Evacuated Tube Transport could take you to China in two hours

Ever look at a pneumatic tube at a bank and think, “Why couldn’t I travel like that?” A new form of high-tech transportation called Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) could take passengers in car-sized capsules traveling through tubes so fast that you could make it from New York to Beijing in two hours. Unlike pneumatic tubes that work with air and suction, the ETT works via magnetic levitation and frictionless tubes. The ETT could travel up to 4,000 miles per hour for long trips (over twice the speed of the supersonic Concorde jet), or 370 miles per hour for shorter trips, and tubes would be routed like freeways to avoid congestion. ETT proponents claim it’s silent, cheaper than planes and faster than jets, though an extensive network of tube rails would have to be constructed to connect the network.

While the capsules may look a bit claustrophobic, the ET3 consortium claims that the transport would provide more room per passenger than airplanes or cars, and TVs could be provided to “provide distraction from negative thoughts.” Tubes would be constructed with emergency escape hatches and EMT facilities in case of emergency, and the braking system would be automatic with multiple backups (unlike the Springfield monorail).

Licenses for the ET3 concept are said to have been sold in five countries, and you can sign up for the “first 3D Virtual Ride” (coming in Q2 of 2011, oops!) on the ET3 website, but a prototype has yet to be developed. ET3 hopes that with more support, low-cost world travel could be possible in a decade. The question remains, would we still have to turn off our electronic devices for the trip?

Rant: The world needs to return to the supersonic jetliner era

Forget warm meals, smiling flight attendants or the right to check bags for free – the one thing I miss the most in the aviation world is supersonic travel. Sure, Concorde was an insanely expensive way to travel, and the plane had its fair share of technical and environmental issues, but she stood for something very important – the realization that travel by air should be faster.

In this day and age, it is absurd that a coast to coast flight has to take seven hours. With a supersonic flight, you could get on the plane at JFK, and get off in San Francisco a little over two hours later. Or how about flying from Los Angeles to Tokyo in five hours instead of eleven?

I’d even settle for the knowledge that a supersonic plane is under development, but after Concorde was put to rest, so was the chance that we’d see anything remotely like her in the next couple of decades. Every year, an aviation startup hits the news with their plans for a supersonic jet, but their plans usually end up just that – plans. Worst of all, many of the proposed supersonic jets don’t even make it past the snazzy graphics and fake mockup image phase.

For supersonic travel to take off again, Boeing or Airbus will need to be the driving force. Sadly, Boeing stopped development of their Sonic Cruiser back in 2002 and focused their attention on the Dreamliner. So, until one of the major airplane makers gets back to work, we can only think back to the era of Concorde and the realization that we were more ahead of our time in 1969 than we are today.

A New Supersonic Passenger Jet on the Horizon

Five years ago, the famed Concorde supersonic jet made its final flight. Most people thought that when the final French-designed craft set down, it would be the last anyone would hear about supersonic passenger jets for a long time.

But one American company is making big and brash talk about its Concorde-like craft, which could be in the air in 2012 and ready to carry passengers by 2015. The Aerion Supersonic Jet will not be as large or spectacular as the Concorde. But the manufacturer claims that it will be able to travel at mach 1.6, a velocity that will allow it to reach New York from London in 3 hours.

It wasn’t lack of speed that killed the Concorde, though. It was high operating costs. A spokesman for Aerion claims that new technology can keep the cost of flying at supersonic speeds from overwhelming airlines and operators:
“Concorde was a beautiful machine and a product of its time, but technology has moved forward and new designs such as the Aerion jet offer greater efficiency. Concorde was withdrawn due to high operating cost, which Aerion technology has successfully overcome.” The company has already received 50 orders for the plane, which will retail for more than $70 million.

[Via The Daily Mail]