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Boeing's hypersonic jet: For when the speed of sound is just too slow

It's decades away from taking off, but Boeing has unveiled a concept for an airplane that could fly at fives times the speed of sound.

boeing-hypersonic-airplane

It's pretty and fast, but Boeing's hypersonic jet isn't close to being reality. 

Boeing

Why go supersonic when you can hypersonic?

Apparently, that's what Boeing believes. At an aviation conference in Atlanta on Tuesday, the airplane maker unveiled a concept for a hypersonic passenger jet that could fly between New York and London before you could finish watching a film on your laptop.

Though the definition of hypersonic isn't set in stone, the term generally refers to an aircraft that can fly at Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. That translates to about 3,900 miles per hour or a two-hour trip across the Atlantic. Concorde, in comparison, flew at Mach 2.02, taking it from New York to London in three and a half hours. 

Boeing says the airplane, one of several hypersonic crafts it's considering, could have both civilian and military applications. 

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"Boeing is building upon a foundation of six decades of work designing, developing and flying experimental hypersonic vehicles, which makes us the right company to lead the effort in bringing this technology to market in the future," said Kevin Bowcutt, senior technical fellow and chief scientist of hypersonics at the company.

It all sounds amazing, but even Boeing admits that it'll be 20 to 30 years before you'll be able to go for a hypersonic ride. The technology to make an airliner-sized aircraft that fast, from a lightweight skin to a powerful engine, lives only on the drawing board.

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