Could An 11-Minute Flight From New York to London Be Possible?
Image via CharlesBombardier.com
The now-retired Concorde could fly at Mach 2. However, supersonic planes have not been on the radar for commercial airlines since 2003, when the Concorde took its final commercial flight.
A new design has once again put the idea of ultra-fast passenger jets in the headlines. Canadian industrial designer Charles Bombardier (grandson of Bombardier Inc. founder Joseph Armand Bombardier) has come up with a concept plane that he calls the Antipode.
Making the Concorde look slow
Though the Antipode is probably decades away from taking to the skies, it certainly has some buzz-worthy qualities, and, more importantly, many of the elements are based on realistic technology.
First and foremost, the Antipode would be able to travel much faster than the Concorde ever could. Much, much faster. Bombardier claims that the plane, which calls for rocket boosters and NASA-tested aerodynamic, anti-heat designs, would be able to reach the high-hypersonic speed of Mach 24. That would make it 12 times faster than the Concorde.
Trips between New York City and London in the Antipode would take approximately 11 minutes, and the cruising speed would be in excess of 12,000 miles per hour.
Far fetched… but based on real technology
Sound far-fetched? Admittedly, it is. There is virtually no chance of an Antipode prototype being built for decades to come. At the same time, however, some of the design concepts are based on elements that have already been tested.
The Antipode would use electromagnetic rails and booster rockets to literally shoot itself to cruising altitude. Then, a scramjet engine would kick in to propel the plane through the air at almost unbelievable speeds.
Scramjet engines are different from standard jet engines because they have no moving parts, and they rely on a complex compressed air system that would require little or no traditional fuel once reaching a high enough speed.
Decades of development needed before the design becomes reality
Thus far, scramjets are not developed enough to be reliable. A Boeing concept plane designed for the U.S. military was able to make an unmanned flight using scramjet power in 2013. It reached speeds of Mach Five (hypersonic speed) after being dropped out of a B-52 bomber at 50,000 feet. However, the flight only lasted three minutes.
Furthermore, the heat generated by an object traveling at Mach 24 would be enough to burn up the plane and everyone in it. Bombardier has said that his concept uses an idea studied by NASA called long penetration mode. The idea is that small openings at the front of the aircraft would suck in air to cool the body while also lessening the “sonic boom” that would occur when the plane broke the sound barrier. Of course, no plane has ever traveled at Mach 24, so it would be very difficult to test whether or not long penetration mode would actually work in such an application.
Though it is based on developing or developed technology, designs like the Antipode are decades away from their first test flight. More fuel efficient, faster versions of the current crop of commercial airliners are probably as much as most of us can hope to see in our lifetimes.
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