Supersonic passenger jet prototype completes first unmanned test flight

supersonic passenger jet
Spike Aerospace

You may soon be able to travel from London to New York in just three hours on a supersonic passenger jet capable of speeds up to 1,354 miles per hour. A prototype for the Spike Aerospace S-512 just completed its first unmanned test flight, and commercial versions may be able to take to the skies as early as 2021.

The company said the maiden voyage was “a huge success,” according to the Daily Star. “The SX-1.2 test flights were conducted in a real world situation, and provide significantly more data than wind tunnel tests done in an artificial environment,” said CEO Vik Kachoria. “We were able to test not only handling, but also a range of other considerations.”

Spike didn’t provide any pictures or video of the exercises, but said seven short flights were conducted to test the overall design and flight controls of the aircraft. The tests were performed at a private airfield in New England.

The S-512 Quiet Supersonic Jet seats 18-22 passengers with a range of 6,200 miles and a cruising speed of Mach 1.6. “The new delta wing of the S-512 delivers high aerodynamic efficiency and improved flight performance in both low-speed flight and supersonic cruise,” said Senior Engineer Dr. Anutosh Moitra. “The highly swept leading-edge reduces wave drag and consequently reduces fuel burn and increases range.”

spike aerospace supersonic passenger jet interior

The aircraft also has no horizontal tail, which reduces the drag and weight on the plane in flight. Nor are there windows in the plane; passengers can watch live video from outside on thin display screens embedded into the cabin walls to create a panoramic image, or even opt to watch movies or share family photos.

All this cool stuff doesn’t come cheap, however. Each jet will run between $60 and $80 million.

The Concorde jetliners, only 20 of which were ever built, ruled the skies in the ‘70s but were discontinued in 2003 following numerous safety concerns and a 2000 crash in Paris that killed 109 people.

But now several companies are developing supersonic passenger vehicles for the 21st century. A startup called Boom wants to build a quiet jet with no supersonic boom. NASA has partnered with Lockheed-Martin for a new X-plane jet airliner. Elon Musk wants to basically launch people into space and land them on the other side of the globe in less than an hour.

International travel is poised to take a big leap forward in the next few years, so buckle your seatbelt and go along for the ride.