A new age for air travel is dawning; at least if you’re one of the lucky few in the market for supersonic luxury travel. Lockheed Martin's advanced Skunk Works unit is designing a small, 12-seat passenger jet that would travel at 1,200 mph (Mach 1.8) but which would produce only a whisper of the annoying crack once emitted by the retired Concorde.
Aimed at business executives and diplomats, the QSST will fly at nearly twice the speed of conventional business jets and have a range of 4,600 miles nonstop -- Los Angeles to New York in just over two hours. The sleek, 130-foot-long QSST (for "quiet supersonic transport") aircraft is being designed for a Nevada consortium called Supersonic Aerospace International, or SAI, at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion. According to the company, it could be ready for boarding by 2013.
It seems that this is a technology that is long overdue, and it may seem curious that domestic supersonic travel doesn’t already exist. But it’s been the pesky sonic boom that accompanies supersonic flight that has prevented development in this area -- until now.