeful, and Gulfstream continues working the technology, but the prospect of supersonic business jet entering service seems to be slipping further into the next decade. The bizav boom, not the sonic boom, is the biggest obstacle to the SSBJ.