New York to London in 1½ Hours?

NASA wants to help commercial passengers get from New York to London in less time than it takes to watch the average in-flight movie. America’s space agency announced earlier this week that it has been exploring the business case for supersonic passenger air travel. If preliminary studies show promise, the craft will rocket across the Atlantic at blistering speeds of between Mach 2 and Mach 4 — roughly 1,535 to 3,045 mph (over twice as fast as an F/A-18 fighter’s top speed of Mach 1.8). According to NASA, the next phase of its high-speed air travel research is now underway: two 12-month contracts granted to Boeing, Rolls-Royce and others to help conceptualize the new jet and build a technology roadmap. The world's current fastest passenger jet, the French- and British-made Concorde, made its fasted flight between New York and London on February 7, 1996, crossing the Atlantic in just 2 hours 52 minutes. For comparison's sake, the standard large airliner today flies at a cruising speed of about 600 mph, under Mach 1 at roughly 80% of the speed of sound. These jets can take 5 hours or more to make the 3,461-mile trek from New York to London. The Concorde, by contrast, enjoys a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 mph or Mach 2.04. NASA hopes to cut even the zippy Concorde's flight time nearly in half. Concorde jets were retired in 2003 following a downturn in the commercial aviation industry and the widely publicized first-ever and only crash of a Concorde in 2000.