Paris 2011: Hypersonic Hyperbole

Paris Air Show » 2011
June 21, 2011, 1:56 AM

HyperMach Aerospace Industries unveiled plans for its SonicStar V-tailed supersonic business jet (SSBJ) at the Paris Air Show. The company is making big claims for an aircraft that it says will take no more than one hour 45 minutes to fly from Paris to New York, but left many questions unanswered as to how it will take the concept to market.

CEO Richard Lugg said his research indicates there could be a market of “above several thousand” for the aircraft, which he said is due to fly first in 2021. He did not give a price for the new plane, but the more advanced Aerion SSBJ concept costs around $80 million, so it is not unreasonable to assume a similar price point. Initially laid out in a 20-seat VIP configuration, Lugg said he also thinks there would be interest in a cargo variant.

HyperMach reckons the cruising speed of the aircraft could be in the neighborhood of a blistering Mach 3.5, well over double the top speeds of the Aerion (Mach 1.6) and Supersonic Aerospace International (Mach 1.8). Powered by the SonicBlue S-MAGJET hybrid supersonic 4000-X series engine, the SSBJ could fly around the world in as little as five hours. Lugg is also chairman of Portland, Maine-based SonicBlue Aerospace, which would manufacture the engines.

However, Lugg was hazy on details about how exactly how HyperMach would bring the aircraft to market, saying that the company is still “in discussions with and identifying” partners to build the airframe and powerplants, as well as financial backers. HyperMach has promised more partnership announcements over the next few days.

Lugg filed a patent with the U.S. patent office last September outlining plans for a “quiet hybrid electric supersonic civil transport” (QHESCT), a proposed twinjet in a “shockwave canceling aerodynamic configuration.” The idea is that there will be two shock waves as the aircraft approaches supersonic speeds. The second wave will have greater pressure and will partially mitigate the impact of the first.

With the Aerion team still struggling to make a reality of its SSBJ based on an existing engine and materials, it remains to be seen whether HyperMach will be able to pull off its far more ambitious proposition.

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