View Full Version : Boeing's new 'sonic' airliner atracting lots of interest from airlines!

The Guvnor
8th Apr 2001, 13:51
From today's Sunday Times

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2"> Airlines queue up to buy sonic jet

David Parsley

Boeing's sonic cruiser sounds death knell for Concorde

THE RACE to bring Boeing's new sonic cruiser to the skies is
on, with Emirates, the Middle East airline, leading the charge.

Emirates has told The Sunday Times that it is in negotiations
to buy up to seven of the 200m jets, which could be flying
close to the speed of sound within five years. The deal could be
worth 1.4 billion.

But Emirates is facing competition from other groups, such as
American, Continental and Singapore airlines, which are also in
talks with Boeing about ordering the jet.

Emirates said: "The sonic cruiser would certainly fit in well with
our plans for growth. It is obviously early days but we do have a
tradition of being the launch customer for innovations. We were
the first to order the Airbus A380 superjumbo and I wouldn't be
at all surprised if Emirates is the first to place a firm order for
this plane."

Boeing announced plans for the sonic cruiser late last month
after ending its attempt to build a rival to Airbus's 550-seat
superjumbo. The Seattle-based aircraft giant had offered
airlines a stretched version of its Boeing 747 - the original
jumbo jet - but carriers interested in such big planes chose the

Singapore Airlines has already ordered the A380 but it is also
talking to Boeing about the sonic cruiser. It said: "Our order of
the A380 does not preclude us from taking an interest in the
sonic cruiser. Boeing has spoken to us and we have been
invited to be part of their team to provide input into the design.
We have encouraged them to proceed. This is not a
commitment, but we would like to

see the aircraft developed. Whether we would make a
commitment to the Boeing aircraft depends on the economics.
This plane would be suited to routes with a high share of
business passengers who would pay a premium."

Don Carty, American Airlines' chief executive, has also
approached Boeing and claims his airline will beat Emirates to
place the first orders.

The excitement surrounding the sonic cruiser, which has
amazed even Boeing executives, has also filtered through to
the world's leading engine makers. Rolls-Royce said it was
talking to Boeing about the type of power the jet would need.

Meanwhile, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney are thought
to have joined forces to take on Rolls, working on a variation of
the GE90 engine to power the sonic cruiser to at least Mach

There is even talk that Rolls may be working on a supersonic
engine that solves the environmental problems of the sonic

Boeing also said it was confident of striking its first order soon
for the new jet. One executive said the group would not have
launched such a project unless it had already canvassed
opinion from its customers and received a positive response.

"We are talking to a number of our customers about design
elements of the sonic cruiser," said Boeing. "We do not
announce a project of this scale without being sure it will get off
the ground."

The company believes the sonic cruiser, which is sure to eat
into the market held by Concorde, could be flying passengers
across the world within five years. The jet will cut average
journey times by as much as 20%.

The 300-hundred seat aircraft will also allow people to fly direct
from America's east coast to the Far East.</font>

8th Apr 2001, 14:19
This means they are going to start ground testing, flight testing, and certification in 3-4 years, I would like to see that.

Took Boeing over 10 years to get the 777 out, why will this aircraft be any different ? They had to build a 1.5B manufacturing facility to produce a new aircraft, where will this airframe be made ?

Five years to design, build, test, and certify a transport aircraft is very optimistic project management.

The A380 development has already been going for over four years, and it will not enter service until 2006.


8th Apr 2001, 14:49
So, how many are you going to order Guv?

8th Apr 2001, 17:58
I just wonder....

There is one little tiny detain that bothers me in the whole story. As you know, lift is provided by angle of attack (the faster the smaller, as it increases drag also), and the fact, that the shape of the wing profile forces the air to go faster over the wing than beneath it. The faster the air over the wing, the more lift you get.

So now, with todays commercial airliners, you have a difference of approx. Mach 0.10 over the wing, which means, that if you hapily toodle along todays skies with your M0.85, then the air over the wing goes at M0.95. You cannot have a supersonic airflow over your wing, as you would get an enormous amount of drag (compressibility), and possibly a compression stall. This given, Boeing now tells us, that thez can build an airliner that is able to hang in the air on a margin on Mach 0.04??? Without any problems in turbulences? And an economical fuel burn? I'd like to see that thing flying before I do anything with it...

It may well be that some airline executives love the idea, but these guys don't have to schedule it, market it, fly it and maintain it. They are the same stupid bankers as their peers in Wall Street and have fo clue about the real issues in air transport anyway.

If you hear Jurgen Weber from Lufthansa strongly supporting such an aircraft, then you can start tuning into the hymes, otherwise, don't do anything! But Mr. Weber also is a technician, not a stupid bean counter!

There's nothing like a three-holer...

[This message has been edited by Hunter58 (edited 08 April 2001).]

And I should not have to kick the bean conters so early in the morning... Edited twice for typos...

[This message has been edited by Hunter58 (edited 08 April 2001).]

8th Apr 2001, 18:33
Super critical wings like those on the 777 already allow localized supersonic flow.

The F22 is designed to "supercruise" and all supersonic fighters don't suddenly fall out of the air as they are going through the sound barrier.

What boeing is designing is most likely a supersonic aircaft optimized to the speed just below the speed of sound. That way they don't have any high speed buffet limitations and thus no "coffin corner". The only limit, other than economics, will be making sonic booms.

I know American Ailines is really interested in it. They would love to be able to do their tranlantic flying without a 3rd crew member.

1-2 hours over a tranlantic trip is HUGE in crew costs.


8th Apr 2001, 19:06
I know certain colleagues of mine just hate tootling along at M.78, they always tweak her up to M.80 or M.82, which is perfectly fine (except for the higher fuel burn...naughty naughty!).

My first thoughts on hearing about the sonic whatssit was of those guys...they won't be happy doing M.98 or whatever...they'll have to faff around with it to get M.99, ...and then ooppps!....we've gone supersonic...BOOOOM!!!

8th Apr 2001, 19:30
&gt;"There is even talk that Rolls may be working on a supersonic engine that solves the environmental problems of the sonic boom." &lt;

Is this journalistic oversimplification? How would/could such an engine work, other than by perturbing the mach cone?

For Boeing to statr deliveries of a sonic cruiser in 2006-2007 suggests they may be further along in the design of this plane then they've publicly let on. I think it was Aviation Week that indicated some wind tunnel work had already been done. Might it be that the folks in Renton waited until Airbus launched the A-380 knowing the near-impossibility of Airbus developing both the 380 and a sonic cruiser analog like E-Squared at the same time?

Juliet November
8th Apr 2001, 20:46
Call me stupid, or just a bit slow catching up or whatever, but it's just dawned on me why Boeing has chosen to call their latest innovation for the "Sonic Cruiser" !

It'll be desinged as a supersonic aircraft, with a transsonic wing and cruise along at subsonic speeds. Am I the only one who finds this a rather cumbersome way to do it ?

Further, particularly liked the one about RR making "a supersonic engine that solves the environmental problems of the sonic boom." So now it's the engine rather than the airframE that generates the sonic boom. Very interesting point !

Anyway, hope the boys and girls in Seattle can and will make this bird fly. I don't particularly find it very pretty or even remotely sexy, nor do I belive it will cut down the total transport time significantly (any gains in cruise speeds eaten up by airport congestion / check-in times / immigration etc) and will seriously question a "20 % reduction" on transatlantic flights, which in my book is something like BRU-BOS or similar. Maybe on a LHR-JFK flight, but why clutter the image when this is clearly a marketing plot.

But it is high time they start offering something to make the opposition (Airbus) feel a little less comfortable.

Roll it out, but I'll eat my hat if it's in revenue services before 2009 at the earliest, although it is very promising indeed, as long as you belive it, that airlines are already batteling over who gets their colours on the first example to roll out of the paint shop.


Edited for typos and stuff.

[This message has been edited by Juliet November (edited 08 April 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Juliet November (edited 08 April 2001).]

Notso Fantastic
8th Apr 2001, 23:15
How does it get around high speed buffet then? Long time since my Aerodynamics, but isn't it intended to cruise at the maximum drag area (around the speed of sound)? Seems to me it won't be very efficient. Comments welcome!

8th Apr 2001, 23:33
Juliet November,

I'll guess that the name "Sonic Cruiser" is a spin-off of a popular car here in the US named the "PT Cruiser" Built by Chrysler. As for the time-line I remember the first time I read about the 777 was in Avweek in 1989, and by 94 United was flying it. While this sonic cruiser seems more complex, Boeing might have a little head start in the R&D, I hope they build it! it looks like quite a machine!

Juliet November
8th Apr 2001, 23:50

Quite agree, hope they get it off the ground and into revenue service soonest possible. However, still have my doubts concerning the timeline here. For all it's marvels, the 777 is following the Boeing tradition of low mounted wings and podded engines in a twin-aisle fuselage.

Before Boeing can even begin the design fase one would imagine that extensive consulting will take place with any interested buyers, and reveiwing their requirements and getting the findings build into the design, so to speak. This process takes forever; I belive Airbus spent the better part of 2 years on this with the A380 and undoubtly Boeing spend a lot of time too with the B777 way back when.

The "sonic-cruiser" (B787 ?) is a radical new step forward, and the design and build of a brand new wing is no small feat. Furthermore, it will in most liklihood require a new engine, or at best a derivative of an existing one. Takes time too. Bearing in mind the novelty of the design, testing and approval should be quite rigourous which will also take time. Add it all up, and an entry into service around the end of the decade seems to me to be a good guess.

But, as said earlier, the sooner the better, although it could all be a hoax that fits in neatly with Boeings view of smaller aircraft serving smaller airports direct, rather than Airbus outlook for megajets serving congested hubs.

Over on this side of the pond the P/T Cruiser is quite popular too !


9th Apr 2001, 01:27
And to add to it all...

They really believe there will be sufficient people who will pay more money to be 2 hours earlier in Japan to support some 500 airframes? Dream on boys, but that will NEVER happen. How many people do you find who are willing to buy a ticket at 10% more for HALF the time to cross the Atlantic? It used to be sufficient for TWO flights a day!

For any other resoning over speed and where it ends to be a commercial factor, read the following:

R.E.G.Davies; Fallacies and Fantasies of Air Transport History; 1994 Paladwr Press: ISBN 0-9626483-5-3

There's nothing like a three-holer...

Juliet November
9th Apr 2001, 01:50

I do belive the correct number is more like 4 return flighs per day, but that's not all.

From what I can tell, the Sonic Cruiser will be not be nearly as environmentally challenged as the Concorde, and as such will not be restricted to ocean crossing flights only. Further, the Concorde never had the legs to cross the bigger of the ponds, whereas Boeing claims a range of around 9000NM for the Sonic Cruiser.

Having longer legs and being far less noisy, especially on departure and approach, the Sonic Cruiser will be able to link city pairs which the Concorde never could. If you care to read the article, Emirates has expressed an interest. So has Singapore. And I am rather sure none of those intend it to do pondcrossers only.

And yes, there is an abundance of business travellers who would just love to spend 2 hours at an important meeting rather than being stuck in a alu-tube instead. You see, if you split these high-flyers wages up on an hourly basis, the amount will in many cases surpass the extra charge and consequently the company they are flying for will actually SAVE money ! You might as well have asked "Are there anybody out there willing to pay USD 45 Mill for a privat jet so that they can decide for themselves when to fly ?". It all boils down to the same thing: Time is money, and many people value their time at an exceedingly high amount of money.

The real bugger here is the costs for the airlines, and that I understand remains to be calculated. If fuel prices skyrocket again, it's in all likelihood dead, but at present levels and with a somewhat decent fuel economy it might just turn out to be a winner.

Then again, I'm a born optimist :)


[This message has been edited by Juliet November (edited 08 April 2001).]

FE Hoppy
9th Apr 2001, 03:19
so will the body be the old 707/727/737/757?

9th Apr 2001, 04:51
FE Hoppy,

Supposedly a twin aisle tube, so probably more like a 767 cross-section.

9th Apr 2001, 05:55
Sorry am I missing something in this picture ??

With MNPS and RVSM where does ATC figure in these Hi-speed crossings??

Do you go round, over or through all the "sub-sonic" clutter??

Ranger One
9th Apr 2001, 06:26
Tshirt said... "Do you go round, over or through all the "sub-sonic" clutter??"

Answer would appear to be 'over'... Boeing say this will cruise at FL400+

Not quite sure what to make of this... part of me wonders if this isn't an attempt by Boeing engineers to build an SST by the back door, without frightening the shareholders by using the word 'SST'... if this thing gets off the ground they're close to halfway there...

9th Apr 2001, 10:12
Boeing should be commended for their insight of the future. Current models of Airbus and Boeing are essentially 30-40 year old designs with newer avionics and more powerful/efficient engines thus only evolutionary and not revolutionary. With revolutionary ideas it takes new rules and techniques, which is often difficult to comprehend when exposed. My father witnessed an early flight of a jet during WWII and he could not believe what he had seen, and he was an aviator.

Many comments above reflect old technology and thinking. Boeing is talking about new ways to design and build aeroplanes. Super-cruise is already here in military aircraft. NASA is working on soft-boom/low-boom designs and Boeing is obviously taking a step towards supersonic travel with the Sonic-cruiser. When true super-sonic travel becomes feasible then they will have a huge advantage over Airbus (please, the Concord is not feasible or efficient).

People will want to cut 2-3 hours off their travel time and they probably won’t have to pay an extra cent for the opportunity when available. With the opening of polar routes, flight times continue to stretch the crews’ limits as airlines convert savings into extra range with routes like JFK/HGK etc. I’ll take my 2-3 hour saving thank you very much and so will other crews/passengers if they have a choice.

To all the other Aviators, keep an open mind, as the rumour of the propeller-less aircraft was true!

Kerosene Kraut
9th Apr 2001, 13:14
All this new engineering stuff for just one or two hours less flight time?
Couldn't this be cut easier and cheaper with more careful ground organisation like faster pax check-in, luggage-proceeding, ground ops, optimized atc etc.?
Like mentioned above: If they can handle all of these transsonic issues why not just build a true economic SST? Is this the message behind the sonic cruiser? If you can go transpacific why not cruise supersonic? This would certainly attract high-yield folks and really save time.

I'd love to see that SC become reality.

9th Apr 2001, 14:00
On the other hand, it could just be a lot of bollox to put the wind up Airbus :)

9th Apr 2001, 14:33
From April 9 Aviation Week:

"Boeing's 'Sonic Cruiser' Grabs Airlines' Attention


While concentrating on A380, Airbus says it,
too, has advanced concepts and is exploring
fast subsonic aircraft Boeing's plan to shelve the 747X and develop a new Mach 0.95 commercial airliner has generated keen interest among major airlines, which recognize the potential long-term competitive advantage of speed over size.

"We obviously see a use for that airplane,"
said Donald J. Carty, CEO of American
Airlines parent AMR Corp., Boeing's largest commercial customer.

The near-supersonic concept "will probably
revolutionize aviation," Carty said at Aviation Week's MRO 2001 conference in Dallas last week. "It can radically change our business productivity." The 767-size niche is the best use for the aircraft initially, but part of the strength of Boeing's plan is that it is to lead eventually to a family of aircraft, Carty added.

HAVING THE ABILITY to schedule two flights to
Europe per day instead of one is a primary
benefit of acquiring such a plane, according to American. Boeing expects airlines will pick up 1 hr. of flight time on a 3,000-naut.-mi. New York-London flight. In conventional jet airliners, the same flight takes around 6.5 hr.

"If it meets the economics, we're going to buy the airplane," said Gordon Bethune, chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines.

Long before the Mar. 29 announcement, Boeing
Commercial Airplanes briefed several of the
world's major airlines on plans to develop a
long-range aircraft that would replace the 757 and 767. The aircraft is intended to carry 175-250 passengers, with a 15-20% bump in performance over other commercial airliners and a claimed range of around 9,000 naut. mi. United, American, Delta, Northwest, Continental, Singapore and British Airways are among those major airlines that got an early peek at this new twin-engine airliner, dubbed the "Sonic Cruiser," which is slated to enter commercial service 2006-08
(AW&ST Apr. 2, p. 32).

"This aircraft would represent a very significant additional option" for airlines, said Delta Air Lines Chairman and CEO Leo F. Mullin. "On a 14-hr. trip to Asia, 20% (reduction in flight time) is three hours. That is a very significant savings." Despite
its endorsement of the program, Delta said it
would need much more information before even
considering buying the aircraft.

United Airlines Chairman and CEO James
Goodwin said the Mach 0.95 aircraft could fit
nicely into United's long-haul routes in the Atlantic and Pacific, but there were no immediate plans to even entertain a purchase of the new jet or the very large Airbus A380. For now, United says the 747 and 777 will remain the long-haul vehicles of choice. Among United's 600-plus aircraft fleet are
19 767-200s, 33 767-300s and 98 757-200s.
American has 181 757s and 767s, combined.

Dick Wyatt, general manager of fleet planning for British Airways, seemed to echo the sentiments of other airline executives when commenting on the Sonic Cruiser: "For some international markets, speed will provide an advantage. But the success of this aircraft depends critically on what are the unit and operational costs, [actual] range, payload
and noise."

Predictably, Airbus indicated that Boeing will have its work cut out for it. Adam Brown, Airbus vice president for market forecasts, said the near-supersonic flight regime is "a hell of a difficult area to design an aircraft for," but Boeing's Sonic Cruiser is "an interesting idea."

DIFFICULT OR NOT, AIRBUS has more than a
passing interest in pushing the envelope on
commercial airliners. Brown said Airbus has an E2 concept, which calls for an aircraft with an advanced high-aspect wing, ultra-high bypass engines above the wing and sized between the A321 and A330-340. The plane would be a 250-seat complement to the A380, said Brown.

As for the Sonic Cruiser, ticket prices are
expected to cost more once this aircraft comes to market. Airline executives believe that passengers, particularly business travelers, would be willing to pay a slight premium to fly on the airliner. If, however, Boeing produces a larger and slower Concorde clone, where only the rich could afford passage, "then that would be a disaster for
Boeing and we wouldn't be interested," said one airline executive, who asked not to be identified.

Most airlines feel that Boeing's decision to
compete against Airbus with speed over size will enrich the competitive landscape. "From our point of view, the fact that Boeing and Airbus are attacking different aspects of what we need for different markets is ideal," said Wyatt. He said BA would consider having both the A380 and Sonic Cruiser.

David Hughes and Michael Mecham contributed
to this report from Dallas.
Copyright April 9, 2001 The McGraw-Hill Companies

9th Apr 2001, 16:38
cpdude writes "When true super-sonic travel becomes feasible then they will have a huge advantage over Airbus (please, the Concord is not feasible or efficient)."

Well Concorde was feasible and efficient enough for about 25 years of service. I wonder if all the people who travelled between LHR and JFK on Concorde realised that they weren't enjoying "true super-sonic travel"?

[This message has been edited by stagger (edited 09 April 2001).]

9th Apr 2001, 17:14
Mr. Gordon Bethune says it perfectly:

If the ECONOMICS are right! As we have no data at all, just some fancy looking picture (which does itself imply that this bird will be a nightmare for the ground handlers), t is not possible to say what this idea is going to create. But, unless Boeing discovered new physics and materials (which is unlikely) that bird is going to cost a lot of money = high seat costs. And this brings me back to the parallel with Concorde: how many people are prepared to pay higher prices for gaining 2 to 3 hours?

They used to have 4 round trips on Concorde, but this was quikly reduced to 2 only, as there was not sufficiant demand!!!!!

There's nothing like a three-holer...

9th Apr 2001, 19:03
Hey Stagger,

"True super-sonic travel" was in reference to the near super-sonic travel of the Sonic-cruiser. But, I'm sure you knew that. Oh ya, my old 454 Chevy Impala was feasible when it came out in 1970 as well, but with the cost of fuel these days it's costing a pretty penny and I don't have to worry about environmentalists..........yet!

See ya!

Flight Safety
9th Apr 2001, 20:33
The Aviation Week article above contains the following statement:

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Long before the Mar. 29 announcement, Boeing Commercial Airplanes briefed several of the world's major airlines on plans to develop a long-range aircraft that would replace the 757 and 767.</font>

The "Sonic Cruiser" will not replace the 757, as the 757 is in an entirely different market segment from the twin aisle 767. The 757 is basically a larger 737, and operates in the short/medium sector market and is cabable of operating at smaller airfields like the 737. Unlike the 737 however, the 757 is a much better ETOPS aircraft and is transatlantic capable.

Again the 757 is NOT used on long haul sectors like other twin aisle widebodies, which the "Sonic Cruiser" is being designed to replace. BTW, in recent years, the 757 has become a very good seller in its own right for Boeing, so I don't see them replacing this aircraft with a new design.

Unless of course, Boeing is thinking about designing both "single aisle" and "twin aisle" versions. ????

Safe flying to you...

13th Apr 2001, 05:11
Lufthansa has "no real interest" in the Sonic Cruiser". The article is from Handelsblatt:

Lufthansa Mulling A380 Order

Dow Jones FRANKFURT. Deutsche Lufthansa AG said Wednesday it is evaluating whether to make an order for A380 superjumbo jets from Airbus Industrie and isn't seriously considering Boeing's pitch for a smaller, faster aircraft.

"The focus is on the A380," said a spokeswoman at the German air carrier. "There is no real interest in the Sonic Cruiser."

Boeing said last month that it would shelve a plan to develop a stretch jumbo jet to rival the 555-seat A380. Instead, it's betting the future lies in demand for the Sonic Cruiser, a 250-seat plane that will fly 20% faster than conventional jets.

Before that decision, Boeing had approached Lufthansa hoping the airline would choose its stretched 747 over the A380. The Lufthansa spokeswoman said the German airline isn't involved in any work groups on Boeing projects.

If Lufthansa decides in favor of ordering the A380, a deal could be finalized with Airbus this summer, after negotiations with Lufthansa's pilots conclude. She didn't say how many planes Lufthansa might order.

Lufthansa operates a fleet of 323 airplanes, including 120 Boeing and 130 Airbus jets.

The spokeswoman declined to say whether Lufthansa's management would meet this week with Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Phil Condit, who is holding a press conference in Frankfurt Wednesday.

Boeing has said Condit would update reporters on recent developments at the company, including decisions to work on the Sonic Cruiser and to move the group's headquarters to a new location.

Airbus has 62 firm orders for the A380 and hopes to raise that to 100 by year-end. Boeing had no orders for its stretch 747 when it opted to put the project on the back burner.

[This message has been edited by SK (edited 13 April 2001).]