Today, international travel means jet-lag and days of lost productivity and family time. But imagine leaving New York in the morning, making afternoon meetings in London, and being home to tuck your kids into bed. This may soon be possible.
The return of ultra-fast air travel, since the end of the Concorde service, has taken a step closer to reality with Virgin Group recently announcing it has signed a deal to buy 10 supersonic jets from a company called Boom based in Colorado.
Boom founder Blake Scholl, a pilot, and former Amazon executive, is working on a prototype of the jet (pictured below) which will travel up to speeds of 1,451 miles per hour – Concorde’s top speed was in the region of 1,350 miles per hour. According to the company’s website, the jet’s design of lightweight carbon-fibre composites, propulsion systems, and airframe materials will allow the aircraft to be the “fastest passenger plane ever.”
Boom’s supersonic jet is predicted to fly at Mach 2.2 – “2.6 times faster than any other [current] airliner” according to the company’s website, and faster than Concorde’s Mach 2.0. The Mach 2.2 jet would be capable of flying from New York to London in under 3.5 hours.
The same ultra-fast air travel will be available in the Pacific. A flight from San Francisco to Tokyo will take four and a half hours…
… and Los Angeles to Sydney will take six hours.
Scholl claims his jet will succeed where the Concorde failed because flights will be more “affordable.” The reported price will be about $5,000 return – a price comparable to a business class fare on a standard airline. “Concorde was just too expensive to fly, to fill 100 seats at $20,000 each,” Scholl said.
Boom says a first prototype of the 40-seat plane is said to be completed by the end of 2017 and commercial flights could begin within just a few years. Boom’s plane will have 40 seats in two rows on either side of the aisle, meaning that every passenger will get a direct view of the curvature of the earth as the plane cruises at 60,000ft. Today some of the corporate jets can fly at 51,000 feet and most airliners are limited to 45,000 feet or less.
As well as partnering with Virgin, Scholl said he has signed a letter of intent with a major London-based airline, which wants to buy $2 billion worth of his jets. Scholl reckons there is so much demand for faster international travel that affordable supersonic flights could become a $100bn market.
Scholl concedes that he still needs much more funding to get even the prototype into the air. So far Boom has attracted just $2m of investment from mostly Silicon Valley billionaires, but he said he has more investors lined up when he needs to tap fresh funds.
So right now it’s just one of many new supersonic and hypersonic plane concepts promising shorter and shorter flight times, with none yet to see a runway.