The Return of Supersonic Travel

Travelers looking for a way to travel quickly from one continent to another may soon find themselves boarding a supersonic jet. Not since the Concorde fleet of airplanes retired in 2003 has any airline made plans to reintroduce supersonic jet travel. Now, however, a new company call Boom Supersonic is doing just that.

The supersonic jet revival is one that many business people have been looking forward to. With the ability to fly at speeds of 1451 mph, the new supersonic jet can cut overseas travel time significantly. So significantly, in fact, that a flight from New York City to London, England, can be made in under four hours.

In the past, flying on the Concorde was a privilege accorded only to the most wealthy people in the world. A round-trip ticket from London to New York was roughly $12,000, a price impossible for most people to pay. Now, costs of flying on a Boom Supersonic are projected to be around $5,000 for a round-trip flight. While this is still a significant amount of money, the price of a round-trip Business or First-Class flight is comparable.

Boom Supersonic is not the only company working toward supersonic air travel in the new future. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are both in the process of building and testing supersonic jets, and big-name companies and government agencies are backing them. In fact, NASA awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to work on a supersonic plane with a quieter sonic boom.

The old Concorde jets were prohibitively expensive to both fly on and maintain, and there was considerable concern about the impact they had on the environment. Fuel usage alone was a problem, burning many times the amount of fuel as traditional commercial airlines. This excessive fuel usage, in turn, created greater emissions, and over time the flights were not cost effective to continue to run. Add to this the fact that few people could afford to fly on the Concorde, and it was almost destined to fail.

With the advent of technological advances, the new supersonic jet can hold up to 55 passengers, use less fuel and emit lower pollution levels, all at a price that anyone who is already flying business or first class can comfortably afford. Additionally, fewer hours in the air overseas or continentally directly translates to increased productivity and fewer out of office days of businesspeople all over the world.

While the supersonic jet revival has just begun, it appears that the test flights of some companies will start as early as 2022. As transportation needs increase for the business sector and when more people realize that supersonic jet travel is much more affordable now than it ever has been, it seems likely that this time around, supersonic jets will be here to stay.

from Dave Pflieger | CEO of Ravn Alaska


Some Of The World’s Largest Airplanes

One can imagine Orville or Wilbur Wright getting a glimpse at some of the world’s massive aircraft. These behemoths are unnaturally large. Technically, not all of the flying machines listed are considered airplanes. However, all flying machines are considered aircraft. Here are a few examples of huge aircraft and why they have their unique designs.

The Spruce Goose
For 70 years the Hughes H-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, continues to hold the world’s record as the aircraft with the longest wingspan, 97.54 meters, that ever took flight. Wingspan is measured from the tip of one wing to the tip of the opposite wing. It’s one flight took place on November 2, 1947.

Hughes Aircraft manufactured the world’s largest flying boat during World War II in response to war efforts mounted to find an aircraft that could safely transport supplies across the Atlantic Ocean. Because materials were limited during the war, the aircraft was made using wood as its main material, hence the nickname of the Spruce Goose even though it was made using birch wood, not spruce trees.

The Boeing 747-8
This passenger airplane is the longest aircraft in operation. The distinctive dome or bubble shape toward the front of the fuselage, (body), makes it one of the most recognized and beloved aircraft in the world. It’s length of 250 feet and two inches, or 76.3 meters, is remarkable. In comparison, an NBA basketball court is 94 feet long, making the 747 two and a half times that length.

The Mil Mi-26
Fixed-wing airplanes are not the only giants in the sky. Russia’s Mil Mi-26 Helicopter, which uses rotor speed to propel it off the ground instead of lift used by fixed-wing airplanes, it is a remarkably large machine. It can carry 20 tons of cargo or 90 troops. It is the largest helicopter to go into serial production and is still in use, retrieving wooly mammoths or damaged aircraft as needed.

The HAV Airlander 10
The world’s largest flying machine, this lighter-than-air hybrid of two blimps and an airplane can stay aloft for five days at a time. It is still in production in Great Britain despite the U.S. Military canceling its contract. Planned uses include a communications station, military or commercial surveys and a mammoth cargo-carrying machine.

from Dave Pflieger | CEO of Ravn Alaska

Meet The Airplane That Has Glass Floors

Air travel has become a commodity business. Even as recently as the 1970s, even domestic airlines still competed with one another on things like in-flight lounges and bars as well as providing fine dining experiences to their customers in the air. Up until the 1980s, it was still almost a given that passengers would dress up as if going to a formal gathering when taking to the skies. Flying was a more inspiring experience then.

But as air travel became cheaper and began being marketed to the masses, not as a unique and adventurous experience but as a simple means to quickly travel from one corner of the planet to another, the romance and wonder of air travel began to fade.

Now, Airbus and its partner firm, Design Q, have teamed up to bring air travel back to the days of Roald Amundsen, when flying was a means to high adventure and the entrance to an exalted world that only the rarefied elite could access. The two companies are ushering in a new era of the pole-traversing airship.

The 302-foot-long Airlander 10 looks like an almost alien creation from the outside, with two large tubes filled with helium to keep it aloft. On the inside, however, the ship looks much like an ultra-luxury yacht. With spacious staterooms, a large viewing area and a bar and lounge that would be the envy of any five-star restaurant, the Airlander 10 is a flying luxury hotel that gives its guests some of the most stunning views in the world. The airship’s forward observation compartment is decked out with floor-to-ceiling picture windows, providing a view with an expanse that has never been matched by a previous craft. And to top it all off, the viewing area features a large glass floor, providing views straight to the ground that will put up to 15,000 feet between the passengers’ shoes and the Earth’s surface.

The Airlander 10 is currently undergoing final flight testing and is scheduled to be approved for passenger service later this year. Although it is slow by international air travel standards, its 91-mph top speed make it approximately three to four times faster than even the fastest ocean liners. And the Airlander 10 provides levels of travel comfort that rival even the best of the Cunard Line. However, passengers can expect to shell out big money to travel in such high-flying style. The ship will have operational costs similar to an intercontinental-range airliner but will only accomodate 19 passengers.

from Dave Pflieger | CEO of Ravn Alaska

The Airbus Beluga XL Takes Its First Flight

The latest aircraft from Airbus, the strange-looking and massive Beluga XL, has taken its first flight. The airplane represents the culmination of years of development and will replace the older aircraft of the same name.

The airplane is based on the Airbus A330-200 platform, and many of the components from that plane can be readily identified by the casual observer. For example, the A330’s distinctive wings, which feature a unique winglet that protrudes above and below the level of the wings in the same proportions, are identical to those used on the Beluga.

But the similarities stop there. The Beluga’s fuselage is so heavily modified as to be almost unrecognizable as an A330 variant. While the aircraft shares most of its avionics with the A330, its cockpit area is radically different, appearing more like the wheelhouse in an airship than anything one might be accustomed to seeing on a modern jet.

The older version of the Beluga was based on the A300, which was the first twin-engine widebody to fly commercially. The A300 has been out of production for decades and its parts are becoming ever more difficult to find, driving service costs through the roof. For these reasons, Airbus needed a replacement.

The new Beluga is actually able to haul even more weight and larger cargo than its predecessor. This is good news for the company that now produces the largest commercial aircraft in the world, the Airbus A380. Because Airbus has assembly plants located across Europe and sources aircraft parts, some of which are massive in scale, from across the globe, they need a plane that can handle carrying oversize parts to and from various production facilities. With its more than 500,000-pound maximum takeoff weight, this is a job that the new Beluga XL is more than capable of carrying out.

Airbus archrival Boeing has an oversized cargo plane of its own. Called the Dreamlifter, the aircraft provides a similar role to that of the Beluga XL, with Boeing also having suppliers for its commercial aircraft manufacturing facilities located throughout the world. Much to Airbus’ chagrin, however, the Dreamlifter, which is based on the 747-800, can lift over twice as much as its European counterpart, giving it a huge advantage in hauling the most challenging cargo from the ends of the Earth.

from Dave Pflieger | CEO of Ravn Alaska