When British Airways and Air France retired the Concorde in 2003, it looked like we might never see commercial supersonic speeds again. Boeing is thinking differently, and the company is planning to put a hypersonic jet in the skies in the coming decades. The Washington-based firm released the first sketch of an early prototype during a conference in Atlanta.
The rendering shows a slim, triangular aircraft with a sharp nose and a pair of fins on the tail. It’s not unlike the Concorde when it comes to design but it’s considerably faster. A couple of reports say the yet-unnamed plane will be able to cruise at Mach 5, which corresponds to approximately 3,900 mph. That’s over seven times the average cruising speed of a commercial jet.Cruising at Mach 5 would cut down the time it takes to fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo to about three hours. Flying from New York to London would take little more than two hours. Boeing stresses the rendering shows a concept, not an actual production plane, so don’t expect to fly this sucker anytime soon.Boeing refuses to speculate precisely when the jet will fly, but Kevin Bowcutt, Boeing’s chief scientist of hypersonics, says it could happen in the next 20 to 30 years. Reaching such high speeds requires putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into developing lightweight materials strong enough to withstand hypersonic speed and new propulsion technologies.While Airbus won’t join the race, Boeing’s forward-looking hypersonic jet will face competition from a number of companies when it reaches the market. Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences are already developing a hypersonic jet. It’s for the nation’s military, but engineers haven’t ruled out making a commercial variant to carry passengers around the globe.
David Novak is an internationally syndicated columnist, technical writer and expert in consumer electronics. His column appears in over 120 newspapers around the country, and his website and byline appear all over the world including such publications as Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Men's Health and GQ Magazine.