New Aircraft Could Bring Back Supersonic Travel

Powered by hydrogen, the hypersonic aircraft will drastically cut flying times.

Jun 16, 2023
New Aircraft Could Bring Back Supersonic Travel | Powered by hydrogen, the hypersonic aircraft will drastically cut flying times.

There is good news out of Europe for any person who has suffered through a long-distance flight. In the coming years it may be possible to fly from Europe to the United States in a matter of hours. 

Supersonic flight was once the realm of the wealthy. The Concorde aircraft, which could cross the Atlantic in three hours, was wildly expensive and was retired in 2003. Now, thanks to a Swiss company called Destinus, headquartered in Payerne, all that may change.

Destinus is well on its way to creating a hypersonic aircraft that runs on hydrogen, and, in theory, can fly five times the speed of sound, reported CNN. So far,  the company’s first two models have made successful test flights, and the third model, the Destinus-3 is in the works. The hope is that it will be ready for testing by the end of 2023.

Not the only player in the field
Destinus is not the only player in the hypersonic aircraft field. The American firms, Hermeus, and Venus, among others, are well on their way to creating hypersonic aircraft.

Destinus is not even the only company to investigate fuelling aircraft with hydrogen. Both Airbus and Rolls Royce are working on hydrogen-run aircraft engines. However, Destinus is the only company to try and do both at the same time.

“There are different approaches to doing this,” Martina Löfqvist, the business development manager of  Destinus, told CNN. While other top contenders in the field such as Boom Supersonic are “focusing more on the development of the mockups and understanding of how it works and trying to get these piloted aircraft working, we’re going directly to autonomous flights.” 

The company’s strategy is to “develop smaller-size drones before we scale it up to become a large pilot-driven or passenger-carrying aircraft,” She said

Why hydrogen?
Hydrogen is a renewable energy source with the power to fuel aircraft to go very far, and very fast for relatively low costs. Löfqvist said, “We try to go very, very ultra-long range with our vehicles, and that is to fly from Europe all the way to Australia at Mach 5. Using kerosene means that the vehicle would become quite heavy, while hydrogen is very light in comparison.”

According to Euronews, the main byproducts of hydrogen combustion are water and heat, making the aircraft much more environmentally friendly than traditional airplanes that use fossil fuels.  

This is indeed very good news. However, don’t expect to be hopping a short, environmentally friendly flight from New York to Melbourne just yet. According to Destinus’s timeline, the scaled-up version of the Destinus aircraft, suited for commercial flights, is not expected to hit the market until the 2040s.  

Despite the long wait, Destinus and its aircrafts are still very good news for the world of travel. Being able to reach your destination in a matter of hours, no matter how far, would be a game changer. But the added bonus is that Destinus could enable humanity to travel far distances without endangering the future of the planet. 

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.