In late June, Boeing debuted the concept for their first passenger-carrying hypersonic plane at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Atlanta. The vehicle would travel five times the speed of sound — Mach 5, or 3,800 miles per hour. This means that the proposed plane could take passengers anywhere in the world in three hours or less.
The idea is still in the early stages of development, and Boeing has many technical challenges to work out before a prototype can be made. The concept of making hypersonic vehicles, however, is nothing new for Boeing, which has been testing ultra-fast technology for decades.
“We’re excited about the potential of hypersonic technology to connect the world faster than ever before,” said Kevin Bowcutt, senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hypersonics. “Boeing is building upon a foundation of six decades of work designing, developing, and flying experimental hypersonic vehicles, which makes us the right company to lead the effort in bringing this technology to market in the future.”
Boeing estimates that it may be able to have the hypersonic passenger vehicle airborne in the next 20 to 30 years, with a prototype made in the next 5 to 10. The recently-released concept proposes a medium-sized plane that could seat between 20 and 100 passengers; its cruising height at 95,000 feet would be 60,000 feet higher than that of the average commercial plane.
As Boeing works toward developing hypersonic aircrafts, other companies like Lockheed Martin and Aerion Corporation are doing the same. And while it might be some time before we can fly from New York to London in two hours, the steady progress made by Boeing and its competitors is set to eventually change the face of the way we travel.