Tokyo to L.A. in three hours? Airbus wins patent for Concorde successor.
Airbus has been awarded a patent for a superfast passenger plane that would travel Mach 4, or twice the speed of the Concorde
Care for a picnic lunch in Golden Gate Park, followed by dinner at the Eiffel Tower? The US government has awarded Airbus a patent for an plane that could help you do just that.
The European aerospace and defense company's patent for an "ultra-rapid air vehicle and related method for aerial locomotion" describes an aircraft capable of flying more than four times the speed of sound – over 3,000 mph. That's fast enough to take you from San Francisco to Paris, or Tokyo to Los Angeles, in three hours.
According to the patent, the target market for the jet, which would carry up to 20 people, would be business travelers and VIPs requiring one-day, round-trip flights halfway around the world.
The company isn't quite ready for you to book your flight, however. “Airbus Group and its divisions apply for hundreds of patents every year in order to protect intellectual property,” an Airbus spokesman told the Guardian. “These patents are often based on R&D concepts and ideas in a very nascent stage of conceptualization, and not every patent progresses to becoming a fully realized technology or product.”
The patent application says the airplane would use conventional turbojet engines for initial takeoff before rocket engines kick in for a "near-vertical" ascent that brings the craft to supersonic speeds.
"This noise has been the main limit, if not the only one, preventing the opening of lines other than transatlantic ones for the Concorde aircraft," the patent says.
The European aerospace company first published the idea in 2011, but it news surfaced only on Tuesday that the idea has now won approval from the US patent office.
The Concorde, which began flying passengers at supersonic speed in 1976, ruled the commercial skies for 27 years, before high operating costs forced it into retirement in 2003. The only other commercial jet that flew faster than the speed of sound was the Soviet Union’s Tupolev Tu-144, which saw only a few years of commercial service and before being retired.
For the new Airbus plane, which some in the media have dubbed 'Concorde 2.0,' engineers will have to overcome the two biggest problems with supersonic planes: they guzzle fuel and they produce window-rattling sonic booms.
“Like other lofty patents, it’s unlikely that the hypersonic jet will become a reality any time soon," writes Time's Jack Linshi. "Still, some of the ideas involved with the design could make their way to real aircraft further in the future.”