Paris-Tokyo in two and a half hours on hypersonic jet

Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:06am EDT
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By Victoria Bryan

LE BOURGET, France (Reuters) - Fancy traveling from Paris to Tokyo in two and a half hours? Do you yearn for the Concorde days?

Aerospace group EADS, owner of planemaker Airbus, thinks it has the answer -- a hypersonic jet that flies above the atmosphere, yet takes off from a regular runway.

"It is not a Concorde but it looks like a Concorde, showing that aerodynamics of the 1960s were very smart," Jean Botti, EADS' chief technical officer, said.

By flying above the atmosphere and using biofuel to get the plane off the ground initially, the group hopes to avoid the supersonic boom and pollution Concorde was notorious for.

"When you are above the atmosphere nobody hears anything," Botti said.

The plane, being developed in collaboration with Japan, is being primarily designed with the business market in mind and could carry 50-100 passengers.

The concept project, known as ZEHST (zero emission high speed transport), comes as companies such as Virgin Galactic push forward with plans to take paying customers up on commercial space flights. Indeed, ZEHST is being developed using research from EADS' space arm Astrium.

Unlike Virgin Galactic customers, EADS says ZEHST would have a maximum acceleration of 1.2G, meaning passengers will not need any training in order to fly.   Continued...