Imagine a transcontinental flight that allowed you to wash your hands of screaming babies and cranky flight attendants after just a few hours. Airbus wants to make it so. The aircraft manufacturer has patented an “ultra-rapid” plane that could fly at more than four times the speed of sound. The vehicle would be able to cover the distance between Paris and San Francisco or Tokyo and Los Angeles in three hours.
In the patent awarded on July 14—and uncovered by Business Insider on Aug. 3—the manufacturer outlines a new type of aircraft that would “very considerably” improve on past attempts at commercial supersonic aircrafts. The speed of the aircraft could reach twice that of the Concorde, with a cruising altitude of at least 20 kilometers higher than a regular commercial jet.
The new aircraft would hold 20 passengers and likely target business travelers, elite military personnel, and others likely to “require transcontinental return journeys within one day,” according to the patent. Such was the case with this this pair of estranged redhead twins.
The plane would be propelled by an intricate system of three types of engines: turbojets, ramjets, and a rocket engine. At takeoff, turbojets mounted on the body of the plane would lift the vehicle off the runway. As the plane approaches the speed of sound, the engines would retract into the plane. Then the rocket engine at the back would propel the plane up to its cruising altitude of more than 100,000 feet (supersonic jets also travel at higher altitudes than regular jets). Then the wing-mounted ramjets would push the plane to its top speed, around Mach 4 (a ratio of the vehicle’s speed relative to the speed of sound).
Airbus said in the patent that the plans would reduce the supersonic “bang,” i.e. the noise aircrafts emit when they break the sound barrier, which has been a big drawback of the Concorde. The French company is not alone: NASA is also funding research into quieter supersonic jets of the future.
As with most patents, it’s unclear whether Airbus plans to bring this idea to fruition. The company had not responded to Quartz’ request for comment on whether it will actually produce the aircraft in future.