Critical Mach

Yet another entry in the next-gen supersonic sweepstakes, but you’ve got to admit this looks sweet:

Credit: JAXA

The market for civil aircraft – both airliners and private – seems pretty full to me. If a Japanese manufacturer wanted to shake up the competition, this would be the way to do it.

Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any more information beyond what’s already at the link – which is a mite thin to begin with. It’s not clear how they plan to conduct the test flights, if it’s a powered drone then that’d be Teh Awesome. The alternative would be mounting it to a fighter that can zorch around at Mach 1.0+…not as cool, but perhaps more useful than wind-tunnel testing. Either way let’s hope this makes it somewhere beyond the model-airplane stage.

Need for Speed

If you follow aeronautics, this is a significant development. Plus the pictures are really cool.

Economics aside, noise is the single biggest impediment to building a new supersonic airliner. The reason you never saw Concorde zipping across our skies is that nobody wants sonic booms trailing across their country on a regular basis (especially Boeing, since they didn’t have their own SST ready at the time). And yeah, that’s a lot of windows to replace in any case. But if these guys have really been able to shrink the noise footprint and solve the pressure drag problems, then we could see a lot more progress on the SST front. But even given this breakthrough, I suspect that it makes a lot more sense as a small business jet than a higher-capacity airliner.

The next biggest impediment is air traffic management: really fast bizjets like the Citation X (.92 Mach, almost sonic) still have to downshift into the same arrival traffic as pokey old 737s. For really busy areas (think NY or SoCal), this tends to happen a lot farther away from the destination than most people realize – several hundred miles in some cases. It’d be like driving an Indy racer full-blast down the interstate, then having to merge into the off ramp to sit in traffic behind a minivan for the last hour of your trip. Ick.

Regardless, I guarantee you there will be plenty of bizjet owners clamoring for one of these if they ever make it into production. I’ll need sell a lot more of these to pick up one of my own, though.