Sepp Hasslberger: Biplane to break sound barrier

03 Economy, Commerce
Sepp Hasslberger

Biplane to Break the Sound Barrier: Cheaper, Quieter and Fuel-Efficient Biplanes Could Put Supersonic Travel On the Horizon

ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2012) — Cheaper, quieter and fuel-efficient biplanes could put supersonic travel on the horizon.

For 27 years, the Concorde provided its passengers with a rare luxury: time saved. For a pricey fare, the sleek supersonic jet ferried its ticketholders from New York to Paris in a mere three-and-a-half hours — just enough time for a nap and an aperitif. Over the years, expensive tickets, high fuel costs, limited seating and noise disruption from the jet’s sonic boom slowed interest and ticket sales. On Nov. 26, 2003, the Concorde — and commercial supersonic travel — retired from service.

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Since then, a number of groups have been working on designs for the next generation of supersonic jets. Now an MIT researcher has come up with a concept that may solve many of the problems that grounded the Concorde. Qiqi Wang, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, says the solution, in principle, is simple: Instead of flying with one wing to a side, why not two?

Wang and his colleagues Rui Hu, a postdoc in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Antony Jameson, a professor of engineering at Stanford University, have shown through a computer model that a modified biplane can, in fact, produce significantly less drag than a conventional single-wing aircraft at supersonic cruise speeds. The group will publish their results in the Journal of Aircraft.

This decreased drag, according to Wang, means the plane would require less fuel to fly. It also means the plane would produce less of a sonic boom.

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