Moscow to Vladivostok in Three Hours?
Our life is a constant journey from point A to point B, and the time we spend on it depends on the speed of travel. One hundred thrirty km/h is the maximum permissible speed on highways; the high-speed train Sapsan travels at 250 km per hour; and a civil subsonic aircraft, being the fastest passenger transportation mode available today, flies at no more than 900 km per hour on average.
Is it fast enough? For example, the distance from Moscow to Vladivostok is about 7000 kilometers. It is easy to calculate that even if travelling by air, the travel time will exceed 8 hours! However, is this acceptable in the context of the pace of modern life, where every minute counts?
Today, TsAGI is actively exploring the possibility of creating a new-generation supersonic business/passenger aircraft (SBA/SPA). Of course, this concept is already familiar to the world aviation community. The first supersonic passenger airliners were created in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s of the last century. The Soviet Tu-144 and French Concorde reached twice the speed of sound — about 2,000 km/h. They were said to be “racing against time.” However, having overcome the speed barrier, they failed to meet the generally accepted environmental standards, for example, in terms of noise in the airport area and the sonic boom when flying over populated land.
The new generation supersonic civil aircraft is designed to meet modern environmental standards, while retaining its main advantage — speed. This was explained by TsAGI’s SBA development expert Vladimir Yudin:
— Vladimir, tell us when did the work began on a new generation of supersonic civil aircraft and what are the problems faced by scientists?
— We started to explore this issue at TsAGI in the late ‘90s of the last century. The new generation of supersonic civil aircraft will be different from the first generation [Tu-144 and Concorde — editor’s note] in its greater aircraft performance. Environmental parameters of the aircraft will meet the generally accepted modern requirements in terms of restriction on harmful emissions and noise in the airport area. A lower sonic boom level in cruise flight will allow operation over populated land. All this can ensure commercial feasibility of the concept.
— What is the significance of the airplane for our country?
— The importance of the project is proven by the fact that, since 2011 it has been implemented in the framework of public contracts with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation. R&D works are included in the Federal Target Program, “Development of Russian civil aviation for
Over the past four years TsAGI experts have completed design and the experimental research cycle, specifically: We have studied aerodynamic, gas-dynamic and acoustic performance of the aircraft and its propulsion system; developed a preliminary structural design of the future airliner; considered a number of jet engines based on existing and prospective domestic gas generators. Also, flight test methods have been improved and equipment revamped to carry out sonic boom measurements.
I should note that the leading enterprises and institutions of the industry are actively involved in the project together with TsAGI: JSC Sukhoi New Civil Technologies, JSC Aviadvigatel, A. Lyulka Design Bureau, CIAM named after P.I. Baranov and JSC M. M. Gromov Flight Research Institute."
— At shat stage is the research today?
— 2014 became a landmark year for us in terms of experiments. I would like to highlight the most important events.
The first flight test cycle of the MiG-29UB aircraft was carried out in September and October at the Flight Research Institute, with a new set of equipment for flight path and sonic boom measurements. Thus, the scientists tested operational capability of the system. They found that it allows measuring, with the required accuracy, the shock wave parameters on the ground and flight profile of the platform. As a result, the newly developed method and modernized measuring system became the basis for the future national certification system for domestic and foreign airlines.
In November and December TsAGI tested the SBA/SPA model. The first testing cycle was carried out in the low-speed tunnel T-102. Its aim was to study the aerodynamic performance of the future aircraft at takeoff and landing. As a result, we got a baseline for evaluation of stability and controllability of the aircraft at low speeds in a wide range of angles of attack and slip. Also we refined the estimated balanced length of the runway.
— Is similar work being carried out abroad?
— We move with the times. Our colleagues from the world’s leading research centers and developers from Europe, Japan and Australia are actively engaged in exploration of the possibility of creating such an aircraft. The Asian “tigers,” the booming China in particular, shows a certain interest in supersonic civil aviation. However, the U.S. is making sustained efforts to conquer this market segment.
— What will be the impact of the creation of SBA for the global aviation industry?
— First of all, it will increase the speed of transportation of goods and passengers, and is one of the most important areas of development of any type of transport. The new generation of transatlantic SBA/SPA will have a cruising speed of at least 1,900 km/h. This is twice the speed of any modern airliner. From a business aviation perspective it will significantly increase the number of daily trips within the range of over 3,500 kilometers.
The plane is expected to have a convertible cabin; a VIP-class for 20 passengers, and a mixed class for up to 80 passengers. This option would significantly increase the attractiveness of supersonic flights for serious travelers. It also allows a presumption of commercial appeal of aircraft operation on long-haul routes. Of course, a supersonic flight ticket would cost more than the conventional trip; higher speed means higher price.
— And of course, the most interesting question: when will the new supersonic airliner become operational?
— We are currently working on the public appearance of this future aircraft, for example, we plan to have a sample engine ready for testing by 2020; and we intend to have a prototype ready for flight tests as early as 2025.