by Annabel Fenwick Elliott, The Telegraph, May 22, 2019
Plans have been announced for a new aircraft that will fly passengers between London and New York in 90 minutes or less - that's five times the speed of sound, and twice as fast as the Concorde.
Hermeus Corporation, an Atlanta-based start-up, has secured funding to develop the hypersonic jet, and plans to charge around $3,000 (£2,357) for a one-way fare, about the same as a business class ticket today.
We'll have to wait about a decade before the plane is ready, according to an Hermeus estimate. If all goes to plan, it will cruise at 3,300 miles per hour - a speed of Mach 5, slicing the transatlantic flight time from about seven and a half hours to less than two.
By comparison, the now-defunct Concorde had a maximum capability of Mach 2.04 (nudging 1,354 miles per hour at full throttle); and a standard Boeing or Airbus model currently hits speeds of no more than 0.86 Mach.
The team behind the ambitious plans includes several big names in today's commercial space race, among them ex-employees of Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket company and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. All four founders also previously collaborated on the production of experimental 'X-planes' for the US Air Force.
“With experience from the best of new space companies, the Hermeus team is well positioned to disrupt the hypersonics industry," said Rob Meyerson, an advisor on the board.
Hermeus is one of a handful of firms attempting to revive the commercial prospects of planes that can travel faster than the speed of sound, collected under the umbrella term, NewSpace, or new space.
Boom Supersonic, backed by Sir Richard Branson, is in the process of constructing a fleet of supersonic jets to serve hundreds of destinations around the world. Proposed fares between London and New York are in the same price bracket - around £2,000 one-way.
“You won't have to be on the Forbes' list to be able to fly,” says founder Blake Scholl.
“It will cost about the same as flying business class today. The ultimate goal is to make supersonic affordable for anyone who flies."
The Denver-based operation has developed prototypes of a 55-seater jet that will have a cruising speed of 1,451mph, and hopes to begin passenger flights by 2025.
Scholl projects having as many as 2,000 aircraft visiting 500 destinations. For context, there is an estimated 23,600 aircraft in service around the world today, but only two models number greater than 2,000: the Boeing 737, flown by Ryanair, and the Airbus A320, a stalwart of the EasyJet fleet.
Virgin Atlantic, Japan Airlines and two as-yet unnamed carriers have already expressed interest in acquiring Boom’s first planes.
Last year, Boeing unveiled a rendering of its vision of the future in the form of a “hypersonic” plane, capable of flying at Mach 5 or above (a speed of around 3,900 miles per hour). That would mean a transatlantic flight time of just an hour.
Boeing admits that any such aircraft could only be airborne in "20 or 30 years", depending on the progress of the project - but also insists that such a technological leap is entirely feasible.
Its European rival Airbus has its own partnership with the Nevada-based Aerion Corporation that, it hopes, will one day bear supersonic fruit.
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