A new hypersonic aircraft is under test and it could ferry passengers anywhere in the world in under three hours.
The capability of traveling at up to 3,800 miles an hour, more than six times the speed of a typical commercial jet and twice as fast as a supersonic aircraft, has been developed for the Chinese military, but has not been tested on passengers as yet.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences say they have tested a scaled-down model of the hypersonic jet in a wind tunnel, where it reached a top speed of 5,343mph. Adding Cui Kai said: “It will take only a couple of hours to travel from Beijing to New York at hypersonic speed. This could provide more convenient and efficient transportation than present subsonic airplanes for long-distance journeys in future.’
The aircraft will have two sets of wings that use one another to reduce turbulence and drag.
As part of a separate enterprise, aircraft manufacturer Boeing is working with Lockheed Martin to develop another hypersonic aircraft, but details on the project are sparse. “[Hypersonic travel] is certainly within the realm of possibility,” Dr. Kevin Bowcutt, senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hypersonics for Boeing Research & Technology, told NBC. “I think we have the technology now where we could actually do it.”
Last November, ambitious aviation company Boom Technology – a Colorado-based start up – said it was nearly ready to test a passenger jet capable of breaking the sound barrier. According to the firm’s CEO, Blake Scholl, a prototype of its “Boom Supersonic” plane will be in the sky as early as the end of 2018. Furthermore, he says, the company has already received more than 70 offers, from five different (unidentified) carriers, for an aircraft that could be in commercial service by the middle of the next decade.
Speaking at the Dubai Airshow last year, Mr Scholl declared that the firm’s XB-1 jet – which it has nicknamed “Baby Boom” – will revolutionise the way we travel.
“Think about for a moment the families that are separated because of the long flights,” he said. “Think about the trips not taken because when you add up the lost hours, the trip just doesn’t feel worth it. That’s where we come in. We are a team of engineers and technologists, brought together for the sole purpose of making our world dramatically more accessible.”