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Problems with the Sonic Cruiser?

The Economist has a story in the current issue on future airplanes from Boeing. Apparently the Sonic Cruiser may be in trouble:

The real barrier the Sonic Cruiser faces is not aerodynamics, but gloomy airlines. To begin with, there was some enthusiasm for a plane that could lop an hour off a transatlantic flight and three off some transpacific ones. But in their present slump, most airlines would probably prefer to see the technological tricks in the Sonic Cruiser (lightweight composite materials and so on) used to make planes that are more economical, rather than faster. Although the Cruiser would be no thirstier than an existing jumbo jet, that might still be too expensive in the future. Sir Richard Branson, boss of Virgin Atlantic and an early supporter, seems to have changed his mind. A few days ago, he poured cold water over the idea at the Farnborough Air Show, in Britain, saying that the Airbus A380 double-decker aircraft was the way of the future.

The Sonic Cruiser may thus be a victim of bad timing. Indeed, Boeing now admits that it is talking to the airlines about 250-seater planes of a more conventional design to replace the firm's ageing 767. These aircraft would deploy the same weight-saving technology as the Cruiser, but in pursuit of economy, rather than speed. Boeing will have to choose which way to jump in the next few months, based on the reaction of a group of key airlines.

It would be a shame if the Sonic Cruiser doesn't fly. I've spent enough time over the Pacific to know how nice it would be to make it to Tokyo in nine hours instead of twelve. As for the A380, though Airbus promotes it with promises of sleeper cabins, business centers, nurseries, and the like, all historical evidence suggests that airlines will instead use the extra space to pack in more people. Flying overseas with 554 other people doesn't strike me as something I'm eager to experience.

By the way, if you read the Economist article, note that the picture of the Sonic Cruiser they include is out of date. (This is strange, given that the story explicitly mentions recent design changes.) Here's a more up-to-date rendering:

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