Boeing Concept Jet: LA to Tokyo in 3 Hours?

by Sam Roecker

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Boeing unveiled a visionary concept for hypersonic travel at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Atlanta. Theoretically, the hypersonic concept jet could fly as fast as ~3,900 miles per hour – Mach 5 – capable of flying New York to London in under two hours and Los Angeles to Tokyo in about three hours.

Boeing claims the hypersonic jet has both “military and commercial” applications and is one of several hypersonic concepts engineers are studying. Boeing’s chief scientist of hypersonics, Kevin Bowcutt, believes the concept could become a reality in 20 to 30 years. Don’t pack your bags just yet.

At the Paris Air Show last year, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said he sees a future in hypersonic travel:

We see future innovations where you could connect around the world in about two hours.

The most significant barrier will undoubtedly be cost – to both Boeing and airlines. Delta CEO Ed Bastian made headlines this week confirming Delta’s interest in the Boeing 797, while also stressing the importance of cost efficiency for airlines. Will Boeing spend billions on a plane that has limited commercial viability? 

Boeing Hypersonic Plane

Boeing Hypersonic Jet Rendering | Image: Boeing

The idea of hypersonic travel dates back to the 1950s when fighter jets began breaking the sound barrier. In a race to build the first supersonic jet, the British and French teamed up to launch the Concorde in January 1976. While the ‘glamorous’ jet carried tremendous national pride, the pricey development ultimately cost taxpayers $1.5 billion – an estimate many consider quite low. Commerical supersonic travel served a small niche, and never proved true economic viability.

Is hypersonic travel a relic of the past or reality of the future? 

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