Boeing on Wednesday announced plans to develop a hypersonic aircraft that could transport passengers at nearly five times the speed of sound, Fox News is reporting. That’s fast enough to get from New York to London — a trip that these days takes seven hours — in just 120 minutes.
The announcement was made at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aviation 2018 conference in Atlanta. The concept aircraft is being designed with a view towards flying at Mach 5 — that is, five times the speed of sound, or 3,835 miles per hour. What’s more, it would fly at an altitude of about 95,000 feet, according to Aviation Week.
Boeing is developing the craft not just with an eye towards civilian use, but for military use as well. Considering that time can be of the essence when it comes to military issues, getting troops across the globe in a short period of time can make all the difference in the world, says Kevin Bowcutt, chief scientist of hypersonics at Boeing.
“Supersonic isn’t really fast enough to go overseas and back in one day. For the business traveler or the military, where time is really important, that’s an interesting point. Mach 5 is where you can do that. You can get across the Atlantic in about 2 hours and across the Pacific in about 3 hours.”
In fact, the aviation industry has actually gone backwards when it comes to the speed of passenger aircraft. For almost three decades, the Concorde shuttled passengers across the Atlantic at Mach 2.04, or 1,354 miles per hour. However, the exorbitant price of even the cheapest Concorde ticket — $7,995 in 1997, nearly 30 times the price of a comparable seat on a more traditional aircraft — made a flight on the plane out of reach for most passengers. Declining passenger numbers and outdated technology doomed the aircraft, to say nothing of the 2003 crash of Air France Flight 4590, which killed all of the passengers and crew aboard the aircraft.
As for the new Boeing hypersonic craft, don’t get out your credit card just yet. The concept, if it gets off the ground at all (so to speak), isn’t expected to become reality for 20 or 30 years.
Meanwhile, Boeing isn’t the only manufacturer trying to get back into the ultra-high-speed passenger aircraft game. As CNN reports, Lockheed Martin and Aerion Corporation are also both working on hypersonic aircraft. Similarly, Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation hopes to put passengers into sub-orbital flight at speeds that would get them from New York to Shanghai in just half an hour.