Boeing Unveils Plans for a Super High-Speed Passenger Plane

A new concept aircraft revealed by Boeing this week would leave British Airways and Air France Concorde in the dust. Once described by a British ambassador as the “flower of the aerospace industry, the supersonic Concorde could cut travel times in half but was ultimately doomed by a combination of high maintenance expenses and high ticket prices. A round-trip flight from London to New York, for instance, could cost as much as $18,260 today.

Boeing said at an aerospace conference in Atlanta that it is ready to compete “for this high-flying piece of the aviation future.” It will be “the first passenger-carrying hypersonic vehicle” that “could cross an ocean in 2 hours for military or commercial customers.”

Popular Science reports that “it’s designed to travel at a cruising speed upwards of Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound), or around 4,000 mph. By comparison, the Concorde – which was in service from 1976 to 2003 — flew at around Mach 2, or 1,354 mph. And the average bullet travels at about 1,700 mph.”

“This is just one of several hypersonic vehicle concepts spanning a wide range of potential applications company engineers are studying. Engineers are working companywide to develop enabling technology will position the company for the time when customers and markets are ready to reap the benefits of hypersonic flight,” Boeing said.

The aircraft would achieve its uncanny speed through a newly designed dual engine that would use both traditional turbofan technology for takeoff and climbing, then would switch over to a ramjet when it got high enough, putting it into serious overdrive, SFGate reports.

To fly that fast, Boeing’s hypersonic plane would have to go really high – 95,000 feet – where the air density is low enough to sufficiently reduce dynamic pressure on the body of the plane. At that altitude, passengers could see the darkness of space and the curvature of the Earth.

Other companies like Aerion Corp, Boom Technology Inc, The Reno firm, along with European aviation giant Airbus Group are also developing new-tech passenger jets as well, but mostly in the supersonic (rather than hypersonic) speed range. China is also said to be working on a hypersonic aircraft called the I Plane that could theoretically operate at speed of Mach 5 to Mach 7.

Boom, which is developing a 45-seat supersonic passenger plane, already has a commitment from Virgin Group chief Sir Richard Branson for 10 aircraft, and last fall Virgin agreed to work with the manufacturer on technical aspects and flight testing of the plane.

Don’t try to book a trip yet – Boeing’s hypersonic plane is just a concept foe now and is at least 20 to 30 years away.

Source: Popular Mechanics, SFGate, LA Times

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