The Air Force, Boeing, and United Technologies are developing the X-51 Waverider, an airplane designed to travel faster than Mach 5, or hypersonic speed. When it will be first tested, the X-51 will be carried in the air via the wing of a B-52 bomber, then dropped and pushed through the air with help from a tactical missile rocket. The idea is that the X-51 will reach a speed four times the speed of sound.
The X-51 will ideally activate its own engine that will propel itself to six times the speed of sound, or roughly 4,000 miles per hour.
People will not be on this premier test because the plane will crash into the ocean after it reaches the desired speed. But perhaps in the future, you could theoretically travel from New York to Los Angeles in about 37 minutes. That’s less time than it takes many people to commute to work each day.
Many more tests need to be conducted to ascertain whether the X-51 and other similar planes would be safe enough for passenger travel. Also, with the cost and exclusivity of this type of travel, airport security lines are likely to be that much more intense. As always, Homeland Security is working on shortening the amount of time it takes for the average passenger to get through security at airports without compromising safety. Will this type of air travel one day become an option for coast to coast travelers? Let’s hope so.