First-of-its-Kind Plane Can Fly from New York to London in 3.5 Hours

By: Georgia | Published: Jan 26, 2024

NASA has unveiled a new supersonic jet, the X-59, capable of drastically reducing flight times. Developed in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, this aircraft, nicknamed the “son of Concorde,” promises a revolutionary leap in aeronautics. 

Its debut is a significant moment in aviation history, aiming to transform the experience of commercial air travel with its advanced capabilities.

Design and Speed of the X-59

The X-59 supersonic aircraft is a remarkable feat of engineering, measuring 100 feet in length and 30 feet in width.

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A photo of NASA's X-59 supersonic aircraft being presented in a hangar to an audience of spectators. The aircraft is in the center of the frame, bathed in dramatic blue and red lighting

Source: NASA/Steve Freeman

The New York Post reveals that the jet is designed to travel at speeds of 925 miles per hour, surpassing the speed of sound. Its innovative design and capabilities are expected to reduce the flight time between New York and London to just three and a half hours, a considerable improvement to current flight times.

The Legacy of the Concorde

The Concorde, an iconic aircraft, could travel at approximately 1,350 miles per hour and was retired almost 20 years ago due to high maintenance costs and a fatal crash in 2000, according to The New York Post.

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A British Airways Concorde aircraft is captured mid-takeoff on a runway. The iconic white supersonic passenger jet has its nose pointed skyward and landing gear retracting, with visible smoke from the tires as they leave the tarmac

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Its retirement was the end of an era in supersonic travel. The X-59 aims to build on the Concorde’s legacy, enhancing speed while addressing past challenges.

Reducing Sonic Boom Disruption

A key advancement of the X-59 is its ability to minimize the disruptive sonic boom caused when exceeding the speed of sound. 

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A photograph captures the NASA X-59 supersonic jet on the ground during dusk. The aircraft displays a white and grey color scheme with "NASA" and "X-59" inscribed

Source: NASA

The Daily Mail explains that officials have highlighted that this aircraft generates a less disruptive sonic boom due to innovations in design, shaping, and technologies. This feature addresses one of the main concerns that led to the ban on supersonic flights over land in the past.

Innovative Cockpit Design

The X-59 features a unique cockpit design, positioned about halfway down the length of the plane, according to information via The New York Post.

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The interior view of NASA's X-59 supersonic jet's cockpit, showcasing a futuristic design with a wide digital screen displaying flight information and the external environment. The screen replaces the traditional forward windshield, providing a virtual view of the skies and clouds ahead

Source: NASA

Pilots will rely on camera monitors for operation due to the jet’s thin, tapered nose, which is crucial for minimizing shock waves that cause sonic booms in conventional aircraft. 

The Quesst Mission

The X-59 is a crucial part of NASA’s Quesst mission, which focuses on enabling regulators to reconsider the ban on supersonic flights.

A green prototype of NASA's X-59 aircraft is parked inside a large, white, semi-circular hangar named “BigTop STALL 5.”

Source: Lockheed Martin/NASA

 “This is a major accomplishment made possible only through the hard work and ingenuity from NASA and the entire X-59 team,” “In just a few short years we’ve gone from an ambitious concept to reality. NASA’s X-59 will help change the way we travel, bringing us closer together in much less time.” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy in a statement.

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Preparing for First Flight

As the X-59 approaches its first flight later in 2024, the team is conducting integrated systems testing, engine runs, and taxi testing, the New York Post reveals.

Three pilots stand confidently in front of NASA's X-59 aircraft. They are dressed in flight suits with NASA patches, each with their arms crossed. Behind them, the X-59's tail fin is visible, bearing the NASA logo

Source: NASA/Steve Freeman

This preparatory phase is crucial for ensuring the aircraft’s readiness for its first flight. The successful completion of these tests will mark the beginning of a new chapter in supersonic aviation.

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Project Costs and Funding

The development of the X-59 is a significant investment, with costs amounting to $632 million over eight years, as reported by Bloomberg.

A digital rendering of a futuristic, energy-efficient aircraft flying high above the Earth. The aircraft has a distinctive green and white color scheme with sleek lines and a blended wing body design

Source: NASA/Lockheed Martin Corporation

This funding illustrates the scale and ambition of the project, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to advancing the frontiers of aeronautics through this groundbreaking supersonic aircraft.

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Beyond the Concorde's Shadow

Peter Coen, the mission integration manager for NASA’s Quesst mission, told The Daily Mail, “The X-59 is not – I repeat not – the son of Concorde, other than the general wing shape.”

An Air France Concorde aircraft is mounted on display, with its nose pointed skyward

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He emphasized that the X-59 represents a new direction in supersonic flight, distinct from the Concorde’s legacy, yet building on its foundational principles.

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Revolutionizing Overland Travel

The Daily Mail notes that the introduction of the X-59 could lead to significant changes in overland travel regulations. 

The image shows a front view of an aircraft suspended in a maintenance hangar with its nose cone covered in a red protective cover. The aircraft is held in place by a blue supporting structure, with its wings extending outwards

Source: Lockheed Martin

The aircraft’s quieter sonic boom could pave the way for lifting the long-standing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ban on supersonic flights over land. 

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Future Testing and Community Feedback

NASA plans to begin flying the X-59 over select communities in the US in 2026 to assess the aircraft’s noise levels, according to The Daily Mail.

NASA's X-59 supersonic research aircraft is captured in mid-flight against a backdrop of a muted sky and flat desert terrain. The aircraft, painted white and blue with the NASA logo

Source: Lockheed Martin

This testing phase is crucial for determining whether the jet’s quieter sonic boom meets federal standards. The feedback from these community flyovers will play a key role in shaping the future of supersonic travel.

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Shaping the Future of Supersonic Flight

Coen emphasized to the Daily Mail, “The X-59 is central to the long-term goals of making supersonic flight a regular occurrence, but it’s not the end goal.”

The NASA X-59 aircraft is pictured on the tarmac against the backdrop of a sunset sky. The tail fin prominently features the number 859 and the NASA logo

Source: NASA/Steve Freeman

NASA plans to share the X-59’s design, technology, acoustic data, and community responses with aircraft manufacturers. Coen notes, “Industry is definitely interested in supersonic flight,” acknowledging the industry’s demand for updated supersonic flight guidelines.

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