New jets bring back supersonic travel

Boom! Most supersonic aircraft travel at over 1,500 mph – twice the speed of sound. © Alamy

Are supersonic planes a good idea? Nearly 20 years after Concorde made its final trip, the world is one step closer to passenger jets that fly faster than the speed of sound.

What’s happening

On 24 October 2003, a plane took off from an airport in New York. Less than four hours later, it was in London. A huge crowd cheered as Concorde landed. It was the last time the plane would ever carry passengers.

Now, 17 years on, companies plan to revive the craze for supersonic travel.

Find out more

A company called Boom Supersonic has revealed a new test plane designed to carry around 80 passengers at supersonic speeds.

A supersonic aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound. They are used by the armed forces, but rarely carry passengers. When the plane blasts through the air, it creates shockwaves that make a thunder-like noise. This is known as a sonic boom.

The noise is so loud that it can break windows. People living below where Concorde flew often complained that the sound was unbearable. For this reason, there are strict rules about where these planes can go.

Boom Supersonic is not the only company planning a supersonic aircraft. NASA is designing one with technology to reduce the sound.

Are supersonic planes a good idea?

Some say…

Yes! Taking trips at such high speeds would be very exciting. We could travel to Disneyland in minutes, and get to Australia in just a few hours. Plus, travelling so quickly would bring people together. We would feel closer to people on the other side of the world. It might even help us solve disagreements between countries faster.

Others think…

No. First, the noise would be terrible. Every time a plane hits the sound barrier it makes a huge boom. Imagine if every plane in the sky made such a sound! Anyway, we should not be focussing on flying. It is bad for the environment. Scientists should work on making transport that will help the climate, rather than make the crisis worse.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to go on a supersonic plane?

Activities

  1. Come up with your own new, super-fast way of travelling. Give it a name and include a diagram with labels.

Some People Say...

“People have always wanted to travel fast, ever since the first person galloped across the plains on horseback.”

Mike Bannister, ex-Concorde captain.

What do you think?

Word Watch

Concorde
A supersonic jet that flew passengers between the USA and Europe. It flew at twice the speed of sound. The fastest journey between London and New York was two hours 52 minutes. The normal length of this journey is more than seven hours.
Revive
To bring something back. It literally means to return something to life.
Supersonic
Sonic means related to sound and super means over or above. So, the word supersonic literally means above sound. Anything supersonic is something that moves faster than the speed of sound.
Armed forces
The name given to the military. A group description of army, navy and airforce.
Shockwaves
Ripples caused by changing pressure in the air. If we could see them, they would look a bit like waves when a fast boat drives through water.
Unbearable
Something that is completely impossible to deal with.

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