Virgin and Boom want to bring back supersonic flights for $5,000 round-trip
A startup is trying to reinvent supersonic airline service 13 years after the Concorde's last flight.
Boom has introduced an idea for a supersonic flight that will take passengers from New York to London in about three hours and 20 minutes.
The company hopes to fly its first prototype plane in 2017 and says commercial flights could begin within the next few years.
“This is supersonic passenger air travel, no bullshit, and it’s actually affordable," Boom CEO Blake Scholl told The Guardian.
How affordable? Scholl estimates that the round-trip cost will be $5,000.
A round-trip flight flight from New York to London aboard the Concorde would cost roughly $15,000 today, adjusted for inflation. Nonstop, round-trip economy flights from New York to London can run from about $700 to $1,400 today, according to a recent Google Flights search.
“Ultimately I want people to be able to get anywhere in the world in five hours for $100," Scholl said. "To get there you have to improve fuel efficiency, but step-by-step supersonic air travel will become available for everyone."
Scholl, who previously worked for Amazon and founded a company (Kima Labs) that was acquired by Groupon, is not an obvious aerospace CEO. But two years ago, the 35-year-old entrepreneur moved from Silicon Valley to Denver and enlisted aerospace experts to work with him on a lifelong passion project: reinventing supersonic air travel.
“I started this because I was sad that I never got to fly on Concorde. I waited but no one was doing it, so I decided to," he said.
Boom jets would travel at Mach 2.2, about 1,450 mph. By comparison, the Concorde flew at Mach 2.0 and most of today's airliners fly at Mach 0.85.
But breaking the speed of sound has its consequences. Supersonic travel is currently banned over land in the U.S. for the tremendous sound it produces. For that reason, Boom is focusing on routes from London to New York, San Francisco to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Sydney.
The Boom plane will have 40 seats in two rows, making every seat both a window and an aisle seat.
As Bloomberg Businessweek notes, the designs are mostly theoretical at this point. But Scholl hopes that Boom's new technology will help it avoid the fate of the Concorde.
The Concorde folded after 27 years in the air due to an unfortunate series of events. The first was a devastating crash in 2000 that killed all 109 people on board, plus four people on the ground. The crash had been caused by debris on the runway.
After the crash, and in the middle of a changing economic climate, it got harder to justify thehigh operating costs of the Concorde. Not many were willing to pay the price tag after the highly publicized crash. And so, in 2003, with profits deflating, the Concorde made its last flight.
But Boom is hoping the world will not go 15 years without supersonic flight: The company just signed an agreement with Richard Branson's Virgin Group, making the prospect even more likely to happen quickly. Virgin has optioned Boom's first 10 planes and will help with the manufacturing.
Virgin's manufacturing arm, The Spaceship Company, "will provide engineering, design and manufacturing services, flight tests and operations," a Virgin spokesperson told The Guardian. "It is still early days and just the start of what you’ll hear about our shared ambitions and efforts.”
Boom also optioned 15 planes to an unnamed European carrier, bringing the total value of optioned planes up to $5 billion.
But Boom isn't the only company looking at bringing back supersonic travel.
One group of enthusiasts is trying to get the Concorde back in the air by 2019. And inFebruary, NASA announced that it is working on developing a quieter supersonic jet for commercial use.