I've always said biplanes would have their day, but who would have thought they may be the answer to the future of supersonic flight? A successor to the technological marvel that was Concorde is long overdue, and if it is to have two wings then so much the better!
Despite employing principles from as long ago as the 1930s the MIT design, whilst having shades of retro-futurism about it, is very much grounded in the 21st Century. Although the idea of a "supersonic biplane" has the right ring to it, this is a particularly modern take on the layout. So to end with and in keeping with the vintage feel of this blog here are some biplane airliners from the '20s and '30s which, while certainly not capable of exceeding the speed of sound, at least look like the sort of aircraft we would associate with double-winged aeroplanes.
The Armstrong Whitworth Argosy was Imperial Airways' (the precursor to British Airways) first multi-engined airliner, entering service in 1926. Seven examples plied the European (and later the Empire links to South Africa and India) for ten years until 1936. The luxury Croydon-Paris service was named the "Silver Wing" and boasted a bar with steward. Seating was for twenty people and the cruising speed was a heady 90mph.
The Handley Page H.P.42 was introduced in 1930 to complement the Argosy and to extend Imperial Airways' long-distance routes. Eight were built in all, 4 for the European flights and 4 for the Empire routes. Capable of seating up to 24 passengers the H.P.42 enjoyed an enviable safety record - never losing a single life whilst in [civilian] service - unmatched by any other contemporary aircraft. Its low cruising speed of 100mph may have had something to do with it; as one commentator of the time put it "it's as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar - and about as fast", adding that it had "built-in headwinds"!
Sadly none of these amazing aircraft made it through the Second World War (although they were not all lost to enemy action - three of the H.P.42s, for example, were destroyed in incidents where they were blown over or against other aircraft in strong winds). An attempt to build a replica of an H.P.42 foundered a few years ago, so all that remain of these giants are photographs and cine footage. But their legacy will live on, perhaps to find a new lease of life in this potential supersonic biplane of the future.