The final frontier of aviation: ultra-long distance travel at speed

Citation X Cessna_Aircraft

A new exploration of the world’s fastest private jets by Air Charter Service (ACS) has the Cessna Citation X+ sneaking into pole position at 0.935 Mach – that’s a hairsbreadth off supersonic speed. But this fast plane is unlikely to hold its position for long. There is a revolution taking place in aviation that will soon see planes flying much further at vastly increased speeds.

The fastest private jets of the future will reach supersonic and even hypersonic speeds, but what does the aviation industry’s seeming obsession with speed mean for the commercial air traveler?

The reason jets should fly faster

There are two simple answers to the question. The faster you fly, the sooner you reach your destination – which is increasingly important in a world that measures minutes in cents and dollars. The second reason is: the faster you fly, the further you can go in less time – expensive stopovers and layovers may soon become a thing of the past.

Most people hate stopovers and it’s especially disruptive for business travelers who fly longer distances more often. According to Geoffrey Thomas of, when an airline puts on non-stop flights, traffic on that route increases threefold.

The year long-haul got serious

October 11, 2018 passengers were able to fly 9,500 miles non-stop from Singapore to Newark, New Jersey in 19 hours. It was the longest non-stop flight in commercial aviation history. Despite offering no economy class and ticket prices that are about 20% more than those with a stopover, the once-daily Singapore Airlines flight has proven population since its inception and the airline is planning additional non-stop Singapore to Los Angeles flights.

Before this, the longest non-stop flights were Qatar’s 17.5-hour from Auckland to Doha, and a 17-hour non-stop flight between Perth and London, which was launched in early 2018.

So, which planes are making this possible?

The planes that will get you farther


The original fuel-guzzling long range airplane of choice, the Airbus A340-500, has been replaced by the A350-900 ULR (ultra-long range) twin-engine aircraft that uses about 25% less fuel than the 777 they were designed to replace. Still, the A350-900 ULR’s fuel system had to be modified to carry an additional 24,000 liters of fuel in order to be able to make 9,700 nautical miles of non-stop flight possible.

The experience of long-distance flights on the A350-900 ULRs have also improved. Passengers now enjoy higher ceilings, larger windows and lighting designed to reduce jet lag. Higher humidity settings, and lower cabin altitude settings are also possible thanks to new technology.

The future of faster, ultra-long range flying

The “final frontier of aviation” is said to be non-stop flights from Sydney to London, or New York to Sydney. To this end, Airbus and Boeing are working on Qantas Sunrise. This project will offer Australia’s flag carrier a plane capable of carrying as many as 300 passengers on these routes.

Of course, the longer the flight, the more passenger comfort becomes an issue. So, Airbus is exploring the possibility of adding underfloor sleeping pods in the cargo area, similar to those provided for flight and cabin crew on some long-haul flights. Conference rooms in other cargo areas, and play spaces for children are also being looked at.

Meanwhile, aerospace companies are hard at work to make supersonic travel an everyday reality. For example, American startup, Boom Supersonic, has plans to start building planes in 2023 that will travel at 1,451 miles an hour. This means a flight from New York to London could be achieved in three hours and 15 minutes.

The findings of the ACS report – The fastest private jets in the world: past, present and future – a comparative analysis – suggest that in the next five years, evolving technology will allow airplane manufacturers to bring us aircrafts that are faster, have a gentler impact on our environment and change the experience of flight for commercial air travelers.