About four months after China revealed its plan to design a hypersonic passenger airliner, Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) has decided to join the race for hypersonics by partnering with hypersonic specialists at the company’s Research & Technology unit to examine the feasibility of Mach 5 travel capable of crossing the Atlantic in 2 hours or the Pacific in 3.
We just revealed a new hypersonic vehicle concept @AIAA Aviation – a
concept that one day could redefine aviation and connect the world faster than
ever before. What do you think? https://t.co/AvsNlc7aLf pic.twitter.com/P5nbxGnlOd
According to Aviation Week, Boeing unveiled the initial concept vehicle at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aviation 2018 conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Although the hypersonic vehicle is in the early stages of design, the concept depicts a passenger capacity larger than long-range business jets, but much smaller than Boeing’s flagship 737, with indications the plane could enter service by the mid/late 2030s.
Boeing said the hypersonic aircraft could fly at Mach 5 with an altitude ceiling of 95,000 feet. That means this new vehicle would travel 2.5 times faster and 30,000 feet higher than the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde, a British-French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner, which operated from 1976 to 2003. Boeing touted the ability to operate the aircraft with same-day return flights from Asia and Europe, which would significantly increase asset utilization.
“You have to do these kinds of studies now to know where we have to push the technology and where we have to advance things,” said Boeing chief scientist for hypersonics Kevin Bowcutt, whose hypersonic research has been primarily in space and military applications.
“Technologically we could have an [operational military] hypersonic aircraft... flying in 10 years. But there’s a lot that goes into a commercial airplane, including the market, regulatory and environmental requirements, so it will happen when there is a convergence of those things,” Bowcutt explained.
Boeing determined that Mach 5 (3,836 mph) as the sweet spot between civil and non-transport military applications. “When you look at the problem of getting from Point A to Point B anywhere in the world, the question is how fast do you want to go and how fast is fast enough?” said Bowcutt.
“Supersonic isn’t really fast enough to go overseas and back in one day. For the business traveler or the military, where time is really important, that’s an interesting point. Mach 5 is where you can do that. You can get across the Atlantic in about 2 hr. and across the Pacific in about 3 hr,” said Bowcutt, who confirmed that a fierce race for hypersonic technologies is well underway among global superpowers.
Although sharing design features with Boeing’s proposed military hypersonic demonstrator, the commercial concept has an extended...