To Australia in five hours

By | Category: Travel news

For as long as I can remember the dream for aviation companies has been supersonic flight.

Virgin Galactic’s design for supersonic aircraft. Image © Virgin Galactic

My dream has to be able to fly from the UK to Australia in as short a time as possible. That has been frequently promised yet never delivered because even Concord ran into problems. Australia wouldn’t let it fly over land at supersonic speed so the time advantage that British Airways held was wasted.

Now I am promised a flight that could do the journey in just five hours, some seventeen hours shorter than many existing flights.

But will it happen this time?

Will airlines run fowl of people who won’t allow supersonic flights over land? Will it be affordable or just a rich person’s toy?

Virgin Galactic – yes, the company talking about space tourism -, announced earlier this week that it’s proposed supersonic passenger plane would be capable of flying three times the speed of sound. With a top speed of around 2,300mph (3,700kmh), it could fly from London to Sydney in five hours or to New York in less than two that is you would arrive in New York before you left the UK once you allow for the different time zones.

But here’s the problem. The delta-wing jet would cruise at above 60,000ft (18,300m), much higher than current passenger planes, but would only have room for nine to 19 passengers. With such a small passenger number – even less than some first class sections – it looks like this plane is not for the likes of me or you, just for the rich.

Virgin Galactic is not the only entrant in the market.

Boom Supersonic is much further down the track than its rival having 30 of its aircraft in pre-orders stage already. The plane – known as the XB-1 will be rolled out for the world to see on October 7th this year but you can see the shape and infrastructure by going to Boom’s website.

Boom’s XB1. Image © Boom Supersonic

 It says that it will remain subsonic over land and only go supersonic over water. The fuel that it uses has already been tested on other flights and it offers an 80% reduction in lifecycle CO2 over conventional jet fuel.

Boom has been in business for six years and already has 140 full time staff working on the project whereas Virgin has fewer. Both have deals with Rolls-Royce for engine development.

If it looks like a race to see which plane flies first both companies would probably deny the fact. But underneath, it is!

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