Boeing has unveiled a sleek, new hypersonic passenger plane capable of crossing the globe in hours and which could be available in 20 to 30 years.
The US manufacturer says the concept could have passenger or military applications and is one of several its engineers are studying.
The concept aircraft unveiled at the American Institute of Aeronautics Aviation 2018 conference in Atlanta would be capable of traveling at five times the speed of sound. That’s about 4000mph or almost 6500kmh.
That could reduce the trip between New York and London to two hours and the flight between Australia and Europe to less than five hours.
It would be bigger than some planned supersonic business jets but smaller than conventional sub-sonic airliners such as the Boeing 737.
Boeing says its engineers are developing enabling technology will that will position the company for the time when customers and markets are ready to reap the benefits of hypersonic flight.
“We’re excited about the potential of hypersonic technology to connect the world faster than ever before,” said Kevin Bowcutt, senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hypersonics.
“Boeing is building upon a foundation of six decades of work designing, developing and flying experimental hypersonic vehicles, which makes us the right company to lead the effort in bringing this technology to market in the future.”
Although Bowcutt wouldn’t speculate when hypersonic flight for global travel will be a reality, he said it was possible a hypersonic passenger vehicle could be airborne in 20 to 30 years.
The concept, along with other visions of Boeing’s future, will be on display at Farnborough Airshow in July.
Earlier this year, Boeing joined Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems to invest in UK-based hypersonic propulsion company Reaction Engines.
Reaction’s hybrid SABRE engine blends rocket and jet technology capable of reaching Mach 5 in air-breathing mode and 25 times the speed of sound in rocket mode for space flight.
This would allow a vehicle powered by a SABRE engine to travel between London and Australia in four and half hours.
Companies such as US-based Boom are also looking at small supersonic business jets or small airliners.
NASA is hoping to overcome one of the big handicaps to supersonic travel in an uber-cool supersonic “X-plane” that announces its prowess with more of a thump than a bang.
The US space agency has awarded a $US247.5 million contract to Lockheed Martin to build from scratch a needle-nosed aircraft that could happily grace any chapter of the Star Wars franchise.
The 94-foot long plane is expected to start test flights in 2021 and fly at a cruising altitude of 55,000ft at Mach 1.42, or 940mph (1512kmh), with a top speed of Mach 1.5.
But it will use the latest in supersonic technologies to reduce the window-shaking sonic boom to a thump equivalent to the noise of car door closing.