From Cape Town to Rio in 2 hours: Boeing unveils concept design for hypersonic passenger plane

2018-07-02 16:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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 Futuristic plane flying over the curvature of ear

Boeing has unveiled their latest hypersonic plane design for commercial flights. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing is looking to the future when they unveiled their concept design for a hypersonic passenger plane that could be taking to the skies in 20 - 30 years. 

The sleek design - which should be able to reach speeds of Mach 5 - was revealed to the industry at the annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Atlanta last week. Boeing is not the first to come up with hypersonic plane designs, but this is one of the few designs focusing on commercial use for the average traveller.

China's Academy of Sciences have already started testing on a model for hypersonic flights, and aviation startup Boom Technology has said earlier this year that it's close to testing a passenger jet for supersonic flight, though this has been limited to a small number of passengers for only business class, according to the Telegraph.

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A flight on this modern dream will cut lengthy flights across the Atlantic Ocean to only two hours from the Americas to Europe and Africa, or three hours across the Pacific reports Wired.

The plane is projected to be able to be used for both commercial and military purposes, and would ultimately mean you could leave Cape Town for Rio de Janeiro and be back the same day.  

“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.”

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Apparently, the plane could go faster than Mach 5, but the cost would far exceed the need for it, as Bowcutt points out that "the world is just not big enough to go much faster".

Seating on the plane could be anywhere between 20 and 100 passengers, and at 30 000 feet higher than the average airliner, passengers would be able to see the curve of Earth and almost touch space. 

This design is also jet-powered, differing it from current supersonic planes that depend on rocket engines and rocket boosters to reach those insane speeds. This in turn makes rocket-powered planes too heavy to be able to also carry many passengers, according to NBC Mach's update on the industry.

And the effects of hypersonic on the human body? As it's a step below supersonic, the only real effects passengers will feel is G-force for 12 minutes at the beginning of the flight, and a weightlessness that comes from being so far away from the ground - though not quite zero-G.

While we may only start seeing a commercial application in a few decades, the dream of not spending 20 hours to travel to the other side of the world is just that little bit closer.

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