New York to London in one hour? The Scramjet's failed test flight

Summary:The flight test for the experimental X-51A WaveRider plane which could potentially travel up to 4500mph has resulted in failure.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the flight test for the experimental X-51A WaveRider plane which could potentially travel up to 4500mph has resulted in failure.

As previously reported on SmartPlanet, the aircraft was prepared for its test flight at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California.

The trial flight for the aircraft, nicknamed Scramjet, has resulted in the third failure of the flight in three separate tests.

The Scramjet was successfully attached to a B-52 bomber's wing before being deployed approximately 50,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It was due to free-fall for four seconds before its engines ignited, which would in theory propel the aircraft with force five times the speed of sound after 30 seconds, climbing to 70,000 feet.

After this, the prototype was to be allowed to break up after hitting the Pacific Ocean, with no plans of recovery.

However, the test flight did not go exactly as planned. The Scramjet successfully managed to launch from the wing of the bomber, but after 16 seconds a malfunction appeared in one of the control fins. Due to this, the plane was unable to maintain its course and complete its acceleration and climb -- and the test was aborted before the scramjet engines managed to ignite.

Spiraling out of control, the plane is now ensconced in a Pacific watery grave.

Air Force Program Manager Charlie Brink called the results "unfortunate", saying:

"All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives."

The Air Force is currently working to try and determine why the control fin malfunction occurred.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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