Virgin supremo Richard Branson has signed an option to buy 10 supersonic passenger aircraft which resemble mini versions of the Concorde and could fly between Los Angeles and Sydney in six hours.
Branson has confirmed Virgin is backing the recently revealed supersonic Boom jets. Boom’s manufacturer claims the design will finally make supersonic travel affordable for the general public – though perhaps not for budget travellers.
Boom was founded in 2014 by former Amazon executive Blake Scholl. Its supersonic aircraft design can travel up to Mach 2.2 or 1451 mph (2335 kph), equivalent to flying New York to London in 3 hours and 24 minutes. That’s about 100 mph faster than Concorde.
The proposed fare is USD 5000.
Boom could fly from, say, Perth to Auckland in marginally over three hours. The current record for that leg, non-stop, is held by Concorde, which operated a one-off, non-stop Perth/Auckland sector as part of a Halley’s Comet observation charter in 1986. I was on the flight and the Concorde had to move outside populated zones so the shockwave produced by breaking the sound barrier would not damage built-up areas.
Scholl said he was “thrilled to be working with Virgin. It’s hard to imagine a better partner for bringing supersonics to market”.
He said his plane would be able to succeed where Concorde ultimately failed because Boom would make flights much cheaper, allowing business executives to commute across the Atlantic if they wished.
The Guardian has reported that Boom’s plane will have 40 seats in two rows 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, as well as direct access to the drinks trolley”.
That’s the same as the seating arrangement on Concorde, which cruised at the same altitude. You could see the curvature of the earth from that, I remember it 30 years ago. And drinks, finest Champagne, were never far away.
Scholl told Bloomberg the Boom jet will be built using a carbon-fibre composite, of the sort favoured by the B787 and A350.
He said about 500 routes fit the craft’s range and market, including a five-hour trip from San Francisco to Tokyo and a six-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.
Finally, to bring the project down to earth, it’s worth remembering that the plane does not yet actually exist.
Written by Peter Needham