June 20, 2011

Rocket Plane Would Fly Paris To Tokyo In 2.5 Hours

The future of long-distance air travel is on view now at an airshow in Paris. A scale model of a future aircraft on display this week could leave Paris and land in Tokyo two and-a-half hours later, AFP is reporting.

European aerospace giant EADS unveiled the "Zero Emission Hypersonic Transportation" (Zehst) - a low-polluting, rocket-powered airliner that would seat between 50 and 100 passengers and fly across the globe at 3,000 miles-per-hour.

"I imagine the plane of the future to look like Zehst," EADS' chief technical officer Jean Botti said as the project was announced at Le Bourget airport the day before the start of the Paris International Air Show.

Zehst will take off using normal engines powered by biofuel made from seaweed before switching on its rocket engines and cruising the stratosphere at 20 miles up. This is almost 3 times higher than commercial jets currently cruise at.

The hydrogen and oxygen-powered rocket engines do not leave an exhaust trail like traditional kerosene engines do, it leaves behind only water vapor to mark its path in the sky, "You don't pollute, you're in the stratosphere," EADS' chief technical officer Jean Botti told Reuters.

EADS, which is based in Toulouse, in the southwest of France, sees a gap in the airline market following the demise of the Concorde supersonic planes. They were taken out of service following a horrific crash in Paris in July 2000, but EADS is confident that Zehst will be far safer.

The Zehst reminds many of the Concorde, the infamous supersonic airliner introduced in the 1960's. "ËœIt's not Concorde, but it looks like Concorde,' said Mr. Botti. "ËœIt shows that the aerodynamics of the 1960s were very smart.'

The Concorde project, which ran between 1969 and 2003, cost well over $1 billion dollars in development. The cost of building a Concorde airliner in 1977 was nearly $25 million.

Those figures can probably be multiplied by around 10 for the Zehst project, said aviation industry sources gathering in Paris for the airshow.

All of the Zehst passengers will be flying in first class, with seats costing well into four figures, if not five to begin will and the plane is not expected to be operational until around 2040, according to EADS officials.


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