Boeing revealed its plans about a super-fast new concept aircraft at the annual American institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Atlanta.
The plane has the ability to be used for both military and commercial purposes. However, it has much in common with a previous model that was revealed in January.
Both these aircraft share several similar features, such as the delta-wing configuration with dual rear fins, a streamlined fuselage and a sharp nose. The plane would be able to travel up to a speed of Mach 5 (around 3,800mph), which would enable it to cross the Atlantic in two hours and the Pacific in three hours. That’s more than twice as fast as other supersonic jets being planned, like the rather poorly named 2.2 Mach Boom XB-1 which Virgin has preordered.
Despite the plane being very fast, it could have been faster according to Boeing’s senior technical fellow Kevin Bowcutt:
“We settled on Mach 5 version. This aircraft would allow you to fly across the ocean and back in one day, which is all most people want” he explained.
That’s because it would require significantly more advanced engines and materials, which would dramatically increase the cost of production.
The final dimensions of the plane are yet to be confirmed as is the number of passengers the it can fit. It hasn’t been given a name yet either.
The hypersonic plane will fly at 95,000 feet, which is 30,000 feet higher than Concorde flew at. That’s also 60,000 feet higher than the average airliner. Air density is lower the higher you go and maximises the efficiency of the engines and means there’s less turbulence and drag.
Boeing says that the aircraft production could be ready in 20 – 30 years, but a prototype could be ready in as little as 5 years. Its competitor, the Boom XB-1 is expected to be available for commercial flight from 2023.
Hypersonic planes could also stack up favourably against vehicles further along the spectrum, like rockets. Richard Branson has suggested that he wants to adapt rockets like Virgin Galactic for global flights,making the trip from New York to Sydney in just an hour, for example. Although rocket-powered spaceships sound incredible, Boeing’s Bowcutt believes that:
“The overall safety risk is much higher in a rocket while the passenger comfort level is much lower.”
Would you trust flying on a rocket? Do we need Mach 5 airplanes? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.