International flights take forever. Just for a "quick" jaunt to Europe, you’re looking at sitting on an airplane for at least six hours. The experience is always miserable, unless you’re lucky enough to get upgraded to first class (or have the dollars to pay for it). Now imagine if that trip only took an hour or two. If hypersonic airplanes can be realized, you could fly from New York to Beijing in just two hours, taking advantage of a new design from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
A typical air-breathing hypersonic plane includes an inlet where air comes in (compressing it), a combustor where gas and oxygen burn and become heat, and a nozzle that takes the heated air and uses it to create thrust. Both the inlet and the engine are usually located on the body of the plane, with the front of the plane designed as a "waverider" shape, which helps lift the plane into the air and reduce drag.
In their study, the Chinese scientists suggested that a slightly different design might work better. They built upon current hypersonic models, but suggested two "waverider" surfaces (further helping a plane’s lift and drag reduction), along with double flanking air inlets on the plane’s body, increasing the plane’s speed and power.
Here in the U.S., our military has been testing hypersonic vehicles for a few years, getting up to speeds of Mach 20. It’s only a matter of time (we hope) that the commercial airline industry begins testing hypersonic travel. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, the days of long international flights will soon be over.