Since the withdrawal of Concorde, there has been little news of any supersonic flight service to replace it. In fact development in supersonic passenger aircraft appeared to have stalled with cost and economic viability seeming to be one of the reasons. Concorde, despite being a beautiful aircraft was, after all, a flight service used only by the wealthier in society. But that could be set to change with the unveiling of the Boom supersonic passenger aircraft.
The Boom supersonic passenger aircraft is promising flights from London to New York in 3.5 hours with a return ticket price of $5000 – a similar price to the cost of a current business class flight. Whilst for many of us, this may still be unaffordable, when the flight time is more than halved, it’s a cost many businesses will be more than happy to pay.
The aircraft will have just 40 – 50 seats and the technological and material advancements since Concorde, mean that aircraft can be produced and maintained more cost effectively and those savings can be passed on through the lower ticket price.
The Denver based start-up Boom was set up by former Amazon executive Blake Scholl and is backed by Richard Branson, who himself is passionate about aerospace innovation. The Virgin Galactic side of the business will provide engineering and manufacturing services as well as flight test support.
Talking about why he set up the venture Scholl said “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,” His ultimate intention is to bring ticket prices right down and make supersonic flights affordable to everyone. “Ultimately I want people to be able to get anywhere in the world in five hours for $100. To get there you have to improve fuel efficiency, but step-by-step supersonic air travel will become available for everyone” he said.
The intention is to concentrate on a few major routes like London to New York, San Francisco to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Sydney, before spreading wider and opening up more supersonic routes across the world.
There are other companies developing supersonic jets, but the Boom team are confident that they can and will beat them to the market based on the fact that they do not intend using any new technology that would require approval by regulators. They hope to have their first test flight in 2017 with commercial services starting in 2023; 20 years after the last Concorde flight.
You may well wonder if there is a need for supersonic flight. After all, with the improvements in video and teleconferencing you can speak to people worldwide from the comfort of your chair. However, in some circumstances, there is a need to be face to face for those important meetings and deals, especially where there are many people and big budgets involved. Sometimes you just have to physically be in the room.
For performer and entertainers, the ability to reduce flight times from 10 hours down to 3 or 4 has a big impact, especially at the anticipated pricing.
For many ordinary people, a supersonic flight was just a dream, a lifetime ambition that was never expected to be achieved. But who knows? That dream of supersonic travel may just become affordable for many more people in the not too distant future.