London-Sydney in five hours?

By Bev Fearis, published 05/08/20

London to Sydney could be possible in just five hours and London to New York in two hours, if plans by Virgin Galactic go ahead.

Don’t get too excited - it’s still in the very early stages - but this week Virgin Galactic and engine-maker Rolls-Royce revealed they are working on designs, with help from NASA, for a supersonic passenger plane capable of flying with a top speed of around 2,300mph, or three times the speed of sound.

The delta-wing jet would cruise at a 60,000ft, higher than current passenger planes, and would accommodate nine to 19 passengers in custom cabin layouts with Business or First Class seating arrangements.

The announcement said the Mach-3 jet would fly long-distance commercial routes, using existing airports, and that U.S. aviation regulator the FAA has agreed to help develop a certification framework for the plane.

George Whitesides, Chief Space Officer for Virgin Galactic, said: “We have made great progress so far, and we look forward to opening up a new frontier in high speed travel.”

Supersonic flying ceased to exist when Concorde retired 17 years ago but others are also working on projects, including aerospace giant Lockheed-Martin and US start-up Boom Supersonic, which plans to reveal a prototype this winter followed by test flights in 2021.