The news broke last September that a California start-up was working with the US Air Force on developing a supersonic plane which could be used as Air Force One.
Exosonic was handed a contract by the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate (PE) after impressing the military with its concept for a low-boom supersonic Mach 1.8 twinjet.
Now CNN Travel has had an exclusive look inside the cabin interior of the executive transport plane designed to carry the US Executive Branch’s distinguished visitors (DVs).
It’s a 31-passenger derivative of Exosonic’s 70-passenger commercial airliner concept and is the ultimate in business jets – luxury leather, oak and quartz fittings, private suites for work and rest, and all at cruise times twice that of existing aircraft.
The functions of presidential craft varies according to need, but this plane might primarily be used as Air Force Two, which is the call sign for jets carrying the US vice president.
“With this concept we are planning to implement new technologies that are not available today or that you don’t (yet) see on commercial or business aircraft,” says Stephanie Chahan, Exosonic’s principal aircraft interior designer, as she leads CNN on a virtual walk-through.
The first of two private suites is the three-passenger meeting room, with secure video teleconferencing so distinguished visitors can work, go online, or address the press.
The rotatable seats are leather with wooden shells and the video monitor is capable of being stored in a rolled position so there is space on the credenza sideboard for food platters or presentation equipment.
“So whether they’re flying the vice president or the first lady, or the first gentleman, we’d have a lot of flexibility here,” says Chahan.
Low-booom supersonic flight
The second eight-passenger suite has lie-flat seats and adjustable table heights and it’s where senior staffers can work collaboratively and rest.
Then there’s the main cabin with 20 business-class seats, plus two galleys, two lavatories and plenty of stowage space.
Following the trend in modern aircraft design, the seatbacks have spaces for holding personal electronic devices rather than traditional seat-back monitors.
“The cabin design was inspired by the US Executive Branch and its mission and values, as well as the peregrine falcon, renowned for its speed – both by its movement and by its beautiful look,” says Chahan.
Exosonic’s plane boasts a 5,000-nautical-mile range and, thanks to boom-softening techniques, it should be able to fly overland at almost twice the speed of sound without upsetting residents down below.
“The future for global rapid passenger travel is low-boom supersonic flight,” says Exosonic’s CEO, Norris Tie. “Low boom allows travelers to fly at supersonic speeds without generating disruptive booms for those on the ground.”
Mach 1.8 is around 1,381 miles per hour (2,222 kilometers), which is more than twice the typical cruising speed of a long-distance commercial craft.
Tie tells CNN that the company expects its supersonic plane to be flying by the mid-2030s.
Exosonic isn’t the only aviation trailblazer to receive investment from the US Air Force.
Atlanta-based Hermeus Corporation is working on a hypersonic 20-seater that promises to deliver passengers from New York to London in 90 minutes.
Last year, it partnered with the US Air Force and PE to develop its Mach 5 craft in order to support the presidential and executive fleet, and this March Hermeus announced that it was teaming up with NASA too.
Hypersonic travel is generally regarded as reaching speeds of Mach 5 or above, or five times the speed of sound. Hermeus successfully tested a Mach 5 engine prototype in February this year, having designed it from scratch.
Denver-based Boom Supersonic has also been awarded an Air Force contract to develop a configuration of its supersonic airliner Overture for government executive flight.