Could this be the first nuclear powered airliner

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Source: BBC

By Stephen Dowling

It could whisk you from London Heathrow and have you stepping onto the air bridge at New York’s John F Kennedy airport just three hours later. It would take you in no small comfort – luxuriously so, if you’re in first class – at speeds approaching 2,300mph (3,680km/h), the Atlantic Ocean racing below your feet.

The Flash Falcon, looking like a spacecraft from the video game franchise Halo, is a futuristic peg to fill the hole left by the retirement of the Supersonic Concorde in 2003. No prototypes have been built though – the design so far lives only in the imagination of Spanish designer Oscar Vinals, who also design a ‘whale-shaped’ giant airliner BBC Future profiled back in 2014.

(Credit: Oscar Vinals)

The giant aircraft would carry up to 250 passengers at three times the speed of sound (Credit: Oscar Vinals)

The Flash Falcon, Vinals’ concept imagines, would carry 250 passengers at Mach 3, in an airframe more than 130ft (39 metres) longer than a Concorde and with a wingspan twice as wide. Its engines would even be able to tilt up to 20 degrees to help the aircraft take-off and land like a helicopter.

I think nuclear fusion could be the best future source to obtain great amounts of electric energy – Oscar Vinals

At the heart of the Flash Falcon is something even more revolutionary; Vinals’ aircraft is designed to fly on nuclear power, with a fusion reactor pumping energy to its six electric engines.

“I think nuclear fusion could be the best future source to obtain great amounts of electric energy,” Vinals tells BBC Future. “At the same time, it’s ‘green’ without creating dangerous waste.

(Credit: Oscar Vinals)

The Flash falcon would be able to take off and land like a helicopter thanks to its moveable engines (Credit: Oscar Vinals)

“Today, we have a very clear idea about how nuclear fusion works; there are many projects working on it, such as Tokamak, Iter, and Stellarator. I’m very optimistic that in the next five-to-seven years we will have the first stable and productive fusion reactor,” says Vinals.

Whether the long-awaited key to cheap and plentiful power arrives quite so quickly, Vinals’ concept revives a dream that has preoccupied aircraft designers since the 1950s – how to fit a nuclear reactor into an aircraft.

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