British firm Hypermach has been quietly developing a new supersonic jet which will be twice the speed of Concorde and travel from London to New York in just over an hour. CEO Richard Lugg outlines the innovative new technology and how current talks in the Middle East could make it a reality within the next decade
Richard Lugg considers himself an innovator, entrepreneur and someone who thinks outside the box. But orchestrating a phone conversation during working hours, with him on the east coast of the United States and Arabian Business based in Dubai, can present quite a challenge. That said; if Lugg’s ambitious plans prove fruitful, everyone will soon become a lot closer and the constraints of time and space will soon be a distant memory.
At the Paris Airshow in 2011, Lugg unveiled SonicStar, a supersonic passenger aircraft which will target the world’s super rich and which will be capable of flying from London to New York in just two hours. A prototype of the craft is set to be launched by 2023, meaning time zones will no longer be an issue and executives will be able to leave New York after breakfast, stop off for meetings in London and book a table for lunch in Dubai.
Rumours had circulated that Dubai’s Emirates Airline might resurrect supersonic travel in the form of the once beloved Concorde, but this was recently dismissed by management as too costly and hazardous to the environment to operate.
Built by the British and the French for transatlantic travel, Concorde was the darling of the aviation world when it made its debut in March 1969, but was retired in November 2003, with operators Air France and British Airways citing low passenger interest following a July 2000 crash and high maintenance costs.
“Concorde did it but it was done poorly as the technology wasn’t there to make it efficiently viable. The issues with sonic boom and the environment had to be addressed first and foremost,” Lugg says of the now-retired aircraft.
While Dubai may be reluctant to resurrect Concorde, Lugg believes the Middle East might still be the catalyst in the development of the next generation of supersonic commercial jets and he reveals that he is in active talks in the region to finance the project and bring it to the stage where an aircraft will be ready to take to the skies.
“We have several, five or six, fairly interesting and serious discussions with geographic locations. We are going to be in Abu Dhabi presenting at the Global Aerospace Summit there in April and in Abu Dhabi we have had talks with financial institutions and funds there... Also Qatar and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well.
“We have been working the area since 2009. Ideally we are looking for a partner who will see the long-term view — at least a decade plus — to finance this project and scale to a manufacturing scenario, with viable prototypes. We are positioned with the capability to bring that kind of expertise into the region or country and build something from the ground up.”
With the discussions in place and the attention-grabbing flight times making the headlines, what exactly is the pitch behind SonicStar?
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