More than Wright
Current plane designs have come a long way since the Wright brothers first took to the skies. Now, virtually any location in the world is accessible within a single day. The longest nonstop flight was recently announced by Qantas Airlines and connects London, UK to Perth, Australia, a distance of 14,466 km (nearly 9,000 miles) in 17.5 hours. But now, there are concepts floating around that would make a similar flight from Los Angeles, CA to Sydney, Australia take only three hours.
This hypersonic plane is just one concept looking to be the future of aviation. Charles Bombardier, a Canadian engineer and innovator shared some designs with the Globe and Mail including planes that: fly into space, can be launched by railgun, and ones that can travel up to 20,000 km (12,427 miles) in less than an hour.
To be clear, these are merely conceptual designs, not working prototypes.
LA to Sydney, Via Space
The first concept, developed by Bombardier in collaboration with Juan Garcia Mansilla, is called the "Paradoxal." It is a combination supersonic/hypersonic commercial aircraft that reaches altitudes up to 66 km (44 miles) and can traverse the world's largest ocean in a mere three hours.
The plane takes off and flies using two Rim-Rotor Rotary Ramjet Engines (R4E) which would allow the plane to reach speeds up to three times the speed of sound (Mach 3) after takeoff, and reach an altitude of about 15 km (50,000 ft). In order to then reach suborbital levels, the engines would be injected with liquid oxygen (LOX) to boost it up to its parabolic midpoint. The curvature of the Earth and some stars will be visible at this altitude, but only by video feed. Passengers would also get to experience a minute of weightlessness.
On the second half of the trip the "Long Penetration Mode (LPM) nozzles" would kick in to both continue two hypersonic speeds but also, at the end of the flight, help with cooling the craft in preparation for landing. The plane would be able to haul 550 passengers in a "theater-like cabin" across the globe in a fraction of the time it takes now.
Mach 10 Skreemr
Another of Bombardier's concepts is called "the Skreemr." This is also a passenger plane designed to carry travelers across continents at unprecedented speeds.
This plane is not designed to take off like a conventional plane, it's actually shot into the sky by a magnetic railgun. After launch, rockets would kick in to boost speed enough to ignite main engines, pushing its to maximum speeds over Mach 10.
The Skreemr could carry 75 passengers at speeds 5 times greater than the Concorde. This aircraft is also much more environmentally friendly than traditional aircraft as its launching system can operate on clean energy and its main engines could run by burning hydrogen.
Around the World in 60 Minutes
Bombardier's final concept is a military aircraft called the Antipod. It is designed to carry two people at speeds up to Mach 24 (18414.5 mph) up to 20,000 km (12,427 miles). Given that that circumference of the Earth is about 40,000 km (24,901 miles) at the Equator, the Antipod can deliver these two officials to any point on Earth in less than an hour.
The Antipod would also use LPM nozzles to help mitigate the heat generated at such high speeds. The airflow created by the nozzle would also serve to reduce the shockwave produced by breaking the sound barrier. The plane would be able to safely glide onto a 6,000 ft runway to land.
Once again, these planes are simply concepts. Remember that even DiVinci had concept drawings of flying machines. While supersonic travel may be a long ways away, the innovative and creative thinking of today is what is going to bring us the tools of tomorrow.