Supersonic air travel no longer science fiction

Photo courtesy UM Communications

Consider a plane that can fly sideways and enter supersonic mode without a supersonic boom.

Not to be confused with a UFO, the aircraft looks like a four-cornered ninja star plastered with the orange and green U logo.

And it can take you from New York to Los Angeles in two hours flat.

This crazy contraption, called a supersonic bi-directional flying wing nonetheless, is not something out of a childhood Dr. Seuss tale.

The man who came up with this machine is GeCheng Zha, an associate professor in aerospace engineering at UM. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Montreal.

NASA recently awarded Zha and his team of researchers a $100,000 grant for the supersonic bi-directional flying wing concept, allotting them further exploration.

A sleek aircraft model with four wings, the plane uses its longer wingspan for take-off, while the two shorter wings create less drag once it turns on its side and continues flying into the uppermost parts of space, according to an article published in The Daily Mail.

The grant was awarded by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts division, which promotes noteworthy ideas that can impact future NASA endeavors. The money will allowZha and his team to continue their research on the bi-directional flying wing for an additional year, bringing them one step closer to their goal of breaking the supersonic barrier.

“It’s exciting, and I hope this inspires others,” Zha said.

Zha’s concept for this unique plane design can potentially change the future of air travel by remedying two problems that are inherent to traveling at supersonic speeds.

The first is noise, Zha said. The plane’s speed would not create the thunderclap sound produced by a sonic boom, reported

“As you break the sound barrier, it is very noisy. That is one of the reasons supersonic travel was forbidden by land,” Zha said.

The second is that supersonic air travel consumes an enormous amount of fuel.

“This design greatly improves fuel efficiency and minimizes the amount of noise, bringing us closer to supersonic travel,” Zha said.

The supersonic bi-directional flying wing’s 90-degree rotation would not produce an intolerable G-force, or the force due to the acceleration of gravity during free-fall. The flight experience would be milder than that of what airline passengers feel during take-off, according to

It may take decades for this concept to become reality, according to an article published in The Daily Mail, but the funds still give the research a giant boost. Zha looks forward to making the once-unimaginable notion a scientific mainstay.

“Long ago we used to think the earth was flat, and that our solar system was at the center of everything,” he said. “Now we know that our solar system is just a piece of it all, and we’ve landed a rover on Mars.”

September 5, 2012


Isabel Brador

Lyssa Goldberg

Lyssa Goldberg is online editor of The Miami Hurricane. She is a senior majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in math. She has interned at Mashable and the Miami New Times, and her work has also been featured in The Huffington Post.

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Supersonic air travel no longer science fiction”

  1. Captain Francko says:

    Way to go Dr. Zha ! WOO ! ! ! :-)

Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • Error

With the University of Miami season opener closing in, the next starting quarterback has yet to be n ...

The second fall scrimmage, closed to the media and public, is over. University of Miami coach Mark R ...

1. DOLPHINS: Fins any good? 'Dress rehearsal' may tell: Opening win, then lopsided loss. W ...

University of Miami linebacker Jamie Gordinier has had another unfortunate setback, effectively side ...

The calmest coach on the planet got mad Friday after football practice. University of Miami coach Ma ...

UM’s new chief academic officer holds some 40 patents, and in 2017 was inducted into the National Ac ...

University of Miami students and researchers are blogging during a month-long expedition in the Gulf ...

María de Lourdes Dieck-Assad, a world-renowned economist and former ambassador, fills a new role for ...

Through the U Dreamers Grant, DACA students find essential support as they pursue their college degr ...

UM students talk about their internships up north in a city that never sleeps. ...

RSS Error: A feed could not be found at A feed with an invalid mime type may fall victim to this error, or SimplePie was unable to auto-discover it.. Use force_feed() if you are certain this URL is a real feed.

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.