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Author Topic: The Boeing Sonic Cruiser and unfullfilled dreams  (Read 11547 times)


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The Boeing Sonic Cruiser and unfullfilled dreams
« on: September 14, 2009, 04:03:42 PM »
The Boeing Sonic Cruiser

Back in 2002 I was wrapped up in this new aircraft that was all in the aviation news at the time. I actually planned a trip to Everett Oregon to see the aircraft in production in 2003. By the time I actually went to the Boeing plant the project had been abruptly cancelled for commercial reasons.
I went on to visit the massive plant and saw 747s being made. It was an incredible experience in fact.
But the dream of mankind leaving behind that old sixties technology and going more futuristic just wasn't to be.

The Sonic Cruiser was born from one of numerous outline research and development projects at Boeing with the goal to look at potential designs for a possible new near-sonic or supersonic airliner.The strongest of these initial concepts was dubbed the "Sonic Cruiser" and publicly unveiled on March 29, 2001, shortly after the launch of the A380 by rival Airbus.


Instead of the A380's massive capacity, requiring a hub and spoke model of operation, the Sonic Cruiser was designed for rapid point-to-point connections for 200 to 250 passengers. With delta wings and flying just short of the speed of sound at Mach 0.95-0.98 (about 627 mph or 1,010 km/h at altitude), the Sonic Cruiser promised 15-20% faster speed than conventional aircraft without the noise pollution caused by the sonic boom from supersonic travel. The aircraft design was to fly at altitudes in excess of 40,000 ft (12,000 m), and a range somewhere between 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km) and 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km). Boeing estimated the Sonic Cruiser's fuel efficiency to be comparable to current wide body twin-engine airliner


In the end, most airlines favored lower operating costs over a marginal increase in speed, and the project did not attract the interest Boeing had been hoping for. The Sonic Cruiser project was finally abandoned by December 2002 in favor of the slower but more fuel-efficient 7E7 (later renamed Boeing 787 Dreamliner). Much of the research from the Sonic Cruiser was applied to the 787, including carbon fiber reinforced plastic for the fuselage and wings, bleedless engines, cockpit and avionics design.


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Re: The Boeing Sonic Cruiser and unfullfilled dreams
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2009, 12:43:32 AM »
Announcements back in 2003 that had my interest then.

Boeing "Sonic Cruiser"
Long-range, high speed airliner


Boeing Commercial Airplanes
PO Box 3707
Seattle, WA 98124

Cockpit Crew  2
Passengers: 100 – 300, but main interest seems to be in the 220 – 230 passenger size.

Power plant : 2 x turbofans, based on the 777 engines from GE, Pratt & Whitney or Rolls-Royce
Noise: below Stage 4 requirements

Cruise speed : Mach 0.95 to 0.98
Cruise altitude (: above 13000 m (40000 ft)
Climb  16 minutes to 41000 ft
Range : 16670 km (9000 NM) or more

Sales price not yet known.
Development costs estimated at 9 billion US-Dollars by analysts. Boeing chief executive Phil Condit has said that development cost would be well below the 12 billion US-Dollar mentioned for the A380.

None yet.
After Boeings announcement, some airline executives, like Qantas, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Air Canada chiefs, had spoken favourably of the concept, while others remained sceptical.

None, as the Sonic Cruiser is positioned as a faster alternative to "conventional” long-range airliners

A specific size has not yet been chosen, but generic technologies would be

    * large canards forward with elevators
    * wings at the rear with large root extensions holding fuel
    * engines at the rear with a bypass ratio of 6:1
    * use of composites and high-tech manufacturing methods
    * forward retracting gear
    * all-electric environmental control system
    * fly-by-wire flight controls

Boeing claims that in this concept, it can have a constant section fuselage which can be stretched later as usual with conventional airliners. Baseline in May 2001 seemed to be a 767-sized aircraft with 250 seats and a range of 16700 km or more. This would allow Singapore – Los Angeles and Singapore – London flights with time savings of 3 or 2 hours respectively.
Boeing signed up various partners for the Sonic cruiser, like:

    * Japan Aircraft Industries (includes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries). An agreement to conduct research and development work on technologies including composites for the Sonic Cruiser and other potential new airplanes was signed in late January 2002
    * Alenia: An agreement regarding structural materials technology development work on the proposed Boeing Sonic Cruiser was reached on February 12, 2002.
    * Vought Aircraft Industries: The company contributed its experience in aerostructures. The agreement was announced on 21 February 2002.
    * Boeing Commercial Airplanes Wichita Division: Working on advanced materials, including composites. Announced 4 April 2002.
    * Hawker de Havilland: This subsidiary of The Boeing Company was to contribute its expertise in advanced materials, including composites. Announced on 10 April 2002.
    * Fischer Advanced Composite Components (FACC): Announced at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2002
    * Stork Fokker Aerostructures: Announced at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2002.
    * GKN Aerospace Services: Announced at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2002.
    * Boeing Canada Technology – Winnipeg: Joined the team on 23 September 2002.

After some months of rumours, Boeing unveiled its "faster, longer range Boeing Commercial Jet” at a news conference on March 29, 2001. This apparently followed a strategic review, in which Boeing renounced development of new 747X variants in the face of the early success of the Airbus A380. It is said that briefings to airlines started in early March.
The new aircraft was no more than a generic concept for discussions with the airlines. It came out of various studies in the so called "20XX” project team. It seems that it first emerged in late 1999 and then got more impetus in the fall of 2000.
Boeing claimed that airlines "would strongly value an airplane that can fly faster, higher and more quietly”. Industry analysts immediately were not so sure on the prospects, though, with Airbus predictably denouncing the Sonic Cruiser as technically not feasible.
After the announcement in March, Boeing had put together an airline advisory group to help define the initial aircraft size.
By mid-September 2001, the first phase of low- and high-speed wind tunnel testing was completed. Test results matched the expectations, said the company. Speeds of up to Mach 1.08 were checked, without adverse behaviour in the transonic region.
In early 2002 Boeing began to sign up a host of partner companies to contribute to the Sonic Cruiser development effort, mainly in the structures area. The goal was to get 60 to 70 per cent composites structures by weight.
During 2002, further configuration studies were conducted, as well as detailed route studies with individual airlines. According to Walt Gilette at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2002, " We've looked at more than 25 wing planforms, 50 nacelle shapes and 60 fuselage designs in the past 16 months."
Three configurations emerged, the well known canard layout as well as more conventional looking designs with mid-wings and normal tails. The latter featured area-ruled fuselages.
Boeing had meanwhile also built a test fuselage section to examine both the build process and the material properties of one of the proposed composite materials. The 20-foot long section was being used to test installation techniques, durability and repairability.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the ensuing airline crisis, it became increasingly clear that the Sonic Cruiser was not an attractive proposition for airlines struggling to survive. They were seeking lower operating costs instead of more speed and showed greater interest in the "reference” super-efficient design.
In the week starting 9 December 2002, the Boeing leadership therefore decided to switch strategy again and concentrate work on a conventional looking "Super Efficient Airplane”. Much of the technology of the Sonic Cruiser will read across to the new project, which could be launched in early 2004. The decision was officially made public by Allan Mullaly on December 20, 2002, at a pre-Christmas dinner with local press in Seattle.
Before shelving the Sonic Cruiser, predicted service entry was late 2007 or early 2008, according to Mulally at the first presentation in 2001.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 03:36:42 AM by AVIATOR »


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Re: The Boeing Sonic Cruiser and unfullfilled dreams
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2009, 03:02:26 AM »
What we would have seen at the airport. Alas it wasn't to be and the great financial disaster of 2008/9 and beyond will make sure of that.


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Re: The Boeing Sonic Cruiser and unfullfilled dreams
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2009, 10:17:02 PM »
Transition from Sonic Cruiser to 787.

When the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred, the global airline market was upended. The worst-affected airlines were in the United States—those same airlines were the primary proponents of the Sonic Cruiser. Airlines were not able to justify large capital expenditures, and due to increased petroleum prices, were more interested in efficiency than speed. Boeing proceeded to offer airlines the option of using the airframe for either higher speed or increased efficiency. Due to high projected airframe costs, demand continued to evaporate. Eventually, Boeing switched tacks and decided to offer an alternative project.

The replacement for the Sonic Cruiser project was dubbed the 7E7. The "E" was said to stand for various things, depending upon the audience. To some, it stood for "efficiency," to others it stood for "environmentally friendly," etc. In the end, Boeing claimed it merely stood for "Eight," after the aircraft was eventually rechristened "787" when several Chinese airlines ordered the product.

The 787 essentially uses the technology proposed for the Sonic Cruiser in a more conventional airframe configuration. Boeing claims that the 787 will be up to 20% more fuel-efficient than comparable aircraft. This efficiency improvement will come primarily from the engines; the airframe weight saving due to high usage of composite materials will provide the rest.

On April 6, 2004, Boeing announced that it had selected two engine types, the General Electric (GE) GEnx and Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 to power the 787. Significantly, this leaves Pratt & Whitney unable to offer one of their own engines to 787 customers.

For the first time in commercial aviation, both engine types will have a standard interface with the aircraft, allowing any 787 to be fitted with either a GE or Rolls-Royce engine at any point in time. Engine interchangeability makes the 787 a far more flexible asset to airlines, allowing them to change from one manufacturer's engine to the other's in light of any future engine developments which conform more closely to their operating profile.


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Re: The Boeing Sonic Cruiser and unfullfilled dreams
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2009, 02:10:02 AM »
The battle in the skies for the next few years then will be between the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus Industries A-350.
Big money is at stake. I want to fly in both of them. Check in your bags.


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