Thursday, August 31, 2006

Qsst...the Q stands for Quiet

Lockheed Martin (aka LockMart) just can't stand the idea of getting out of the supersonic air travel business, it would seem. With Shuttle flights winding down over the next decade, guess what? LockMart's developed a Quiet SuperSonic Transport (QSST) at a mere $2.5 billion.

Yeah, that's up there. Well, LockMart didn't ever manage the "better, faster, cheaper" with the Shuttle Rocketships, why should they start with a Concorde replacement plane? Besides the hugely expensive plane will charge exorbitant rates for its meager seating space and service business executives and diplomats (wow, does that sound familiar to anyone else here??) At least the QSST is laid out intelligently (tables and chairs staggered throughout the cabin, giving more legroom for everyone versus Aerion's classic "Rack 'em up" layout)

The design of Aerion's new bird is "six feet in height, 6.6 feet in width" (see figure sketch to see how much "extra" space this leaves). For a short, small girl like me, this might not be so bad but most of the men I know are over six feet tall and really hate it when their knees start banging on things. I guess this Aerion's method of ensuring tall businessmen remain seated until the aircraft comes to a complete stop ;) At least LockMart has tried to make the cabins more comfortable (see sim image seating below).

But Aerion's so much less expensive! Not really, they just play a good song and dance titled Aerion's "Dawn of the Supersonic Business Jet" (didn't we already have this dawn back about 30 years ago when the Concorde was streaking and booming across the Atlantic daily?) Aerion's real philosophy is summed up in the admission, "Perhaps the biggest hurdle a supersonic jet must overcome is financial in nature."

No, do you think? Actually, I think everyone building these tiny (8-person) but hugely expensive supersonic jets are focused on the sound effects and not worried about bringing costs down to an economically viable level. The law prohibiting sonic booms from civilian aircraft (US Code 49 Sec 44715), first introduced in 1958 (before sonic booms were really a problem), is the main focus of everyone in the game now--they're all hoping the laws will be redrafted to take account of newer, quieter technologies. See, if they can figure out how to make rocketship sounds legal, they can charge even MORE per seat!! But Qsst! Quiet! Don't tell anyone. There are real rocketship designers out there who'll be charging even MORE to leave the planet, not just whip around it at supersonic speeds.



Anonymous Forin said...

To be fair, L-M Co had a minority share of the NSTS program. Most of the program costs were/are associated with the Orbiter which is administered by North American Rockwell (now Boeing). LMCo builds the External Tanks. United Space Alliance is owned 50/50 by Boeing and LMCo, but most of the cost problems are probably more attributable to NASA, USAF and Boeing.

Mon Sep 04, 08:38:00 PM CDT  

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