This Plane Can Go from New York to London in 20 Minutes

The Antipode may one day revolutionize your commute. It would be 10 times faster than the Concorde and take you across the ocean before you could finish an episode of The Simpsons

Charles Bombardier, an accomplished Canadian engineer, has a designed a concept plane called the Antipode that could travel as fast as 18,264 miles per hour – about ten times faster than the Concorde and 24 times the speed of sound. He remarked, “‘The idea of going from New York to London in, say 20 minutes – that’s what I think really grabbed people.” Indeed, such infrastructure would make a casual commute across the ocean as feasible as a train-ride across Washington DC.

As Bombardier describes it, the aircraft would work as follows. First, rocket-boosters on the plane’s wings would drive it to an altitude of up to 40,000 feet. Then, an onboard computer would “ignite its supersonic combustion ramjet engine” to take it to its top speeds. The plane would also exploit an aerodynamic technique called long penetration mode (LPM) by using a special nozzle at the front of the plane both to muffle noises from breaking the sound barrier (which would otherwise be a menace for urban areas en route) and to prevent overheating.

Images by Abhishek Roy.

Despite specific nuances allowing for feasible use, the design still has practical drawbacks for everyday commuters. For example, it will only seat up to ten passengers, implying very high commercial ticket prices. This is due to a fundamental feature of its design, which is that it is very sparse on parts with nearly no moving components. Indeed, the plane would be so small and powerful that it would burn the oxygen around it and necessitate having oxygen tanks onboard.

Although feasibility of a casual trans-continental commute remains a distant vision, Bombardier’s design certainly stands to transform how we think of air travel. Furthermore, it marks a significant step in the direction of casual travel over global distances. 

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