Right now, as you read this sentence, Boston-based company Spike Aerospace is hard at work building the world’s first supersonic private jet. It’s still in the conceptual phase at this point, but when the S-512 takes off for the first time (approximately four years from now), it’ll soar into the clouds without something most other planes have: windows.
Instead of the rounded, double-pane portholes you’re used to seeing on passenger aircraft, this supersonic bad boy will reportedly feature massive high-definition screens that will display video of the outside world in real time. The plane’s exterior will be outfitted with an array of tiny cameras that continuously beam footage to the thin, curved displays that line the interior of the fuselage. If everything works as planned, this will result in a giant, unbroken panorama of the outside world.
So why get rid of windows in favor of HD displays? It’s all about hull integrity. Windows tend to make an aircraft’s fuselage weaker because they create a discontinuity in the frame and concentrate any strain on the hull to specific areas. A plane’s fuselage is strongest if it has no windows, but passengers are accustomed to flying with a view of the outside, so a compromise has to be made. Nobody likes flying in a windowless tin can, but a strong hull is of the utmost importance in supersonic planes, so Spike decided to build something that offers the best of both worlds.
This clever structural workaround helps to relieve the drag and weight issues caused by the addition of windows to the fuselage, and although the plane hasn’t even been built yet, Spike projects that the design will allow the aircraft to reach a top speed of 1,370 mph while carrying up to 18 passengers. In theory, this means that the S-512 could travel from New York to London in less than four hours.
Just to give you some perspective, it took the famed Concorde three hours and 20 minutes to make the same trip on average.
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