Boeing has revealed an early concept for its first hypersonic passenger plane, giving a glimpse of what planes could look like in a few decades.
The release of the new concept image at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics-sponsored Aviation conference in Atlanta on 26 June comes about 18 months after Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg predicted hypersonic airliners would be available in “the next decade or two”.
The futuristic plane could, in theory, fly as fast as Mach 5, or just under 3,900 miles per hour, or roughly eight times the cruise speed of most modern airliners, giving it the ability to cross the Atlantic in about two hours, against the current duration of seven, cnbc.com reported.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is pushing the aerospace giant to explore the potential of ultra-fast passenger planes.
“I think in the next decade or two you're going to see them become a reality. We see future innovations where you could connect around the world in about two hours,” Muilenburg said.
“One big reason we don’t have this quite yet is that we still have many technical and regulatory challenges to overcome before we make hypersonic flight a reality, not to mention the market that needs to develop to make a business case for the average person to be able to afford hypersonic flight,” he added.
The concept follows decades of Boeing research and development into hypersonic technology. Within the last 15 years, the company has built and flown a hydrogen-powered research vehicle at nearly Mach 10 and a jet fuel-propelled experimental missile at speeds up to Mach 5.
More recently, Boeing has participated in the joint US-Australian HiFire 4 program to develop a hypersonic missile. The company’s venture capital arm, HorizonX, last year invested in UK-based Reaction Engines, which aims to develop a Mach 5 hypersonic aircraft capable of carrying passengers.
Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems. A top U.S. exporter, the company supports airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries.