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Sonic Boom

o One of the more objectionable of the problems facing any

supersonic transport is commonly referred to as the "sonic
o To explain sonic boom, one must return to a description of
the shock-wave formation about an airplane flying
o A typical airplane generates two main shock waves, one at
the nose (bow shock) and one off the tail (tail shock).
o Shock waves coming off the canopy, wing leading edges,
engine nacelles, etc. tend to merge with the main shocks some
distance from the airplane.(See fig. 1)
o The resulting pressure pulse changes appear to be "N"
shaped as shown.
o To an observer on the ground, this pulse is felt as an abrupt
compression above atmospheric pressure followed by
a rapid decompression below atmospheric pressure
and a final recompression to atmospheric pressure.
o The total change takes place in one-tenth of a second or
less and is felt and heard as a double jolt or boom.
Figure 1- Sonic-boom generation.

o The sonic boom, or the overpressures that cause them, are

controlled by factors such as airplane angle of attack,
altitude, cross-sectional area, Mach number, atmospheric
turbulence, atmospheric conditions, and terrain.
o As shown in figure 2, the overpressures will increase with
increasing airplane angle of attack and cross-sectional area,
will decrease with increasing altitude, and first increase and
then decrease with increasing Mach number.
Figure 2- Factors affecting sonic-boom overpressures.

o Turbulence in the atmosphere may smooth the "N" wave

profile and thus lessen the impact of the boom or, on the
other hand, may in fact amplify the overpressures.
o Reflections of the overpressures by terrain and buildings
may cause multiple booms or post-boom aftershocks. In a
normal atmospheric profile, the speed of sound increases
with decreasing altitude.
o Figure 3 shows that the directions in which the
overpressures travel are refracted in this normal case and
that they will at some point curve away from the Earth.
o The strongest sonic boom is felt directly beneath the
airplane and decreases to nothing on either side of the flight
o It is interesting to note that a turning supersonic airplane
may concentrate the set of shock waves locally where they
intersect the ground and produce a super boom.
Figure 3- Refraction of shock waves.

Perhaps the greatest concern expressed about the sonic boom is

its effect on the public. The effects run from structural damage
(cracked building plaster and broken windows) down to
heightened tensions and annoyance of the citizenry. For this
reason, the world's airlines have been forbidden to operate
supersonically over the continental United States. This
necessitates, for SST operation that supersonic flight be limited to
over water operations. Research for ways in which to reduce the
sonic boom continues.
Transonic Airplane

The speed closer to Mach 1 with out encounting the large

transonic drag
o Make the airfoil thin
o Adopt a specially designed airfoil called a supercritical airfoil
o Thin airfoil
o Airfoil thickness –shows that Mcr is increased by making the
airfoil thinner.
o An increase in Mcr usually means an increase in the drag
divergence Mach number.
o Transonic airplane with a thinner airfoil can fly at a high
Mach number before encounting drag divergence
o The adverse compressibility effects which cause dramatic
increase in drag and precipitous decrease in lift
o Thinner airfoil are also advantage for supersonic airplanes
Shock wave
1. A very thin object or a thin needle moving at M∞ >1 creates
very weak disturbance in the flow, limited to a Mach wave

M∞ >1 µ

2. Object with some reasonable thickness, such as the wedge

moving at supersonic speed will create a strong disturbance
called a shock wave
3. The shock wave will be inclined at an oblique angle β, where
β>µ. As the flow across the oblique shock wave, the pressure,
temperature and density increase, and the velocity and the Mach
number decrease
M∞ >1 β>µ

4. The pressure on the surface of the wedge P increases across

the oblique shock wave, at the wedge surface P>P∞. Since the
pressure acts normal to the surface and the surface itself is
inclined to the relative wind, there will be a net drag produced on
the wedge. This drag is called wave drag, because inherently
due to the pressure increase across the shock wave.
5. To minimize the strength of the shock wave, all supersonic
airfoil profiles are thin with relatively sharp edges.


M∞ >1



CL=4α/ (M∞2-1)1/2

CD= 4α2/ (M∞2-1)1/2

6. In the supersonic regime, L and D increase with velocity even

though CL and CD decreases with M∞
7. In any flight regime, as the flight velocity increases, L and D
usually increase because dynamic pressure q∞ = ½ρV∞2
8. The expansion and shock waves at the leading edges result in
a surface pressure distribution in which the pressure on the top
surface is less than P∞, where as the pressure on the bottom
surface is greater than P∞. The net effect is an aerodynamic force normal to the


M∞ >1

P∞ wave
Shock P>P∞
wave α

Flow field

o Total drag at the supersonic speed is wave drag

o To reduce the wave drag is to reduce the strength of the shock waves that occur at
the nose, along the leading edges of the wing and tail, and at any other part of the
aircraft that produces into the supersonic flow
o The shock wave strength is reduced by having a sharp nose, slender ( almost
needle like) fuselage and very sharp wing and tail leading edges

Wave Drag
Induced Drag