The fastest flight between New York and London was on 7 February 1996 when a British Airways Concorde crossed the Atlantic from New York to London in a record-breaking time of two hours, 52 minutes.
But even this record-setting time could soon be a thing of the past. A joint team from the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the Pentagon’s DARPA division are working on hypersonic planes.
The hypersonic plane would cover the journey from New York to London in under an hour while flying at Mach 5.1 or five times the speed of sound.
The hypersonic plane will be based on the X-51 WaveRider, which uses a revolutionary ‘scramjet’ engine that has been successfully tested. Scramjet engines can accelerate the craft to go over Mach 5.
The X-51 WaveRider is effectively an engine only; it is not capable of flight. So during the test flights, it was attached to the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress, like a missile. After reaching a height of 50,000 feet, the WaveRider was released, and it reached speeds of Mach 5.
This technology is being developed to create a missile that can destroy targets anywhere on Earth within hours. The same technology could also revolutionize air travel, but there is a major hurdle between humans and hypersonic travel. The current acceleration speed is just too much for a human body to withstand.