With regards to passenger aircraft design, it seems that — at least to the casual observer — there hasn’t been a significant revolution for quite some time. The basic look and feel of commercial jets has been stable for decades. What will passenger aircraft look like in the future?
To spark the creative fires, NASA sponsored a design competition. NASA provided a few constraints as to what the designs should contain — basically to fly quieter, with less fuel and exhaust. In addition, they specified that the futuristic vehicles be capable of flying at 85 percent the speed of sound, be able to travel at least 7,000 miles at a time, and carry up to 100,000 pounds of cargo and/or people.
Supersonic transportation is still, in many ways, the holy grail of aviation. Since the Concorde’s last flight nine years ago, nothing has filled that niche. Now Lockheed Martin hopes to revive the under-three-hour cross-country flight with the Green Machine (above in the header). It can achieve Mach 1.6, but has much greater efficiency the pollution-prone Concorde. Also, the low engine position and inverted-V tail should reduce the sonic booms that got the Concorde banned from many overland flights.
Don’t look for it soon, however. Most of the designs in the competition are ten to twenty years in the future.
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