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2,000mph plane faster than Concorde that could fly from London to New York in 2.5 hours

The history of aviation is filled with a bevvy of bewinged oddities, some which bewildered, some which blew up and some which blew the opposition away.

The XB-70 Valkyrie did some of those things. A supersonic aircraft that was 50 percent faster than Concorde and one which – had it become an airliner – would have travelled from London to New York in just two and half hours.

In contrast, its Franco-British successor could do the journey in around three and a half hours, but then the XB-70 wasn’t designed with fee-paying passengers in mind.

Instead, it was originally conceived as a triple-sonic bomber for the US military that could carry payloads at altitudes as high as 60,000 feet at 2,000mph.

However, history – but mainly the US Government – had other ideas for the short-lived but blisteringly quick XB-70.

After a U2 bomber went down over what was then the USSR, a decision was taken to switch from manned bombers to ballistic missiles. The XB-70 meanwhile, would instead be used for high-speed research and development.

After a naming contest the XB-70 was named Valkyrie and it became one big high-speed test platform, one which paved the way for Concorde and its Russian rival, the also ill-fated Tupolev Tu-144.

Like its British and Russian successors, it had a long thin fuselage and a delta wing shape. Unlike Concorde however, it had moving wing tips that folded at low speed and six rather than four engines, each a General Electric turbojet.

Although it started out as a military bomber, at one point there was a proposal to turn it into a supersonic airliner with capacity for between 114 and 158 seats. To market the transport variant of the aircraft, fake windows were added in between tests, this was a serious proposal.

However, like many high-tech serious proposals, there was expense and there was danger, and it was this that killed the XB-70.

In 1966, an XB-70 collided with an F-104N during an aerial photoshoot for General Electric, killing the pilots in both aircraft.

The last flight of an XB-70 happened in 1969 when the surviving plane was flown to the Air Force Museum at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Despite its short life, the XB-70 remains an incredibly impressive aircraft which pushed the boundaries of speed.

Speaking to CNN Travel about the plane, historian Tony Landis said that the plane’s creation was a miracle given the technology of the time and that its legacy can be seen in the designs of today.

Mr Landis explained: “The overall design of the XB-70 was a thing of beauty.

“To think such an attractive aircraft, with its speed and altitude capabilities, was built over 65 years ago is hard to comprehend in today’s AI and computer-based engineering environment.”

He added: “Most people ask if this is a new design, as they’ve never seen anything like it.

“All large, high-speed aircraft designs benefit from the work done by the XB-70. And the data from those research flights continues to affect the design of future aircraft.”


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