Boeing is looking to build a passenger plane that could transport high-rolling jetsetters around the world at five times the speed of sound.
The hypersonic airliner concept, unveiled at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautic forum this week, is still just a drawing-board project, but the possibilities are nothing less than sky high.
With a cruise altitude of 30 kilometres, the hypersonic 6400km/h jet with “either commercial or military applications” could fly passengers from New York to London in just two hours, or Australia to Europe in less than five hours.
Boeing chief scientist Kevin Bowcutt said the first passenger-carrying hypersonic concept followed more than six decades of work designing, developing and flying experimental hypersonic vehicles.
“We’re excited about the potential of hypersonic technology to connect the world faster than ever before,” he said.
The super-fast Boeing plane’s speed is considered possible using an advanced titanium structure, according to Aviation Week.
But the grand vision comes with some catches for those wishing to race across the Pacific, with a realistic wait time for the engineering feat running to an estimated “20 to 30 years”.
The commercial viability of the aircraft is also unknown.
Airline Intelligence and Research managing director Tony Webber told The New Daily that while the engineering was impressive, the venture was unlikely to be economically feasible with rising aviation fuel prices.
He said the plane’s fate could be similar to the Concorde, the British-French supersonic passenger airline that operated mostly on the trans-Atlantic route between 1976 and 2003.
In 2003 Air France and British Airways announced they would retire the Concorde after a horrific takeoff crash and because of low passenger numbers and maintenance costs.
“Jet fuel is an enormous expense and it will depend if it has greater fuel efficiency than the Concorde,” Mr Webber said.
“The airfares required to break even would set a high demand and passengers carrying high net worth wealth.”
Mr Webber said “pair city” routes such as New York and London with dense populations and high-income earners exceeding $500,000 were necessary requirements.
Professor David Mee, from the University of Queensland’s mechanical and mining engineering school, told The New Daily the Concorde was 2.4 times faster than a conventional aircraft and Boeing’s supersonic plane would be five times faster than a standard Boeing 747.
Professor Mee explained the Boeing would begin its flights off using a conventional jet engine but would transition to ramjet, a type of jet engine that creates high pressure by “ramming” air into the combustion chamber using the forward speed of the vehicle.
“This would be the first aircraft company to make something that fast, and the research into this is a long time coming,” Profesor Mee said.
He said once a plane reaches above Mach 1 – the speed of sound at about 1000km/h – an aircraft can become unstable and hot from air friction, noting that Concorde’s surface area that recorded an outside temperature of 127 degrees Celsius.