Aerospace composites have vital role in supersonic airliner

One of the aerospace marvels of the 20th century is the Concorde supersonic airliner. Though this iconic aircraft is long gone, composites are being used to create a new supersonic airliner that may be the talk of the 21st century.

How composites are benefitting a new supersonic airliner

The aerospace industry has produced many marvels, but one of the most iconic of those marvels is the Concorde supersonic airliner. The Concorde was a joint venture between British and French aerospace companies that flew for the first time on March 2, 1969. The aircraft had a maximum cruising speed of more than twice the speed of sound (Mach 2.04 to be precise), and it could take 100 passengers from London to New York in just 3 1/2 hours. This time is less than half of a conventional airliner, which takes about eight hours to make the same flight. However, the plane’s high operating costs and complaints about its noisiness led to the final Concorde flight on November 26, 2003.

Sixteen years later, an all-composite aircraft from a company called Boom Technology may be poised to resurrect supersonic air travel. The concept aircraft is known as Overture, and it’s being designed to take full advantage of composites. For instance, the entire fuselage of the Overture will be constructed from composites.

This will benefit the plane by allowing it to be lighter and more fuel efficient. At the same time, this weight reduction will also help the plane to reach a projected top speed of Mach 2.2, and the company predicts this speed increase will shave 45 minutes off the Concorde’s record flight time between New York and London. The use of a composite fuselage by the Overture will also allow for a reduced coefficient of thermal expansion, which is what causes aircraft fuselages to stretch at high speeds. Reducing this stretching with a composite fuselage is likely to benefit future operators by lowering fuselage wear and tear during flight while simultaneously lowering maintenance costs.

While the Overture is still in the design phase, Boom Technology recently rolled out a two-seat demonstrator for the model, which is called the XB-1. The demonstrator, which is also constructed of composites, is scheduled to make its first test flight in late 2019, and this event could allow composites to herald the return of supersonic airline travel in the near future.

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Fuselages and wings are just a few of the aerospace applications using composite materials. If your company builds composite aerospace components, one thing you’ll absolutely need is a reliable source of composite materials.

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