Airbus drawing

Image from U.S. Patent Office/Airbus drawing

New York to London in One Hour?
| published August 5, 2015 |

By Keith H. Roberts Thursday Review contributor

If Airbus succeeds, people leaving London’s Heathrow Airport could be landing at New York’s JFK Airport about one hour after takeoff. No, this is not the result of time travel, but instead through the use of hypersonic travel—a plane which uses a hybrid of rockets, high-powered jet engines, and ramjets to propel it quickly up into the upper atmosphere and then cruise at brisk 3000 miles per hour.

That’s not a typographical error…we said 3000 miles per hour. Or Mach 4.5. That’s really fast, for those of you afraid to fly.

Science fiction? Hardly. The U.S. Patent Office has already approved the patent paperwork and the design phase of the construction is already under way. Airbus top executives Marco Prampolini and Yahann Coraboeuf filed the patent paperwork in the United States to ensure that their design, now being widely discussed in aviation circles, is in fact protected from competitors who may want to deploy their own ultra-high-speed planes within the next few years.

Airbus hopes to have a working prototype ready within 18 months. If the prototype works as well as it has been envisioned on paper, Airbus hopes to be ferrying passengers from major cities in Europe and the U.S. by the middle part of the next decade, and it will mean even the longest of air travel hauls will become about the same length as a long movie. Example: passengers on the hyper-sonic jet will be able to go from Los Angeles to Tokyo in about three hours, less time that it takes to watch The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and almost exactly the same length of time it takes to watch The Green Mile.

The Airbus hypersonic jet would top all previous speed records for passenger travel, making the Europe to U.S. voyage in less than one quarter of the time of the Concorde, for which the London to New York trip took about 4 hours.

Airbus’s hypersonic craft will take off like a conventional jetliner, but with much greater acceleration and speed. Immediately after it lifts it wheels off the runway and makes its ascent, it will retract its landing gear and begin an extremely steep climb—nearly vertical—until it approaches its intended altitude, at which point it will begin to level out. As it approaches the speed of sound, the pilot will retract the turbojets and use a rocket engine to propel it to its ultra-high altitude and the start of its initial cruising speed. Additional ramjets built into the streamline fuselage will also kick-in, propelling it to even faster speeds. The plane will be powered in part by hydrogen tanks.

Airbus has not announced when it believes the new rocket-powered jet will be ready for testing or for routine travel, but some aviation experts suggest the project could take at least four more years for the prototype to be completed.

Related Thursday Review articles:

A Road Trip on Three Continents; Thursday Review staff; April 11, 2015.

California’s High Speed Rail Project Under Way; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; January 14, 2015.