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Unveiled! First civil supersonic plane engine in 55 years

October 17, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Supersonic commercial travel, not offered since Concorde made its last flight 15 years ago, is likely to arrive faster than many people imagine following an announcement by one of the world’s leading aircraft engine manufacturers.

The revelation by Aerion Corporation and GE Aviation of the initial design of the first supersonic engine purpose-built for business jets brings the world much closer to a new era of efficient supersonic flight.

Aerion is pioneering a new generation of supersonic aircraft aimed at revolutionising flight and saving travellers much time. It entered into collaborative agreements with GE Aviation and Lockheed Martin in 2017. The three companies, joined in 2018 by Honeywell for advanced cockpit systems, are developing the Mach 1.4 AS2 supersonic business jet.

This 12-passenger jet will save travellers as much as three hours across the Atlantic and five hours across the Pacific. It is as much as 60% faster than today’s civil jets. The makers say the AS2 will redefine the passenger experience, providing a new level of luxurious, connected, productive and serene flight at about 1600 km/h. Aerion plans to fly the AS2 in 2023, with certification in 2025.

AS2 in flight

This new engine class, revealed as GE’s Affinity turbofan, is optimised with proven GE technology for supersonic flight and timed to meet the Aerion AS2 launch, the companies said.

The Affinity is a new class of medium bypass ratio engines that provide exceptional and balanced performance across supersonic and subsonic flights.

An issued statement said the Affinity integrates a unique blend of proven military supersonic experience, commercial reliability and the most advanced business jet engine technologies.

GE’s Affinity is a twin-shaft, twin-fan turbofan controlled by a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) for enhanced dispatch reliability and onboard diagnostics.

“It is purposefully designed to enable efficient supersonic flight over water and efficient subsonic flight over land, without requiring modifications to existing compliance regulations,” the statement said.

“The engine is designed to meet stringent Stage 5 subsonic noise requirements and beat current emissions standards.

“In the last 50 years, business aircraft speeds have increased by less than 10 percent,” said Brad Mottier, GE’s vice president and general manager for Business and General Aviation and Integrated Services.

“Instead of going faster, cabins have increased in size and become more comfortable – and range has become longer. With large, comfortable cabin, long range aircraft in the marketplace, the next step is speed . . . made possible with GE’s Affinity.”

Other similar projects are also in the works.

  • There are other supersonic passenger aircraft coming up – and though it flies no more, Concorde (top speed 2179 km/h) was faster than any of them.
  • Earlier this year, NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract to design, build and flight-test a full-scale experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, to make supersonic passenger air travel a reality. The project involves reducing the sonic boom, produced by passing through the sound barrier, from an ear-splitting bang to a soft sound like the closing of a car door. “Skunk Works” is the official pseudonym for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (ADP), formerly called Lockheed Advanced Development Projects.
  • Another challenger is backed by Japan Airlines (JAL) and developed by US aerospace developer Boom Supersonic. The Boom Supersonic project aims to bring commercial supersonic travel to passengers at fares about the same as today’s business class tickets.

GE is claiming the following advantages for its Affinity engine:

  • Efficient performance throughout the full flight envelope with a high-altitude service ceiling of 60,000 feet.
  • An advanced twin-fan with the highest bypass ratio of any supersonic engine.
  • A special, non-augmented supersonic exhaust system.
  • A proven engine core adapted from GE’s commercial airline portfolio with billions of successful and reliable hours of operational service.
  • A durable combustor with advanced coatings for sustained high-speed operation.
  • Advanced acoustic technology designed to meet or exceed regulatory  requirements.
  • GE’s additive design & manufacturing technologies to optimise weight and performance.

Written by Peter Needham

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