Classified: The New Boeing High-Tech Autonomous Fighter

Photo: Boeing
Photo: Boeing

The BATS plane is primarily intended, in its wingman role, to protect against electronic attacks

With every passing year, items of technology once confined to the realm of science fiction make their leaps from the pages of novels and comics and the silver screen of Hollywood into cold, hard reality.

The latest piece of futuristic technology to make the jump from the imaginary to the real is Boeing’s new unmanned fighter-like jet, developed in collaboration with the Royal Australian Air Force. The aircraft was revealed to the world in February 2019, and is called the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.

The BATS – also called the Loyal Wingman – was developed in Australia, making it that nation’s first domestically-developed military aircraft since the Second World War. Australia has been, though, a perfect place to develop the BATS plane, as this is Boeing’s largest base of operations outside of the US.

Boeing ATS. Photo: Boeing
Boeing ATS. Photo: Boeing

Australia also has a lot of empty airspace in which prototypes can be tested. The BATS project is thought to be Boeing’s largest investment in the development of a new aircraft outside the United States.

The concept of an unmanned plane is hardly a new one. Unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones or UAVs, have been used in a military context since WWI, although the current crop of high-tech drones, based on technological advances made in the 1980s, differs radically from earlier UAVs.

What is significant about Boeing’s new autonomous fighter-like jet, though, is just how much more advanced it is than anything else in the drone field.

Boeing ATS with AEWC. Photo: Boeing
Boeing ATS with AEWC. Photo: Boeing

The BATS fighter-like jet is roughly the same size as a normal fighter jet – it is around 11 meters long (38 feet), with a body and wingspan roughly proportional in size to many current fighter jets used in the Royal Australian Air Force.

The reason it is referred to as a “fighter-like” jet is that the prototype has not been designed to be armed in the traditional manner of a standard fighter jet – although the possibility of arming a BATS plane with missiles and bombs in the future remains open.

Rather, the current focus of the BATS plane is to fly alongside manned fighter jets, hence the “Loyal Wingman” moniker. The designers envision, in one possible example, a squadron of four to six of their autonomous BATS planes flying alongside a P-8A Poseidon, E-7 Wedgetail or F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Boeing ATS with SuperHornet. Photo: Boeing
Boeing ATS with SuperHornet. Photo: Boeing

The BATS plane is primarily intended, in its wingman role, to protect against electronic attacks as well as conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions in places deemed to dangerous to send manned aircraft, but could very easily be modified to take on a more aggressive role. While it is unlikely that this model could go as far as getting involved in dogfights with manned jets, the possibility of arming it for a number of offensive missions is there.

One reason a large amount of money has been poured into the BATS project (Boeing has declined to say just how much) is because of the potential such an aircraft offers in terms of overcoming human-piloted fighter jet limitations.

A model of the unmanned Boeing Airpower Teaming System was unveiled at the Australian International Airshow Feb. 27. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide multi-mission support for air control missions. (Boeing photo)
A model of the unmanned Boeing Airpower Teaming System was unveiled at the Australian International Airshow Feb. 27. The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide multi-mission support for air control missions. (Boeing photo)Human pilots, even the most gifted and highly trained, can only take a certain number of G’s (gravitational forces), fly for a certain length of time without becoming tired, and can only process a certain amount of information at once. A plane piloted by AI (artificial intelligence), or even remotely, could overcome a number of these hampering factors.

Photo: Boeing
Photo: Boeing

The BATS plane currently has a range of 2,000 nautical miles, and is powered by a commercially-available jet engine. It uses standard runways for landing and take-off, and can quite easily be modified to operate from an aircraft carrier at sea. While Boeing has not confirmed that the BATS plane will be able to fly at supersonic speeds, this does seem like a likely possibility.

Another major advantage of the BATS plane is its price. While the exact price of one of them has yet to be announced, Boeing has described the BATS as having a “very disruptive price point” and has sung its praises for featuring “fighter-like capability at a fraction of the cost.” It could potentially serve as a force equalizer for nations that cannot currently afford to field a large number of fighter jets in their air forces.

Photo: Boeing
Photo: Boeing

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Also, Boeing emphasizes the BATS’ flexibility and its potential for customization, stressing that while it is currently intended for a “Loyal Wingman” role, the scope of its possible future uses extends far beyond this single function.

The first flight of a BATS plane is scheduled to take place in 2020, and commercial production is still an unspecified number of years away. Once Boeing does reach the commercial production phase, it is expected that they will sell the BATS plane globally.

The Hypersonic Synergetic Rocket Engine – Sabre – is designed to drive space planes to orbit

Hypersonic jet travel across the Atlantic has moved a step closer after scientists successfully tested technology to stop jet engines melting at speeds up to 25 times the speed of sound.

Researchers at Reaction Engines managed to make a ‘pre cooler’ work at a simulated speed of 3.3 mach or 2,500 mph (4,023kph) – that means large scale hypersonic engines that could be fitted to passenger jets are a step closer to being realised.

Their experimental Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) is designed to be fitted to large aircraft to ferry passengers around the world in hours and deliver goods into orbit for less.

The ‘pre-cooler’, which lets the aircraft travel at high speed without hot air rushing in and causing the engine to melt was tested at simulated speeds of more than three times the speed of sound. The next stage of tests will see the technology tested at Mach 5.5 (4,200mph / 6,800kph), and could one day lead to flights between London and New York that take less than an hour. 

UK engineers have completed a milestone test of their new high-speed 'spaceplane' which they say could be able to fly at 25 times the speed of sound (mach 25). Reaction Engines has tested a 'pre-cooler' technology - which allows aircraft to travel faster than ever

UK engineers have completed a milestone test of their new high-speed ‘spaceplane’ which they say could be able to fly at 25 times the speed of sound (mach 25). Reaction Engines has tested a ‘pre-cooler’ technology – which allows aircraft to travel faster than ever

Reaction built a testing facility on the ground in Colorado and used a General Electric J79 turbojet engine to replicate the conditions that the vehicle will experience at hypersonic speeds.

The firm hopes to make a reusable vehicle that would combine the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power and speed of a rocket.

Reaction, based in Oxfordshire, believe that the aircraft could travel the distance between New York and London in less than an hour when running at it’s proposed top speed.

The company also wants to take people and payloads into space and return to Earth.

A spokesperson for Reaction Engines told MailOnline that although this technology is decades away from use in passenger jets, the technology could be used in more immediate applications.

The heat exchanger technology has a wide range of potential commercial applications and the ability to revolutionise the approach to thermal management across a range of industries; from aerospace to motorsport, industrial processes, and the oil and gas industry.

The heat exchanger technology has a wide range of potential commercial applications and the ability to revolutionise the approach to thermal management across a range of industries; from aerospace to motorsport, industrial processes, and the oil and gas industry

The heat exchanger technology has a wide range of potential commercial applications and the ability to revolutionise the approach to thermal management across a range of industries; from aerospace to motorsport, industrial processes, and the oil and gas industry

The breakthrough test was conducted at the company’s newly opened TF2 test facility at Colorado Air and Space Port.

It comes 30 years after Reaction Engines was formed in the UK around an engine cycle concept to enable access to space and hypersonic air-breathing flight from a standing start.

The pre-cooling technology is designed to lower the temperature of the air coming into the engine from more than 1,000°C (1,832°F) to room temperature in one twentieth of a second.

To do this, the team developed a heat-exchanger to manage very high temperature airflows.

Reaction Engines has tested a 'pre-cooler' technology - which allows aircraft to travel faster than ever. The experimental Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine - Sabre - is designed to drive space planes to orbit and take airliners around the world in just a few hours

Reaction Engines has tested a ‘pre-cooler’ technology – which allows aircraft to travel faster than ever. The experimental Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine – Sabre – is designed to drive space planes to orbit and take airliners around the world in just a few hours

The tech is designed to chill air in the inlet of high-speed turbojets for hypersonic vehicles and ultimately will form the basis for the company’s Sabre engine for low-cost repeatable access to space.

The goal is to incorporate this technology into their Sabre engine, which would work like an ‘air breathing rocket engine’.

It would carry significantly less fuel oxidant than a conventional rocket, making it much lighter.

From take-off to Mach 5.5 (5.5 times the speed of sound), it would take oxygen from the atmosphere, which would be fed into a rocket combustion chamber.

During tests, at simulated speeds of Mach 3.3, or more than three times the speed of sound. To replicate the conditions that it will experience at hypersonic speeds, Reaction built a testing facility on the ground in Colorado and used a General Electric J79 turbojet engine

During tests, at simulated speeds of Mach 3.3, or more than three times the speed of sound. To replicate the conditions that it will experience at hypersonic speeds, Reaction built a testing facility on the ground in Colorado and used a General Electric J79 turbojet engine

The tech is designed to chill air in the inlet of high-speed turbojets for hypersonic vehicles and ultimately will form the basis for the company’s Sabre engine for low-cost repeatable access to space. The goal is to incorporate this technology into their Sabre engine, which would work like an 'air breathing rocket engine'

The tech is designed to chill air in the inlet of high-speed turbojets for hypersonic vehicles and ultimately will form the basis for the company’s Sabre engine for low-cost repeatable access to space. The goal is to incorporate this technology into their Sabre engine, which would work like an ‘air breathing rocket engine’

Here, it would be ignited along with stored liquid hydrogen and then switch at high altitude, burning liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen from on-board fuel tanks.

Mark Thomas, the Reaction Engines chief executive, told the Times: ‘If you can pull it off, it’s a game changer. It kicks conventional rocket engines into touch.’

It did this by successfully quenching a 420°C (788°F) stream of gases in less than 1/20th of a second.

At low altitude and low speeds, it would behave like a jet, burning its fuel in a stream of air scooped from the atmosphere.

At high speeds and at high altitude, it would transition to full rocket mode, combining the fuel with the oxygen carried inside.

They envisage that it would be able aircraft that could travel the distance between New York and London in less than an hour. They also want to take people or payloads into space and return to Earth

They envisage that it would be able aircraft that could travel the distance between New York and London in less than an hour. They also want to take people or payloads into space and return to Earth

HOW DOES REACTION ENGINES’ ‘SABRE’ ENGINE WORK?

Reaction Engines Limited (REL), based at Culham in Oxfordshire, is working on a turbine that combines both jet and rocket technologies. 

The Sabre engine works by burning atmospheric air in combustion chambers.

It then uses the heat to turbo-charge the engine.

The Sabre engine works by burning atmospheric air in combustion chambers. It then uses the heat to turbo-charge the engine

The Sabre engine (artist’s impression) works by burning atmospheric air in combustion chambers. It then uses the heat to turbo-charge the engine

At the moment, rockets have to carry liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to power them and the cost of carrying this heavy fuel is expensive. 

The new engine creates its own liquid oxygen by cooling air entering the engine from 1,000°C to minus 150°C in a hundredth of a second – six times faster than the blink of an eye – without creating ice blockages.

This new class of aerospace engine is designed to enable aircraft to operate from standstill on the runway to speeds of over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere.

It can then transition to a rocket flight mode, allowing spaceflight at speeds up to orbital velocity, equivalent to 25 times the speed of sound.

Boom ! The supersonic plane that could bring back supersonic travel.

Supersonic travel could soon be back.

Boom Supersonic has revealed a £100m investment in Overture, a 55 seater supersonic passenger jet capable of flying at at more than twice the speed of sound, with a range of 5,180 miles.

It could take passengers from London to New York in just 3.5 hours – around half the time it currently takes.

New investors in the Colorado-based company include the Emerson Collective, headed by Laurene Powell Jobs – widow of Apple’s former chief executive, Steve Jobs.

Overture, a 55 seater supersonic passenger jet capable of flying at at more than twice the speed of sound, with a range of 5,180 miles. It could take passengers from London to New York in just 3.5 hours - around half the time it currently takes.

Overture, a 55 seater supersonic passenger jet capable of flying at at more than twice the speed of sound, with a range of 5,180 miles. It could take passengers from London to New York in just 3.5 hours – around half the time it currently takes.

OVERTURE SPECS

Top speed Mach 2.2 (1,451 mph, 2,335 km/h)

170 feet long, with a wingspan of 60 feet

2 pilots, up to 4 cabin crew

55 business class seats onboard

However, only two toilets

‘This new funding allows us to advance work on Overture, the world’s first economically viable supersonic airliner,’ said Blake Scholl, founder of Boom Supersonic.

‘Overture fares will be similar to today’s business class — widening horizons for tens of millions of travelers.

‘Ultimately, our goal is to make high-speed flight affordable to all.’

Boom says Overture will accommodate the use of next-generation alternative fuels and have a carbon footprint comparable to that of present-day business-class travel.

It hopes the new craft will make supersonic travel affordable.

‘With 55 seats and seat-mile costs similar to subsonic business class, supersonic flight is practical on hundreds of transoceanic routes—making it the new norm for anyone who flies business class,’ the firm said.

 Boom is currently assembling XB-1, a ⅓-scale manned prototype of its Mach-2.2 airliner. XB-1 will be piloted by Chief Test Pilot Bill ‘Doc’ Shoemaker and is set to fly later this year.

Future customers include the Virgin Group and Japan Airlines, which have pre-ordered a total of 30 jets between them.

The three-engine Boom aircraft have a sonic boom ‘at least 30 times quieter’ than Concorde.

At landing and takeoff, the company says: ‘Overture will be as quiet as the subsonic aircraft flying similar routes today.’

A fleet of 2,000 of the supersonic passenger planes could eventually link cities across the globe in the future.

The aircraft will have one business-class seat on either side of the aisle so each passenger gets both window and aisle access.

 

A fleet of 2,000 of the supersonic passenger planes could eventually link cities across the globe in the future

A fleet of 2,000 of the supersonic passenger planes could eventually link cities across the globe in the future

Boom Supersonic are currently working on a prototype for a passenger plane that would break the sound barrier and could take passengers from London to New York in just 3.5 hours – around half the time it currently takes.

If its full-size 55-seat plane is approved, the first passengers could be travelling at supersonic speeds around the world by 2023, with fares for a one-way ticket just under £2,000.

Scholl has previously said he believes that as many as 2,000 Boom Supersonic planes could be used on 500 routes that crisscross the world linking hundreds of cities.

Speaking at the Farnborough Airshow, Mr Scholl told the Independent: ‘We are focused on accelerating long transoceanic trips.

‘We want to get the economy of the plane down so that anybody who flies can fly fast.

Boom is currently assembling XB-1, a ⅓-scale manned prototype of its Mach-2.2 airliner. XB-1 will be piloted by Chief Test Pilot Bill ‘Doc’ Shoemaker and is set to fly later this year

‘This is not a private jet for the ultra-wealthy.’

Sir Richard Branson has already backed Boom Supersonic, which expects a prototype of its passenger plane to make its first test flight by the end of this year.

The aircraft will have one business-class seat on either side of the aisle so each passenger gets both window and aisle access.

Boom has confirmed that Virgin Galactic and Japan Airlines will operate the aircraft, with Japan Airlines investing £7 million ($10 million) in Boom Supersonic in December 2017.

Together, they have pre-ordered a combined 30 Overture airliners.

As part of the deal Japan’s number two carrier has the option to purchase up to 20 Boom aircraft and will provide its knowledge and experience as an airline to hone the aircraft design and help refine the passenger experience.

If its full-size 55-seat plane is approved, the first passengers could be travelling at supersonic speeds around the world by 2023, with fares for a one-way ticket just under £2,000.

Other U.S based start-ups incuding Aerion Supersonic, and Spike Aerospace are also aiming to re-start supersonic flights by the mid-2020s by modifying existing engines rather than spending billions of dollars to make new ones.

However, a study released last week claimed that reviving supersonic passenger flights will harm the environment, cause too much pollution and will be too noisy.

The US-based International Council on Clean Transportation said that modified engines will burn five to seven times more fuel per passenger than subsonic jets, exceeding global limits for new subsonic jets by 40 per cent for nitrogen oxide and 70 per cent for carbon dioxide.

Concorde, the last supersonic passenger jet, entered service in 1976 and continued flying for 27 years. It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially.

It had a maximum speed of twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers.

Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty.

Air France and British Airways each received seven aircraft.

Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and a decision by Airbus, the successor to Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support.

How William Barker Took On 50 Enemy Planes and Lived!

 

Canadian pilot William Barker won a VC for his actions on 27 October 1918.

Barker was born in Dauphin, Manitoba. He became the top-scoring ace on the Italian Front, with a tally of 52, and Canada’s most highly decorated soldier, receiving twelve awards for gallantry in all.

Barker takes to the skies

Enlisting in 1914, Barker spent a harrowing year in the trenches of the Western Front before requesting a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps. His first role in the RFC was as gunner-observer. It was during the closing stages of the Battle of the Somme, in November 1916, that Barker earned the first of his military decorations.

Whilst carrying out reconnaissance and directing Allied artillery, a superior German reconnaissance aircraft appeared out of the sun and locked on to Barker’s outdated B.E.2. Things looked grim for Barker and his pilot but with one burst of his Lewis gun, Barker took the attacker down becoming one of very few B.E.2 observers to score a kill.

Despite his skill as an observer, Barker craved the chance to fly his own plane. In January 1917 he earned his pilot’s certificate and was soon back above the Western Front flying reconnaissance missions. In April he won the Military Cross for his actions at the Battle of Arras, directing shellfire and eliminating a pair of German long-range guns.

The Sopwith surfaces

A head wound caused by anti-aircraft fire saw him return to England in August 1917. He was assigned to training duties, which didn’t suit him at all. But it came with one perk, the chance to fly the new Sopwith-Camel single-seater fighter.

This stirred his determination to return to the front, yet numerous requests to transfer were turned down. Infuriated, Barker took his Sopwith up and, in a move worthy of a court martial, buzzed RFC headquarters! His wish was granted, he was transferred back to the Western Front to fly Sopwiths.

Fighter ace

What followed was a series of daring exploits in the skies above the Western Front that rendered Barker an ace and earned him the respect of his fellow pilots.

Late in 1917 Barker was transferred to the Italian Front and by the end of the year was the theatre’s leading ace. He built a reputation as a remarkably gifted pilot, and a risk taker. He led a squadron on a  low level attack against the Austrian army headquarters in San Vito al Tagliamento. The aircraft zipped up the streets of the town, so low that Barker was beneath the telegraph wires. There were no casualties but the attack certainly struck a chord with Austrian morale!

By September 1918, with his tally approaching 50 and his nearest rivals either dead or grounded, Barker was the undisputed ace of the Italian Front. Too big a name to risk, he was recalled to Blighty. But Barker knew the war would soon be over, he wasn’t going home without taking one last opportunity to add to his score. On 27 October, he took off to seek out one last dogfight.

50-1

He found his target shortly after, a German reconnaissance aircraft. Closing on the plane, its crew unaware, Barker opened fire and the plane fell from the sky. But the last flight of William Barker wasn’t over yet, he turned to find an armada of up to fifty Fokker D-7 biplanes heading in his direction. With no chance of escape, Barker flew into the fray.

Bullets ripped through his cockpit, hitting him in the legs and arms. He passed out twice, his Sopwith Snipe somehow remaining airborne until he regained his senses. Fifteen D-7’s gathered on his tail, ready for the kill. But Barker wasn’t ready to give up yet, he turned his Snipe around and took them on, sending all fifteen scampering for home.

In the most one-sided of dogfights, William Barker had claimed another six victories. But by now he was bleeding heavily. Unable to control his beaten up Sopwith Snipe any longer, he crash landed.

The remarkable event was watched from the ground by Canadian general Andy McNaughton, who recommended Barker for the Victoria Cross.

Barker worked in the aviation industry after the war but never fully recovered from his wounds and suffered with debilitating depression. In March 1930 he took off for the final time from an airfield near Ottawa, a flight that ended the life of this extraordinary pilot.

Windowless planes will give passengers a panoramic view of the sky

Ever since air travel was invented, people have been fighting over the window seat. Not any more! The Center for Process Innovation, a British technology and research firm, is creating the future of air travel!

The futuristic planes will actually be windowless. Instead, the entire length of the plane will be covered in OLED touch screens. Essentially giving everyone in plane a virtual window seat!

Within 10 to 15 years these planes could hopefully be a reality!

The touch screens with be connected to cameras that are place all over the outside of the plane. This allows the screens to display a realistic view of what is going on around the plane outside.

If you get sick of looking at the sky, you can turn the virtual window into an entertainment system as well.

Not familiar with OLED-touch screen technology? OLED is an abbreviation for organic light-emitting diode. This means that there is a film comprised of organic compounds the is capable of projecting light as a reaction to an electrical current.

It might sound scientific, but this tech is currently being used in televisions, tablets, mobile phones, and computer monitors. By the time these planes are actually manufactured. there will most likely be a more advanced screen on the market.

With the entire walls of the plane filled with screens, passengers could look out at the view surrounding them and never have to worry about getting a good seat again.

They say the projections on the screens will reflect the real world outside, I’m sure this new technology will excite a few conspiracy theorists.

This cool, new concept isn’t without its setbacks. Many people have raised concerns that the amount of light caused by all the screens might cause some passengers discomfort.

You can watch the video below to learn more about the future of transportation!

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So If Cars Have Shoulder Seat Belts, Why Not Airplanes?

airplane-seatbelts

When the “fasten seat belt” sign flashes on in airplanes, with its familiar accompanying ding, it’s often met with passengers’ equal parts annoyance and resignation, when it’s acknowledged at all. Like, “What? Again? Really? Do I have to …?”

The answer, of course, is yes. You really have to. As mom would say, “it’s for your own good.”

“I think it’s the old, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’ syndrome,” Richard McSpadden, the executive director of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association‘s Air Safety Institute, says of the typical flyer’s attitude toward buckling up. “Aviation accidents are so rare that people say, ‘What are the odds it’s going to happen to me?’ And I would agree with them that the odds are extremely low.

“But I would then add that even though the odds are low, the consequences of something happening can be pretty significant, even if it’s just a bump in turbulence. If you’re not strapped in right, your head could hit the top of that airplane. That can result in a serious injury [see Now That’s Interesting, below]. And it’s so effortless to strap a seat belt around you.” (That’s true for average-size people anyway.)

A simple lap belt — or even other restraints, like shoulder harnesses — may not be enough to save a life if an airliner drops from the sky from 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), or undergoes a catastrophic mid-air failure. A seat belt wasn’t enough in the tragic death of Jennifer Riordan, who reportedly was wearing her seat belt when a part from a failed engine in a Southwest Airline 737 blew out the window next to her seat on April 17, 2018. She was nearly sucked out of the airplane when the air in the pressurized cabin rushed out of the window.

The rare accidents like that, though, or the more conventional plane-hits-ground type, are not the only reasons for seat belts on airplanes. They’re designed to protect you from the airplane during flight, too.

The Case for Seat Belts

“The reason you must wear a seat belt, flight crew included,” Heather Poole, an American Airlines flight attendant and author, told The Telegraph in 2015, “is because you don’t want the plane coming down on you. People think they’re lifted up in the air during turbulence. The truth is the plane drops. It comes down hard and it comes down fast and that’s how passengers get injured — by getting hit on the head by an airplane.”

It’s simple physics, Newton’s first law of motion: A body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it.

Think of it this way: If you’re not wearing a seat belt on an airplane that drops suddenly — which often happens with turbulence — you’re the one at rest. You’ll stay at rest as the plane, very literally, drops out from under you. If you’re strapped in, the seat belt serves as an outside force acting on you, taking you with the plane as it drops and saving you from bonking your head on that overhead bin above you.

“It allows you to stay in place and ride along with the airplane,” McSpadden says. “It’s just that added safety margin that if something unexpected happens, you’re still going to stay with the airplane.”

Are Shoulder Harnesses Better?

A little reasoning might suggest that if a lap belt is good while flying, a shoulder harness — like those in cars and those in smaller so-called general aviation planes — would be even better. Indeed, shoulder belts or harnesses might help, McFadden and others say.

But they would be costly to install, and trickier to get to work correctly on bigger commercial planes, experts say. They’d probably be uncomfortable on longer flights. And wearing shoulder harnesses might meet a lot of resistance from the flying public, too.

“The answer would be, yes, it certainly would help, because it would prevent the movement of the upper torso aggressively in terms of some kind of sudden impact,” McSpadden says. “How you can do that is another question entirely.”

Some wonder whether shoulder belts are needed on commercial airlines, considering lap belts — when they’re used — seem to do the trick. “Clearly for the vertical deceleration [typical] of an airplane crash, the lap belt seems to be the most important restraint,” David King, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Time after the July 2013 wreck of Asiana Airlines flight 214 in San Francisco killed three people. (Noted in the official National Transportation Safety Board report of that accident: “The two ejected passengers (one of whom was later rolled over by two firefighting vehicles) were not wearing their seatbelts and would likely have remained in the cabin and survived if they had been wearing them.”)

In smaller aircraft, though, shoulder harnesses — which are required for all seats in all small airplanes manufactured since Dec. 12, 1986 — work and work well. Used with lap belts, shoulder harnesses in smaller planes have been shown to reduce serious injuries from accidents by 88 percent and fatalities by 20 percent, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Ironically, the safety record of commercial airlines may be the overwhelming reason that shoulder harnesses have not been required of large passenger planes. In 2017, no one was killed in a commercial jet airliner incident anywhere in the world, making it the safest year ever for big passenger planes. In its Civil Aviation Safety Review for 2017, which examined accidents on large passenger aircraft, the Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 estimated that there were “0.08 fatal accidents per million flights [in 2017]. That is a rate of one fatal accident for every 12 million flights.”

With a safety record like that, it’s hard to argue that shoulder harnesses would lower the risk of flying enough to offset the costs, the effort and the resistance such a major change would generate.

Lap belts, though? They help. They help a lot. So when flying, it’s probably best to buckle up and stay that way. For your own good.

The Supersonic Mini Concorde

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London to New York in 3.5 hours: Mini-Concorde Baby Boom plane that will travel at 1,687mph is a step closer to take off after a ‘milestone’ engine delivery

Supersonic air travel could be making a return if a plane that aims to replace Concorde takes to the skies.

Richard Branson-backed Boom Supersonic expects a prototype of its passenger plane to make its first test flight by the end of this year.

The firm this week came a step closer to that goal after announcing a ‘milestone’ engine delivery for the two-seater, known as XB-1, or ‘Baby Boom’

CEO Blake Scholl tweeted: ‘Milestone coming up: XB-1 engines are on a truck and will arrive at @boomaero hangar within a week.’

‘Baby Boom’ is a 1,687mph (2,716kph) demonstrator jet designed to test the firm’s supersonic technology that could take passengers from London to New York in just 3.5 hours – around half the time it currently takes.

If its full-size 55-seat plane is approved, the first passengers could be travelling at supersonic speeds around the world by 2023.

Mr Scholl’s announcement means the Boom passenger plane’s test model is set to be assembled – 15 years after the last Concorde flight.

According to the company’s website, the XB-1 will ‘refine our design and engineering, test key supersonic technologies, and ensure efficiency, safety, and reliability’.

Reports suggest that five unnamed airlines are interested in purchasing 76 of Boom’s 55-seater jetliners.

4A65C70700000578-5526555-image-a-3_1521630648913

The aircraft will have one business-class seat on either side of the aisle so each passenger gets both window and aisle access. Tickets could cost as much as £1,700 ($2,500) according to some estimates.

Boom has confirmed that Virgin Galactic and Japan Airlines will operate the aircraft, with Japan Airlines investing £7 million ($10 million) in Boom Supersonic in December 2017.

As part of the deal Japan’s number two carrier has the option to purchase up to 20 Boom aircraft and will provide its knowledge and experience as an airline to hone the aircraft design and help refine the passenger experience.

XB-1 (top), also known as the 'Baby Boom', is a 1,687mph (2,716kph) two-seater demonstrator jet designed to test the firm's supersonic technology, but Boom is also developing a 55-seat passenger plane (bottom) that it says will halve trans-Atlantic flight times 

XB-1 (top), also known as the ‘Baby Boom’, is a 1,687mph (2,716kph) two-seater demonstrator jet designed to test the firm’s supersonic technology, but Boom is also developing a 55-seat passenger plane (bottom) that it says will halve trans-Atlantic flight times

WHAT ARE THE SPECS OF BOOM’S 55-SEAT SUPERSONIC PASSENGER AIRLINER?

US engineering firm Boom Supersonic is developing a 55-seat passenger plane capable of reaching Mach 2.2 that is expected to enter service by the mid 2020s.

The company says it will be 10 per cent faster, 30 times quieter and 75 per cent more affordable than Concorde.

– Crew: Two

– Length: 170 feet (52m)

– Wingspan: 60 feet (18m)

– Passengers: 45 standard (up to 55 in high density)

– Flight attendants: Up to 4

– Lavatories: 2

– Powerplane: 3X non-afterburning medium bypass turbofan; proprietary variable geometry intake and exhaust

– Aerodynamics: Chine, refined delta wing with swept trailing edge Long Range

– Cruise: Mach 2.2 (1,451mph, 2,335 km/h)

– Nose Temperature: 307°F (345°F on ISA+20 day)

– Maximum Design Route: 4,500 nautical miles without refuel (8300km)

Created by aerospace company Boom, the jet nicknamed 'Baby Boom' could pave the way for the larger Boom passenger jet (pictured) and usher in a new era of affordable supersonic travel 

US engineering firm Boom Supersonic is developing a 55-seat passenger jet (artist’s impression) capable of reaching Mach 2.2 that is expected to enter service by the mid 2020s

The aircraft is expected to produce a sonic boom that would be at least 30 times quieter than Concorde’s, which was dogged by high operating costs and fuel consumption and low capacity utilisation.

The Denver-based startup estimates that fares for its aircraft would be 75 per cent lower than Concorde’s and comparable to current business class tickets, due to its better fuel efficiency.

In a written statement, Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic, said in December: ‘We’ve been working with Japan Airlines (JAL) behind the scenes for over a year now.

Boom's jetliner aircraft is expected to produce a sonic boom that would be at least 30 times quieter than Concorde's, which was dogged by high operating costs and fuel consumption and low capacity utilisation

Boom’s jetliner aircraft is expected to produce a sonic boom that would be at least 30 times quieter than Concorde’s, which was dogged by high operating costs and fuel consumption and low capacity utilisation

Boom's huge passenger jet (interior pictured), which could begin commercial flights by 2025, will have one business-class seat on either side of the aisle so each passenger gets both window and aisle access. Tickets could cost as much as £1,700 ($2,500) according to some estimates

Boom’s huge passenger jet (interior pictured), which could begin commercial flights by 2025, will have one business-class seat on either side of the aisle so each passenger gets both window and aisle access. Tickets could cost as much as £1,700 ($2,500) according to some estimates

‘JAL’s passionate, visionary team offers decades of practical knowledge and wisdom on everything from the passenger experience to technical operations.

‘We’re thrilled to be working with JAL to develop a reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers.

‘Our goal is to develop an airliner that will be a great addition to any international airline’s fleet.’

Yoshiharu Ueki, president of Japan Airlines, added: ‘Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic travel with the intent of providing more ‘time’ to our valued passengers while emphasising flight safety.’

In November, Mr Scholl revealed that commercial flights on the aircraft could begin running by the mid-2020s, the vehicle cruising at up to 1,687mph (2,700kph) – 100mph (160kph) faster than the infamous Concorde.

Mr Scholl was speaking at the Dubai Airshow, when he revealed the details about the Boom Supersonic aircraft.

He said: ‘Think about for a moment the families that are separated because of the long flights.

‘Think about the trips not taken because when you add up the lost hours, the trip just doesn’t feel worth it.

‘That’s where we come in. We are a team of engineers and technologists, brought together for the sole purpose of making our world dramatically more accessible.

‘You won’t have to be on the Forbes’ list to be able to fly, it will cost about the same as flying business class today. The ultimate goal is to make supersonic affordable for anyone who flies.’

The firm showed off a model of the plane at the Dubai Air show
In November, Mr Scholl revealed that commercial flights on the  aircraft  could begin running by 2025, the vehicle cruising at up to 1,687mph (2,700kph) – 100mph (160kph) faster than the infamous Concorde. Pictured is a model of the firm's XB-1 demonstratot

The firm showed off models of the plane at the Dubai Air show in November, where it also revealed the timeline for the project

The firm has previously revealed that initial test flights for its 1,451mph (2,330kph) aircraft, nicknamed the 'baby boom' (pictured) will begin by the end of 2018
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The firm has previously revealed that initial test flights for its 1,451mph (2,330kph) aircraft, nicknamed the ‘baby boom’ (pictured) will begin by the end of 2018

While you might think that flying on such a high-speed aircraft could be a daunting experience, Mr Scholl reassured that passengers won’t even notice the difference.

‘This aircraft will be as quiet as the ones flying around the airports today,’ he said, adding that it will also be ‘significantly quieter than Concorde.’

Its prototype, the XB-1 jet, was created by top aviation experts with collective experience working at Nasa, SpaceX and Boeing.

Learning from the Concorde, they combined advanced aerodynamics, efficient engine technology and new composite materials to produce a ‘safe and affordable’ supersonic aircraft 2.6 times faster than current jetliners.

The prototype, backed by Sir Richard Branson, has been subjected to more than 1,000 simulated wind tunnel tests and features a tapered carbon fibre fuselage, and efficient turbofan jet engines.

In March 2017, Virgin told MailOnline Travel: ‘Richard has long expressed interest in developing high speed flight and building high-speed flight R&D through Virgin Galactic and our manufacturing organisation, The Spaceship Company.

‘We can confirm that The Spaceship Company will provide engineering, design and manufacturing services, flight tests and operations and that we have an option on the first 10 airframes. It is still early days and just the start of what you’ll hear about our shared ambitions and efforts.’

According to the simulations, Boom’s design is quieter and 30 per cent more efficient than the Concorde.

To reduce weight, the seats are of the standard domestic first-class variety, so no lay-down beds.

To cut flight time, Boom’s plane will cruise at 60,000 feet, where passengers will be able to see the curvature of the earth, while going 2.6 times faster than other passenger planes.

Mr Scholl said about 500 routes fit the craft’s market, including a five-hour trip from San Francisco to Tokyo and a six-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

A mock-up shows the supersonic craft at Heathrow - its founders hope it will use existing airports once tests are complete

A mock-up shows the supersonic craft at Heathrow – its founders hope it will use existing airports once tests are complete

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CONCORDE: THE FIRST COMMERCIAL SUPERSONIC JET

Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003.

It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers.

It was first flown in 1969, but needed further tests to establish it as viable as a commercial aircraft.

Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years.

It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially.

The other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144, which ran for a much shorter period of time before it was grounded and retired due to safety and budget issues.

Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers

Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet that was operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 k per hour at cruise altitude) and could seat 92 to 128 passengers

Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty.

Concorde’s name, meaning harmony or union, reflects the cooperation on the project between the United Kingdom and France.

In the UK, any or all of the type are known simply as ‘Concorde’, without an article.

Twenty aircraft were built including six prototypes and development aircraft.

Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) each received seven aircraft.

The research and development failed to make a profit and the two airlines bought the aircraft at a huge discount.

Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados.

It flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners.

Over time, the aircraft became profitable when it found a customer base willing to pay for flights on what was for most of its career the fastest commercial airliner in the world.

The aircraft is regarded by many as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel, but it was also criticized for being uneconomical, lacking a credible market, and consuming more fuel to carry fewer passengers than a Boeing 747.

Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and a decision by Airbus, the successor to Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support.