商用飞机之突破音障--尚需时日

Business

商业版块

Supersonic passenger jets

超音速客机

Boom time

音爆时代




A flock of startups wants to break the sound barrier

一群初创公司想要突破音障

For 27 years Concorde epitomised jet-setting glamour. Yet its elegant delta wings came with the ear-splitting noise of thirsty military-derived engines; champagne was served in a cramped cabin with small seats; and cruising at twice the speed of sound, which just about halved the time for an Atlantic crossing, cost twice the regular business-class fare. Devotees shed a tear after its farewell flight in 2003, following a fatal crash in 2000 and the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. Most business travellers shrugged.

在服役的27年里,协和式超音速飞机一直是喷气式飞机领域的象征。不过,它优雅的三角翼伴随着军用的高耗能发动机震耳欲聋的噪音;虽然舱内的空间逼仄,座位狭小,但飞机提供香槟;它能够以两倍于音速的速度飞行,让飞越大西洋所需时间几乎减半,不过票价也比普通的商务舱高出一倍。在经历了2000年的致命空难和2001年9月11日的恐怖袭击后,2003年协和式飞机进行了告别飞行,发烧友们抱憾落泪。而大多数商务旅行者也只是耸了耸肩。

“Picking up where Concorde left off” is how Blake Scholl, chief executive of Boom Supersonic, describes Overture 1, the jet which the American startup is developing. It will propel up to 88 passengers 1.7 times as fast as sound while avoiding Concorde’s drawbacks. This appeals to United Airlines. On June 3rd it agreed to buy 15 planes, with an option for 35 more. jal and Virgin Atlantic have options to acquire 30 between them. Mr Scholl promises that supersonic fares, once only for the very rich, will now be “for everyone”—or at least those who can afford to fly business on the same route. Better aerodynamics, materials and engines are intended to keep operating costs 75% below those of Concorde. Civilian engines will propel the aircraft in relative quiet and use sustainable fuel to head off criticism from environmentalists.

“青出于蓝而胜于蓝”,美国创业公司BoomSupersonic的首席执行官布莱克·肖尔(Blake Scholl)这样描述公司正在研发的飞机“1号序曲”(Overture 1)。它最多能搭载88名乘客,以1.7倍的音速飞行,同时还规避掉了协和式客机的不足之处。这一点对于美联航而言极具吸引力。6月3日,该公司同意购买15架飞机,还取得35架飞机的购买权。日本航空和维珍航空共拥有30架飞机的购买权。肖尔承诺,曾经只专供富人消费的超音速机票现在面向了“所有人”,或者至少是那些负担的起同样航线上商务舱消费的人群。“1号序曲”更符合空气动力学,材料更佳,引擎更强,因而运营成本比协和式飞机低75%。民用发动机让飞机在相对安静的环境中飞行,并会使用可持续燃料,以免遭到环保主义者的指责。


Mockups of the cabin look suitably plush.

机舱模型看起来非常奢华。

UBS, a bank, thinks supersonic travel has a future. It puts the cumulative size of the market at between $80bn and $280bn by 2040, depending on regulatory hurdles and whether the planes are delivered on time, on budget and operate as promised. Mr Scholl is eyeing the upper end of that range, a potential market for 1,200 Overture 1s at $200m each. Then he hopes to make progressively bigger craft offering lower fares and higher speeds. Spike, another American firm with supersonic ambitions, is developing an 18-seat business jet that doesn’t make a loud boom.

瑞士联合银行认为超音速旅行的前景一片大好。它预计,到2040年该市场的累计规模在800亿至2800亿美元之间,具体仍然取决于监管障碍以及飞机是否按时、按预算交付和按预期运营。肖尔关注的是这一预测区间的上限,这一潜在的市场能够消费1200架每架费用为2亿美元的“1号序曲”。之后,他希望慢慢造出更大的飞机,提供更低的价格,和更快的速度。另一家有超音速野心的美国公司Spike正在开发一种18座的低音爆的公务机。

Is this pie in the sky? A distant caveat-strewn commitment is good publicity for United and for Boom when it seeks more funding. It is unlikely that much cash has yet changed hands. Overture 1 is not set to enter service until 2029. Aerion, another firm that hoped to build an 8-10-seat business jet, unexpectedly folded in May despite orders worth more than $11bn and backing from Boeing, America’s giant aeroplane-maker.

这会是纸上谈兵吗?对美联航和寻求更多融资的Boom公司来说,一个兑现无期的许诺加上时不时发布警告饶是不错的宣传方式。目前还不太可能有大量现金交易。“1号序曲”要到2029年才开始投入使用。另一家Aerion公司希望打造一款8座到10座的公务机,尽管获得了超过110亿美元的订单和美国飞机制造巨头波音的支持,但该公司却在5月倒闭了。

National regulations banning supersonic speeds over land rule out trips across North America, home to lots of business travellers and most of the world’s business jets. Morgan Stanley, a bank, reckons that at $120m, double the price of a similar subsonic plane, even the ultra-rich wouldn’t pay to cut four hours from a transatlantic trip. Tellingly, Boeing itself has no plans to go supersonic. Nor has Airbus, its European arch-rival (which was involved in the Concorde project). The passenger-jet duopoly reckons that cheaper and cleaner flying is more important than speed. Breaking the sound barrier is still some way off for the ordinary punter.

美国法规禁止在境内超音速飞行,这就排除了穿越北美航行的可能性,而北美是众多商务旅行者和世界上大多数公务机的所在地。摩根士丹利银行认为,1.2亿美元的公务机价格是同类亚音速飞机价格的两倍,即使是超级富豪也不愿斥巨资只为跨大西洋的行程缩短四个小时。从波音没有推出超音速飞机计划可见一斑。它的欧洲头号竞争对手空中客车公司(参与过协和式客机项目)也没有任何动作。垄断了喷气式客机的两巨头认为,更便宜、更清洁的飞行比速度更重要。对于普通旅行者来说,突破音障尚需时日。

来源:经济学人

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