A new hypersonic plane could rival Superman for the fastest thing in the sky. A team of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences just announced that when they tested a scaled-down model of their new hypersonic plane in a wind tunnel it got up to speeds of Mach 7, or 5,300 miles per hour. That’s way past Mach 5, which NASA defines as five times faster than the speed of sound, which would be about 3,800 mph at sea level.
The researchers published their results in the Chinese journal Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy. The plane was developed for the Chinese military, but could be used for passengers and could revolutionize travel. As author Cui Kai wrote: “It will take only a couple of hours to travel from Beijing to New York at hypersonic speed.”
According to Popular Science, the Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics, where Kai works, has another hypersonic breakthrough coming soon—a wind tunnel that can produce speeds of up to Mach 36, which will reportedly begin operations in 2020. If a plane could actually make it up to a speed of Mach 36 it could fly from China to California in just 14 minutes.
Hypersonic planes aren’t entirely new—the U.S. Air Force flew X-15s throughout the 1960s, hitting speeds of 4,520 mph (7,274 km/h) and the unmanned X-43A jet set the air speed record in 2005—but they were never particularly practical. Now, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are working to develop their own hypersonic aircraft, and Boom, a Colorado startup, is working to bring supersonic air travel back to passengers still mourning the loss of the Concorde.