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Reaction Engines plan Mach 5 Airliner 221

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the not-very-likely dept.
What is? writes "A British company has designed an eco-friendly airliner that could make a trip from London to Sydney in under five hours. Reaction Engines has received funding from the European Space Agency to design the plane as part of the Long-Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies project. The A2 airliner would be capable of carrying 300 passengers at speeds of up to Mach 5."
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Reaction Engines plan Mach 5 Airliner

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  • Easy choice (Score:5, Funny)

    by QuickFox (311231) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:52PM (#22322324)
    FTA:

    Two major directions at conceptual and technological level are considered: ram-compression and active compression
    Use ram-compression, we already have well-known solutions like Huffman and Lempel-Ziv.
    • for a nice crater.
    • Use ram-compression, we already have well-known solutions like Huffman and Lempel-Ziv.
      ...let's hope they're not considering using anything lossy.
    • I do not know if you were joking but I think this is a hybrid style engine. I do not know a lot about this sort of stuff but the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] provided this interesting point:

      Behind the pre-cooler, the SABRE system consists of a number of different engine components, each tuned to a different portion of the flight. SABRE uses two "pure" rocket engines surrounded by a ring of smaller engines similar to ramjets.

      It looks like this design is a combination of rocket engines and ramjets.

      The performance section of this is most interesting though:

      The designed thrust/weight ratio of SABRE ends up several times higher--up to 14, compared to about 5 for conventional jet engines, and just 2 for scramjets. This high performance is a combination of the cooled air being denser and hence requiring less compression, but more importantly, of the low air temperatures permitting lighter alloy to be used in much of the engine. Overall performance is much better than the RB545 engine or scramjets.

      The engine gives good fuel efficiency peaking at about 2800 seconds within the atmosphere. Typical all-rocket systems are around 450 at best, and even "typical" nuclear powered engines only about 900 seconds.

      The combination of high fuel efficiency and low mass engines means that a single stage to orbit approach for Skylon can be employed, with air breathing to mach 5.5+ at 26 km altitude, and with the vehicle reaching orbit with more payload mass per take-off mass than just about any non-nuclear launch vehicle ever proposed.

      Like the RB545, the pre-cooler idea adds mass and complexity to the system, normally the antithesis of rocket design. The pre-cooler is also the most aggressive and difficult part of the whole SABRE design. The mass of this heat exchanger is an order of magnitude better than has been achieved previously; however, experimental work has proved that this can be achieved. The experimental heat exchanger has achieved heat exchange of almost 1 GW/m^3, believed to be a world record. Small sections of a real pre-cooler now exist.

      The losses from carrying around a number of engines that will be turned off for some portion of the flight would appear to be heavy, yet the gains in overall efficiency more than make up for this. These losses are greatly offset by the different flight plan. Conventional launch vehicles such as the Space Shuttle usually start a launch by spending around a minute climbing almost vertically at relatively low speeds; this is inefficient, but optimal for pure-rocket vehicles. In contrast, the SABRE engine permits a much slower, shallower climb, air breathing and using wings to support the vehicle, giving far lower fuel usage before lighting the rockets to do the orbital insertion.

      And there it is. That's why a vaporware tag might be applicable, this is still just a 'plan' and not actually in production right now. Still, it is massively safer to test prototypes of this th

      • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:36PM (#22322872) Homepage Journal
        I can't believe the mods modded the grandparent "Informative" for that gag. What's the world coming to when Slashdot readers can't even recognize ZIP and BZ2 compression algorithms? :-/

        It looks like this design is a combination of rocket engines and ramjets.

        Yeah, it's a dual-mode engine. If you do a little research on them, you'll probably find that aerospace designers discounted such designs a long time ago. The problem they ran into was that rocket craft spend so little time in the atmosphere that the extra weight and complexity incurred through dual-mode operation ends up gaining very little over a BDB. (Big Dumb Booster)

        The only time they really make sense is for nuclear engines. In the case of nuclear, you can use anything that can be heated and exhausted as fuel. This leads to three options that can be used to power a Nuclear Thermal Rocket:

        1. Pass air through the reactor, heating it up and using it as rocket exhaust. This is relatively low thrust and would only be useful in combination with another booster or to maintain velocity in the atmosphere.

        2. Pass air through the reactor, heating it up and using it as rocket exhaust. As the air exits the engine, add hydrogen fuel for a second reaction. This greatly improves thrust at the cost of fuel efficiency. Perfect for initial takeoff.

        3. Pass a stored, lightweight material like hydrogen through the reactor, heating it up and using it as rocket exhaust. Thrust is good in this mode, but not great. Depending on the design of the craft, this could be used 100% of the time or while in space.

        Creating such "Tri-Mode" engines is reasonably straightforward and has been done. (e.g. The Triton Nuclear Engine [nuclearspace.com].) I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to understand why they're not already in use.
        • No fancy dual-mode engines are necessary. Zubrin's Black Colt just pairs a couple of fighter jet engines with existing Kerosene/LOX rockets. By using in air refueling, you save a lot of structural weight. (You only have to build for empty weight on the ground.)

          You could use such a vehicle as a 1st stage for cheap TSTO launch of small payloads. It can also be used for hypersonic intercontinental package delivery.

          http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/blakcolt.htm [astronautix.com]

          The idea also scales up. (To the point where the
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by astro_Hels (1234514)
          The A2 vehicle uses four Scimitar engines which are essentially precooled turbo-ramjets. These allow the A2 to fly hypersonically as well as fly economically and quietly subsonically. There is no 'rocket' phase. A hybrid precooled active compression and rocket engine is used on the Skylon SSTO vehicle as designed by Reaction Engines. Precooled engines are the key technologies here and you can learn more about them from the Reaction Engines website. The A2 is the result of a detailed analytical study as requ
        • by geekoid (135745)
          UNless newer technology has made the less complex(maybe) and lighter(almost certianly)

          Just because something was discounted for a technical limitation doesn't mean that limitation will never be overcome.

          Unless the technical limitation is "Violates the laws of the universe"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756)
      Wow, whoever modded this anything but funny needs to have their geek cards revoked.
    • Silly Mods... (Score:2, Informative)

      by znerk (1162519)
      MODS!

      I can't believe you guys gave this joke an "Informative" rating... of course, I fully expect to be modded down as a Troll for criticising the moderators, but here's some info for you clueless newbs...

      Lempel-Ziv compression [wikipedia.org]

      Huffman compression [flipcode.com]

      As you can see, these are forms of data compression, not the compression of gasses, as would be used in a ramjet engine. Please, please have an idea of what you're reading about before marking something "informative". This may deserve a "Funny" mod, but it's not "In
  • CG is Cheap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:52PM (#22322330)
    I've seen more computer generated designs for supersonic passenger aircraft than I can count.

    Is this going to be a real commercial jet, or just another cock tease?
    • by mrxak (727974)
      What I want to know is, is this thing going to be as crazy expensive as the Concorde was.
    • Is this going to be a real commercial jet, or just another cock tease?
      No, it'll be a cockpit tease!

      zing!
    • Is this going to be a real commercial jet, or just another cock tease?
      Yes, this airplane is going to make flirty eyes at you, rub up against your crotch, and then run away giggling with her friends. Seriously, do you have a sexual attraction to airliners? Is there even a name for that fetish?
      • I dunno about the fetish itself, but the media used by those fetishists is called aircraft-tan [deviantart.com]*

        *_technically_ I suppose the linked image is supposed to be erotic, but if it's considered a NSFW image where you work then I truly pity you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by apt142 (574425)
        There is Mechaphilia; attraction to machines.

        It might be classified as a sub-variant of that.

        Or would Aeromechaphilia be a better word?
    • by julesh (229690)
      I've seen more computer generated designs for supersonic passenger aircraft than I can count.

      Is this going to be a real commercial jet, or just another cock tease?


      Looking at the backgrounds of the company's key staff, I'd say this has a real chance of getting off the ground (pun intended).
  • Nothing New (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:56PM (#22322366)
    Lots of people have websites with cool drawings [google.com] of fast planes. I scanned the material on their site and didn't see anything concerning a flux capacitor, so my cynicism is slightly abated.
    • Should be ready in about 25 years, according to one article I read.

      Don't cancel your travel plans just yet.

      Did you know you can travel from London to Sydney on a bus, only takes about 4 months.
  • Reporter: Toby Hunter, Minneapolis Star. No really, is this a joke?
    Scientist: No, Toby, and no more questions about whether this is a joke.
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:56PM (#22322374)
    I'd love to see how they can make an "eco-friendly" airliner that goes Mach 5. There are some really basic laws of aero and thermo dynamics that put the kibosh on most of these schemes. Look at the Concorde, XB-70, SR-71, for examples of how difficult and expensive it is to design, test, and operate anything going Mach 2 to Mach 3.3. And the problems just go up from there, often by squares and cubes.
    • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jaredNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:06PM (#22322518)
      If I remember correctly, math as well as NIMBY's contributed to the Concorde's poor effect on the environment. People weren't too keen on having sonic booms regularly occur over their neighborhoods as widespread commercial adoption occured, so Concorde flights had to take care to avoid disturbing high population areas. Any gains that this plan makes in engine efficiency will probably be offset by having to reconfigure flight plans from the most efficient to the least bothersome for residents.

      I just don't think there is a commercial viability for supersonic flight. The need to decrease flight times from 20 hours to 5 hours is just not enough of an incentive to cover all the associated investments and pitfalls of implementation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by somersault (912633)
        The solution is obvious - build soundproof tunnels in the sky that the planes can fly through. Or soundproof bubble-domes over habitation and picnic areas.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AKAImBatman (238306)

          build soundproof tunnels in the sky that the planes can fly through.

          You joke, but I've often considered the idea of creating super-sonic mass-transit systems between cities. The idea that I visualize in my head is having a vacuum-sealed tube through which magnetically driven cars pass. Each mag-car would act as a ferry for one or more conventional vehicle. You'd drive your car into the station, drive onto the open mag-car platform, the mag-car would be sealed and pressurized, then moved into the launch queu

          • Main problem there is what do you do if more than one person wants to travel intercity that day :P Would need a large cluster of tubes, or one massive tube with lots of rails and lots of little airlocked chambers on each side. Guess that could work. I wouldn't want to be the guy/robot that performs maintenance work though :P Actually I wouldn't mind if I was the robot, then I wouldn't need any air.
          • by Dan East (318230)
            The energy expended in the construction and maintenance of the tunnels, coupled with the continuous energy required to keep pumping air out, might offset any efficiency saved from reducing drag.

            Dan East
      • NIMBY

        That's the first goddamn thing that came to mind when I saw Mach 5. It sucks. We're stuck in the dark ages of sub-sonic flight because a vocal minority - mostly housewives with more time on their hands than brains - don't want their miserable little lives occasionally disrupted.

        The need to decrease flight times from 20 hours to 5 hours is just not enough of an incentive to cover all the associated investments and pitfalls of implementation.

        If you don't like using public restrooms, it is. :)

        Sweet mother of Christ... what do people do in the bathroom that leave it such a mess?! WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING?!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Waffle Iron (339739)

          We're stuck in the dark ages of sub-sonic flight because a vocal minority - mostly housewives with more time on their hands than brains - don't want their miserable little lives occasionally disrupted.

          On a day with the right weather conditions, I can see the remnants of dozens of contrails in the sky at any given time. I certainly don't want to be subjected to a dish-rattling sonic boom for each one of those.

          Basically, you'd be annoying hundreds of thousands of people each time a few dozen passengers shave a couple of hours off of a flight (but still spend 4 hours in traffic jams, terminal waiting areas, baggage areas and security lines at the endpoints). Those "housewives" are 100% correct on this

      • I just don't think there is a commercial viability for supersonic flight. The need to decrease flight times from 20 hours to 5 hours is just not enough of an incentive to cover all the associated investments and pitfalls of implementation.

        Concorde was profitable. Its demise was met because nobody was willing to build new airframes, or maintain the existing ones, along with the fact that conventional First-Class flights were more profitable than supersonic ones.

        If some actual competition were to occur, Supe

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sundru (709023)
      It is possible with a carefully planned trajectory not to use the amount of fuel ur talking about.

      I think the objective is to cruise in very rarified or no atmosphere while flights like the concorde cruised @ 18kms
      this would be close to 70-80 kms or near the karman line. The dynamics would be vastly different.

      the engines would have to be hybrid between a rocket engine and ram assisted engine rarified and atmospheric operation.

      Although i can still see a problem in "reentry" hopefully they figure out a way to
      • by SpryGuy (206254)
        My biggest question, from looking at the renderings, is ... how do the pilots see anything? I realize that most aspects of flight can be automated, but I'm thinking more of taxiing on the ground, and dealing with exceptional or emergency situations. The whole "No Windows" thing would be a hard sell, I think, even if it did make some technical issues go away.

        There'd have to at least be some external cameras somewhere to give the pilots some view of their path and around their plane.
    • Choice of fuel (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bananatree3 (872975)
      " To achieve the range requirement liquid hydrogen fuel is mandatory since the specific calorific energy of hydrocarbon fuels is too low." [reactionengines.co.uk]

      They'd be using Hydrogen as a fuel, which when burning is about as "green" as they come. Hydrogen generation aside (can use solar, hydroelectric, etc for green generation) you don't have to worry about eco impacts on it like you do with the fuel-guzzlin' Concorde. You could reduce the drag by pushing the thing up to near space altitudes, 100k+ feet altitudes or even hi

      • by torkus (1133985)
        Ok, so my initial thought about hydrogen having a low energy density than JetA was wrong (3 google) but the intent behind it is right.

        Hydrogen PER KILOGRAM has 2 or 3 times the energy density of JetA. Liquified Hydrogen BY VOLUME has about 1/4 the energy density of JetA. Add in the weight overhead of of cryogenic storage + insulation and I question the legitimacy of their statement.
    • by Goaway (82658)

      I'd love to see how they can make an "eco-friendly" airliner that goes Mach 5.
      By burning hydrogen in the engines. Next question?
      • by reemul (1554) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:38PM (#22322894)
        Right. We'll just step up production from our vast hydrogen mining industry. Oh, wait. We don't have anything like that. Mostly we get hydrogen from water, which often means running an electric current through it. Since US enviros oppose nuclear, won't allow new dams for hydro because it upsets the fish, and have fought new natural gas exploration for fear it will damage pristine ecosystems, that probably means that coal is being burned to produce that electricity. Nice, clean, eco-friendly coal. In fact, because of losses creating the hydrogen and then burning it in the engine, it's less efficient than the coal plant, so you have to burn more coal for the energy used.

        Hydrogen is eco-friendly *at the point of use*, but unless someone can magically cause it to appear its production isn't environmentally sound at all. You just hide the costs and emissions somewhere that the public hopefully won't notice it. (Same with electric cars. Using electric doesn't pollute. Making it certainly does. Anyone telling you different wants your money or your vote.)
        • by evanbd (210358) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @02:19PM (#22323368)

          Hydrogen is normally produced [wikipedia.org] via steam reforming and related processes (water gas shift reaction, coal gassification, etc), not electrolysis. That is, the hydrogen and the energy to produce it both come from fossil fuels (mostly natural gas, but oil and coal can both be used -- though in the case of coal all the hydrogen is coming from the water).

          And actually, there is currently a *huge* hydrogen production industry. It's just mostly used on site at large plants rather than shipped to consumers as energy storage. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is a *gigantic* market, and it's made by combining atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen into ammonia, and then converting some of that ammonia into nitric acid before combining the two to form AN.

          The availability of hydrogen is actually only a minor detail in this design. The price and the awkwardness of handling the ultra light weight ultra cold liquid are much more relevant.

        • by caffeineboy (44704) <(skidmore.22) (at) (osu.edu)> on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @02:33PM (#22323516)
          It might be splitting hairs, but most of our hydrogen comes from steam reformation of methane, not from electrolysis of water.

          Your point about electric cars I don't really get. Sure you have a longer tailpipe with an electric car, but if your thermal efficiency and CO2 or whatever pollutant you care about per mile is less, you are still winning. There are other technical challenges for electric cars, and a lot of people might not see that you have to look at the bigger picture, but even when you do EVs look pretty good.

          reference on EVs here [evworld.com]

          and yes I recognize that is an EV advocacy site, but their point is correct. IC engines have a thermal efficiency of about 15% or less. It's not hard to beat that with a stationary plant.

          Now, about the present article - I'd like to see some analyses that say that you can actually fly a supersonic plane a good distance on hydrogen, and how the hell you think you can make that economical.
    • I was going to post the same thing and then I RTFA where it says...oh, wait, no it doesn't.
  • Mach 5 (Score:4, Funny)

    by QuickFox (311231) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:57PM (#22322380)
    Funny how they write about a Mach 5 airliner precisely when Slashdot crawls down to something like Mach 5e-55.
  • by DuSTman31 (578936) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:58PM (#22322396)
    ..they're buying the old Concorde airframes and launching them from the US Navy's new railgun?
  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @12:59PM (#22322404) Journal
    Does that include the monkey and toddler hiding in the trunk?
    • What about the hot chick riding shotgun?

      [OK, I was a young kid at the time I watched it...]
    • Actually they're all monkeys and toddlers, there isn't enough legroom for anyone larger.

      I'm just waiting for the day when airlines force you to stand because they realise they can fit twice as many people in that way.
    • Does that include the monkey and toddler hiding in the trunk?
      Yes, Mr. Jackson. We even ship to countries lacking extradition treaties.
  • noise & fuel costs (Score:5, Informative)

    by G4from128k (686170) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:00PM (#22322420)
    First, those look like low-bypass engines (yes, I know they are "normal" jet engines), which means very high exhaust velocities. The small wing also means high wing loading and high takeoff velocities. Those two facts seem to suggest a very loud plane which might run afoul of EU regs.

    Second, I can't help but think that fuel costs will kill this idea. GIven rising energy prices (and no large-scale miracle hydrogen factories on the horizon), the fuel costs will tend to track oil and nat gas prices. Even "free" wind/solar power won't help because a hydrogen factory would need to pay a competitive price for energy, which will be tied to the rising cost of fossil fuels and the rising global demand for energy.

    That said, I'd love to fly in this thing even though the artists sketch shows a lack of windows due to heat issues :(
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by everphilski (877346)
      GIven rising energy prices (and no large-scale miracle hydrogen factories on the horizon), the fuel costs will tend to track oil and nat gas prices.

      Hydrogen sucks for aircraft. The energy density is better than gasoline, sure, but the mass density is horrid. Your tanks wind up being huge, which increases the vehicle size and drag, which increases the lift requirements and fuel requirements, which increase the propellant requirements ... and the project snowballs its way out of scope. And you haven't even
      • Hydrogen sucks for aircraft. The energy density is better than gasoline, sure, but the mass density is horrid.

        Even liquid?
      • by Arthur B. (806360)
        Actually I was under the impression from occasional picks at travel sites that the price of airline tickets closely followed the price of oil, but it was just an impression. It'd be interesting to read.

        According to British Airways, a 747-400 plane cruises at 927 km/h, burns 12,788 liters of fuel per hour and carries 409 passengers when full. 1 barrel of oil is 158.987296 liters. If the fuel were crude oil, it would burn 80.5 barrels an hour, at 87.25 a barrel, that's $7024 an hour. For a 6 hour flight that'
        • by ianare (1132971)
          Using this [iata.org] and your reasoning, cost per passenger is ~ $127. It would be interesting to look at the price site and ticket prices over time, and see how they correlate. I know the airlines are always bitching about how tickets are going up because of gas prices, but how much of it is true?
    • by Shotgun (30919)
      First, those look like low-bypass engines (yes, I know they are "normal" jet engines), which means very high exhaust velocities. The small wing also means high wing loading and high takeoff velocities. Those two facts seem to suggest a very loud plane which might run afoul of EU regs.

      The wings look smaller than the Airbus 380 that they're comparing it to. You can't really tell the wing area from the pictures, but the aspect ratio is most definitely less. It is twice as long, and appears to have the same d
  • With a name like that, the plane better have little buzz saws that extend out of the front to cut down... er, really tall trees, I guess. And should take off with the help of extending stilts from the bottom. Plus a lot of other cool, but ultimately useless, gadgets.

    Oh, and a chimpanzee and a little kid in the trunk.

    Then again, maybe I should have RTFA.

    • by Ctrl-Z (28806)

      Oh, and a chimpanzee and a little kid in the trunk.
      Okay, that's the second such comment I've seen in this story. Can someone explain the reference/post a link?
    • by Sciros (986030)
      Let me summarize TFA for you:

      "Hey guys we made up this cool plane it's really fast! Yeah! Imagine going from London to Paris in INSERT_LOW_NUMBER minutes! Imagine it, bitch!

      "This plane is longer than the A380. It's really freaking long! That's sweet!

      "Did we mention that we play a lot of Mass Effect? Isn't it a cool game? Also our engines are called Scimitar engines! That's like, a shotgun in Mass Effect. Oh yeah, babe!

      "This plane is FROM THE FUTURE motherf---er!"
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:01PM (#22322454) Journal
    The original SST project (US) never got off the ground, and the Concorde was nothing more than a status symbol for those who could afford the ungodly high ticket price for the NYC-London (or Paris) run. The Soviet version (TU-144?) only had a limited set of routes as well, and Aeroflot killed it off (IIRC) about the same time the USSR crashed.

    The issues boiled down to two things that no amount of tech could alleviate: Noise issues (property owners near the airports got highly vocal about having to replace cracked windows from the occasional sonic booms), and price ($25k 1st class from NYC to Paris? And now you get to suffer the indignities of airport security too? Sounds like a masochist's dream come true...)

    Unless/until they solve at least those two issues (in spite of public pronouncement, it doesn't look like they have IMHO - yet), they're going to have a hard time with it's initial public image, fuel economy be damned.

    Sure the economics of volume may drop the price, and sure the noise problem can be solved through strict pilot discipline (e.g. no cracking the sound barrier until you're x miles away and at y altitude), but that won't change public perception that Concorde planted firmly in the public mind back during the 1970's).

    OTOH, the tech is cool, and I can see a very solid use for it for trans-pacific passengers... Seattle to Tokyo in 3 hours instead of 12? Frickin' awesome...

    /P

    • by evanbd (210358) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:28PM (#22322768)

      Price will come down if fuel economy is reasonable and there are enough airplanes and flights to amortize development costs over. My impression (I've been following them for a while, and talked to people who should know) is that they're technically competent, and if they say they can get the price down, they can -- but that they're being overly optimistic about the market. Of course, if the government is paying for a low of the development, that helps a lot.

      Noise is actually quite amenable to a technical solution. The first problem (noise near the airport) is a result of high-power, high exhaust velocity engines, combined with a need to get up to supersonic speeds quickly. If, as they claim, the airplane is efficient in the subsonic regime as well, then there is less pressure to accelerate rapidly. Efficient low-speed operation also inherently implies a lower exhaust speed (which they discuss briefly: variable high-bypass flow), which implies less noise -- for a given engine, noise power scales roughly (very roughly) linearly with exhaust velocity.

      Noise from sonic booms is remarkably controllable, with sufficient work on the precise shape of the airframe. The technology to do that, high performance CFD, simply didn't exist when the Concorde was designed. They don't discuss it, but it's far too early in the design cycle for that to mean anything. Right now they're basically just trying to build the engine and convince people that a market exists at a price point they can reach. That requires design studies and concept art, but it's not yet time to be fine tuning the aerodynamics.

      I'd say the technical problems, including noise, are amenable to solution if they manage to get the funding they need without too much interference. The market ones, less so. I'm sure one day we'll see supersonic airliners, but there are some *major* non-technical hurdles in the way of building anything the size of an A380.

      Of course, it's wicked cool and I'd love to see it happen. Especially since the basic engine technology is also behind their Skylon SSTO spaceplane concept...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Urban Garlic (447282)
      The engine-noise problem (as distinct from the sonic-boom problem) has a fascinating feedback loop in it, which made the Boeing folks crazy during the American SST project in the 1960s. The problem is, every time you develop some engine technology which mitigates the high-exhaust-velocity issue and its attendant noise problem, some clever engineer applies that same solution to the already-quieter subsonic jets. Then the regulators notice that airliners are much quieter now, and implement stricter noise co
    • by bziman (223162)

      Noise issues (property owners near the airports got highly vocal about having to replace cracked windows from the occasional sonic booms)

      I grew up less than ten miles from Dulles International Airport in Virginia, and when I was a kid, the highlight of my day was to see the Concorde flying overhead. It didn't matter where we were or what we were doing, if one of my family or I saw it flying overhead, we'd immediately stop what we were doing, and just gaze at it until it vanished from view.

      I was hear

  • Barf Bags (Score:3, Funny)

    by zubikov (1172699) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:03PM (#22322472)
    Good, now we'll finally use those little barf-bags on the back of airline passenger seats.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:04PM (#22322486)
    A British company has designed an eco-friendly airliner that could make a trip from London to Sydney in under five hours.

    How droll. Soon, you will be able to travel from London to Sydney in less time than it takes to negotiate security at the airport. ^_^
    • Tell me about it. I drive from Pittsburgh to East Hanover NJ every other week or so. Why not take the '1 hour' flight to Newark? Well...45 minutes to drive to the Airport, get there 2 hours early, fly for an hour, add some delays, get the baggage, rent a car, drive to East Hanover from Newark. Takes me over six hours really. It takes me 6 hours or so to drive it, it's all highway, and I am not a human sardine. I can also stop anywhere I want and leave at a flexible time come week's end for the drive home
    • A British company has designed an ego-friendly airliner that could make a trip from London to Sydney in under five hours.

      There. Fixed that for you.

  • Why would this be a better option than a regular flight? Aside from being a relatively short trip, I'd still be stuck with 300 people and almost no chance at a window seat (does this thing even have windows, I can't tell.) What about the sonic boom, wasn't flying over populated areas and causing these kinds of noises a big problem for the Air France Supersonic Jet? Where are my Sky Cruisers, I'll take luxury and fine accommodations over speed any day; not every air traveler is a business traveler. But I sup
    • Why would this be a better option than a regular flight? Aside from being a relatively short trip...

      You can stop right there. I'd HAPPILY pony up to cut a 12,000 mile trip time by 2/3. I've flown from the US to Japan, China, Thailand, and Singapore and several other similar routes multiple times. Not just for business either. One such flight should be enough to convince you that anything which makes the trip faster is worthwhile. Trust me that spending 12+ hours in the air (often with 24+ hour trips once layovers are considered) with 400 of your "closest friends" is just no fun at all. Flying first

      • by arivanov (12034)
        What you are describing is travelling in a "bus".

        Now imagine the same flight in something resembling an old fashioned pullman vagon. You do not have "close friends". You are alone in a cubicle or with 1 or 3 more people depending on the class you fly. It may be slower, but it is much more comfortable.

        I would much rather fly in something like this even if it takes 2-3 times longer.

        If we throw in connectivity options, a good restaurant and some in-flight entertainment and frankly there will be many people wil
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:14PM (#22322598)
    You can (essentially) only go supersonic over the oceans, so you need routes where you can actually use all that power, say New York to Europe or LA to the Pacific rim. Next, a ticket on this beast will cost slightly less than an average working stiff's annual mortgage payments. So we need to find 300 self-important assholes who are 1) richer than they are smart 2) in too big of a hurry to spend twice as much time crossing the ocean at 1/10th the price. And of course this model only works if there's regular service, never mind the fact that you only sold 4 tickets for Wednesday's LA to Shanghai run. There were how many planes in the Concorde fleet?? There is ZERO economic chance that this will ever happen.
    • by rossdee (243626)
      You only have to worry about going subsonic over populated land areas. If you're going from sydney to London you could go up the pacific and over the north pole, you wouldnt have to slow down until you got to scotland.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evanbd (210358)

      They're claiming a price point comparable to current business class fares. There are enough business class fares sold currently to support a small fleet of such airplanes flying a few flights on the relevant long-haul routes. Anyone willing to pay for business class is certainly willing to pay a similar amount (or probably at least a moderate premium) to cut their flight time from 12+ hours to 2-4.

      I can't speak to the details of this specific airplane, mostly because those details don't exist yet, but t

    • by AGMW (594303)
      You can (essentially) only go supersonic over the oceans

      You can only go supersonic over the oceans whilst you are in the atmosphere
      ... always assuming they don't use some clever tech to reduce/eliminate the sonic boom too.

      So, shoot up into (very!) low orbit over the Atlantic, zoom over the US, come down over the Pacific, land in Sydney. Do some shopping, have lunch at that excellent restaurant by the bridge, return home for tea.

    • by dlevitan (132062)
      Who will fly this? Rich people whose time is worth more than their money. Consider lawyers who make $500/hour. If you reduce a flight from 20 hours to 5 hours you just saved $7500. I'm sure that are at least 300 people/day who would take a flight like this, or one of the other long-haul flights. Remember that these people would already be flying business or first that costs around $10k (or more).
    • Passenger service might not work, but there is a proven market for rapid package delivery. No need to develop new propulsion systems for this, though.
    • by Ralconte (599174)
      As I recall, there was a distinct group of people who used the Concorde frequently. They could go from Singapore to London to New York, all in the same day with the time zone difference, doing work along the way -- i.e. plan it in Singapore, proposition it in the London office's morning meeting, execute it in the New York office, and it happened the same day you came up with it in Singapore. The problem was, the people who did this sort of thing, died in the towers on 9-11. Presumably, the concept is bei
  • can it use existing runways? is it any noisier than existing airliners? does it use less fuel per passenger mile than existing airliners? The only thing that now makes me laugh about this project is that it would mean you spend far longer queueing to get through the security checks than you actually do in flight... If you want to improve travel times, start counting time spend checking in and the security checks and then work on getting those reduced...
  • Back when I had time to read it, I used to subscribe to popular mechanics. It seemed like pretty much every year another company was proposing newer, sexier, faster supersonic passenger transport. And this goes back to even when the concorde was still flying.

    Now the concorde is de-commissioned, we're told never to fly again. If the concorde allegedly couldn't turn a profit, even at something like 10x the ticket price of regular air carriers for the same route, how will these new ones be able to do it
  • Thunderbirds are go! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jaweekes (938376) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:28PM (#22322770)
    It looks like the plane Fireflash [sfdaydreams.com] in one of the Thunderbird's [thunderbirdsonline.co.uk] shows. Okay, the engines are under the wings and not on the tail, but that's about it.
  • In order for their pretty web page even to be worth a glance, they are required to give some sort of answer to the sonic boom question. They don't need to answer the question "how can we fly at Mach 5 without creating a sonic boom," but they do need to answer the question "What about it?" An answer could be something like "We think public opinion has changed and people won't really mind," or "we're sure that unknown technological breakthroughs will occur to solve this problem before the plane flies," or "w
  • by sssssss27 (1117705) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:34PM (#22322858)
    Popular Science wrote an article about this plane: Article [popsci.com]
    • by slew (2918)
      Anyone notice the project acronym for this proposed plane: Long-Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies (Lapcat).

      This may make it an inviting target, not for terrorists, but Dr. Evil... Bwuhaaa ;^)

      The europeans better make sure they don't put frick'n laser beams on it...
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @01:45PM (#22322988)
    I found a photo of the plane's controls [wikimedia.org].

    Looks like it has ample cargo space [wikimedia.org].

  • There is no chance that a mach 5+ aircraft would be in operation for consumer travel before there is a military version, otherwise the thing would be the biggest hijack target ever. Therefore, we can conclude that if this is seriously in development, then there must already be a similar version in production for the military, right?
    • Please refrain from making logical comments on slashdot...it only aggravates the mods. ;-)

      Given the problems associated with the SR-71 as an operational aircraft, and the lack of significant, physics-defying advancements in heat-resistant skin materials, I'm quite comfotable with the fact that this will be as quick to market at Moller's car.
  • by turgid (580780) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @02:10PM (#22323258) Journal

    The last major triumphs of British engineering to actually get built were Concorde and the Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors.

    Ever since then the can't-do-won't-do attitude of Britain's "financial service economy" curtails any great technological projects. The only things that get built are science projects, with meager government funding.

    Reaction Engines/Bristol Spaceplanes have some very interesting engine designs like SABRE. These are the people who designed the RB545 for Hotol (another great British triumph of procrastination over achievement).

    Mark my words, this will sit firmly on the drawing board and will probably be reinvented in 20-30 years by the Chinese. The American's won't have it since they didn't invent it.

    It sucks to be British unless you're in Banking or Insurance. Still, mustn't grumble. At least we're not French or German or foreign. Time for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

  • Ozone polluting Concorde... the Trident w/ the innovative collapsing wings...
  • The problem with building LARGE aircrafts is that you have to have enough of them to make things costs effective. The aircraft will not happen because it is too big. Instead, the qsst will happen first at mach 1.8, and then it will be upgraded to mach 4-5. The simple fact is that flying multiple mach IS expensive and will be limited for a time to those with loads of money. Once enough designs have been done, built, and tried, then we will see super fast large aircrafts. Of course, with the emphasis these da
  • by Danathar (267989) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @02:32PM (#22323502) Journal
    Conceptual Mach 5 airliners are SO yesterday.

    What I want to see is a Mach 5 CRUISELINER! That would be worth building!
  • A British company has designed an eco-friendly airliner that could make a trip from London to Sydney in under five hours

    From what I read on their website, "has designed" really ought to be "has been offered some money to think about how such a thing might be designed" - they're not designing yet, they're just getting EU money to do a few preliminary design studies, with design to start in a decade or so, maybe, possibly, depending on the EU's willingness to give them a heap more money sometime in the futur

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