Airbus supersonic airliner concept

Over the past week, there has been a lot of press about a new Mach 4.5 supersonic aircraft, invented by Airbus, that will fly from London to NYC in one hour.  Mach 4.5 translates to a speed of over 3,000 mph (at 50,000 ft), which means you could fly from NYC or London to Shanghai in just over two hours. That means getting fresh dumplings in Shanghai can be a wonderful Sunday brunch.

If and when the aircraft is designed, built, tested, and certified,  30-40 years from now, that will be really cool. You just have to hold your breath for a few years, or decades in this case. If you are looking for something a bit sooner than that, look for the Spike S-512 Quiet Supersonic Jet in 2020s (/shameless plug).

For the moment, Airbus has received a patent for a futuristic aircraft concept. Similarly, there are a lot of other patents for supersonic aircraft dating back to the 1960s, as well as patents for, um, unique aircraft that were never built. There is even a patent, granted in 1964, for a vertical takeoff supersonic aircraft. Hopefully you aren’t still holding your breath for that one.

Fortunately, patents typically expire 20 years from their date of issue, and Airbus’s patent will expire long before they build their aircraft. So you could theoretically “borrow” the ideas from their patent, or the vertical takeoff supersonic jet, without paying a licensing fee. Um, check with your patent attorney first.

As Airbus acknowledges, this patent reflects some high-level engineering thought about a possible aircraft concept 30-40 years from now. They weren’t worried about available technologies, development costs, economics, business requirements, or any of those trivial details. Like a lot of cool ideas, they came up with it by imagining the future. Bravo.

Actually, for the record, Spike Aerospace has contemplated filing a patent for Warp Drive and Teleportation technology that will be available in 200-300 years (/joking).

The Airbus supersonic aircraft will require the invention or significant development of several key components:

  • Ramjet engines that can be sustained for longer than five minutes (X-51A Waverider)
  • Safe hydrogen storage (remember the Hindenburg?)
  • Materials that can sustain the heat generated by flying at those speeds (think Space Shuttle tiles)
  • High-speed avionics for safety, navigation, and communications
  • More others than we have room to list

While the Airbus patent is not for an actual invention, and certainly not a currently feasible aircraft, you have to admit that the concept is pretty cool.

If you want something a bit more realistic, and a lot sooner, you will be able to fly at Mach 1.6 (1100mph) with Spike Aerospace’s supersonic aircraft in just a few years.