Jul 20, 2022 - News

Hypersonic jets could fly Atlantans to London in 90 minutes

A rendering of a windowless sleek black hypersonic plane flying away from California and over the Pacific Ocean
Rendering: Courtesy of Hermeus

The average flight from Atlanta to London takes just over eight hours. And that doesn’t include the time spent traveling to the airport and going through security.

  • Hermeus, a Doraville-based startup building hypersonic jets, is betting you'll be able to make the trip in 90 minutes in the next nine years.

Details: Founded in 2018 by Blue Origin, SpaceX and Generation Orbit alums, the four-year-old company is designing Halcyon, a 20-passenger jet that will fly five times the speed of sound (or more than 3,800 mph). 

  • That aircraft — one of three models under development — would fly more than twice as fast as the supersonic legend Concorde (RIP) and could travel from Los Angeles to Tokyo in around three hours, the company says. Seats would likely be priced to woo business-class travelers.

What's next: Next year, Hermeus will conduct the first test flight of Quarterhorse, a reusable unmanned aircraft that has won U.S Air Force funding.

  • The company will develop pilot-less models like the Darkhorse for military use while working toward its passenger travel goal.

Between the lines: Though amenities have evolved, the science behind passenger air travel hasn't changed much in decades.

  • Hermeus is betting that airlines will jump on the technology to win over customers who value — and can afford — speed and time over legroom and cart service.

State of play: In the not-so-distant future, air travelers could choose between the planes they know and love/hate today, or supersonic, hypersonic, and maybe space travel.

  • "In the future that I see, speed becomes another differentiating metric that hasn’t existed for a very long time," CEO and founder AJ Piplica told Axios Atlanta. "To the point where you can choose a lay-flat seat for your seven- or eight-hour trip over the Atlantic or you could fly on a hypersonic aircraft and sleep in your own bed for the same price."

The big picture: The air travel industry is set for a major disruption, with supersonic companies like Boom, hypersonic upstarts like Hermeus, and space travel efforts like Blue Origin and SpaceX exploring the possibilities.

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