Supersonic Transports - Challenges of Supersonic Passenger Flight - Engines

Engines

Jet engine design shifts significantly between supersonic and subsonic aircraft. Jet engines, as a class, can supply increased fuel efficiency at supersonic speeds, even though their specific fuel consumption is greater at higher speeds. Because their speed over the ground is greater, this decrease in efficiency is less than proportional to speed until well above Mach 2, and the consumption per mile is lower.

When Concorde was being designed by Aérospatiale–BAC, high bypass jet engines ("turbofan" engines) had not yet been deployed on subsonic aircraft. Had Concorde competed against earlier designs like the Boeing 707 or de Havilland Comet, it would have been much more competitive. When these high bypass jet engines reached commercial service in the 1960s, subsonic jet engines immediately became much more efficient, closer to the efficiency of turbojets at supersonic speeds. One major advantage of the SST disappeared.

Turbofan engines improve efficiency by increasing the amount of cold low-pressure air they accelerate, using some of the energy normally used to accelerate hot air in the classic non-bypass turbojet. The ultimate expression of this design is the turboprop, where almost all of the jet thrust is used to power a very large fan – the propeller. The efficiency curve of the fan design means that the amount of bypass that maximizes overall engine efficiency is a function of forward speed, which decreases from propellers, to fans, to no bypass at all as speed increases. Additionally, the large frontal area taken up by the low-pressure fan at the front of the engine increases drag, especially at supersonic speeds, and means the bypass ratios are much more limited than on subsonic aircraft.

For example, the early Tu-144S was fitted with a low bypass turbofan engine which was much less efficient than Concorde's turbojets in supersonic flight. The later TU-144D featured turbojet engines with comparable efficiency. These limitations meant that SST designs were not able to take advantage of the dramatic improvements in fuel economy that high bypass engines brought to the subsonic market, but they were already more efficient than their subsonic turbofan counterparts.

Read more about this topic:  Supersonic Transports, Challenges of Supersonic Passenger Flight

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