What is a supersonic aircraft


The invention of the jet engine made it possible to build aircraft that are faster than sound. The great speed brings with it some problems. Because when an aircraft "breaks the sound barrier", it flies faster than the sound waves it generates itself. This has an impact on the flow conditions: A pressure wave is created, the lift decreases and the air resistance increases. This sudden change in aerodynamic conditions must be compensated for by adapting the wings and, above all, the controls, otherwise the aircraft will crash.

The Concorde - a supersonic aircraft © dpa

The faster an aircraft flies, the greater the friction between the air and its surface. This heats it up. This warming effect is so strong in supersonic aircraft that special materials have to be used that can withstand these high temperatures without losing strength. Sound travels in the air at 344 meters per second. If an object flies at this speed, it is said to have reached Mach 1. The Mach number indicates how fast an airplane flies, measured not in kilometers per hour, but in multiples of the speed of sound. This is not constant, but depends on the medium, temperature and pressure.

Supersonic aircraft have a shape that takes into account the other aerodynamic conditions. They usually have a very narrow body and thin wings with a sharp edge. These are often implemented as delta wings. The wings each form a triangle, one side of which is completely attached to the fuselage. This shape has less air resistance and still offers enough buoyancy. This also makes the flight stability so high that no additional horizontal stabilizer is required, as most aircraft have at the rear end.