Boeing set to unveil finalized Sonic Cruiser design options

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Boeing is expected to reveal today details of three finalized Sonic Cruiser design options and a “Super Efficient Airplane” baseline design to be offered to airlines as choices for the manufacturer’s next generation airliner, which could potentially be launched in 2003 for entry-into-service in 2008.

The three Sonic Cruiser candidates include the now familiar canard-equipped configuration, and two “mid-wing” alternatives with no canard and conventional empennages that can cruise at the same high Mach 0.98 speed range. One mid-wing design has aft-mounted engines similar to the original Sonic Cruiser design, while the alternative has forward-mounted engines and significantly more area-ruling of the fuselage.

The Super Efficient Airplane, formerly dubbed the “reference” aircraft or “Project Yellowstone”, will also revealed in detail for the first time. It will have a conventional shape but advanced, high bypass ratio turbofans, advanced systems and lightweight structures. The aircraft is being offered with virtually all of the technical advances studied for the Sonic Cruiser, with the exception of the faster aircraft’s high Mach speed and high altitude cruise capability.

The Super Efficient design is configured to operate at today’s cruise speed and altitudes but with around 10% less fuel consumption than the Sonic Cruiser and considerably more efficiency than aircraft currently in service.

The final verdict on which of the options could be launched as Boeing’s next generation airliner will depend on how the operators put a conclusive value on speed, says Sonic Cruiser program vice president and program manager Walt Gillette.

“We see an opportunity for a 757 to 767 size aircraft with the same sort of range capability as the A380 and 777,” he says. “The aircraft will have long range capability to carry between 200 and 250 in three classes. But it’s the airline’s choice. Either it goes 15% to 20% faster or we put the same kind of technology into an airplane that would go at today’s speed and altitude, but burn quite a bit less fuel.”