Virgin will partner with Boom to buy 10 of its new supersonic aircraft, with ticket prices about the same as current business class.
These innovative planes would be faster than the decommissioned Concorde service, able to fly from London to New York in about 3.4 hours, yet would be cheap enough to run that they would be economically competitive with normal airlines taking more than twice as long.
Virgin, as reported in the Guardian newspaper, has signed a deal to buy 10 of the planes from Boom founder Blake Scholl, who is working on a prototype supersonic plane from its production facility in Colorado. Boom has also reportedly signed a $2 billion (£1.4bn) deal with an unnamed London airline to help it develop its own planes.
“We are talking about the first supersonic jet people can afford to fly,” Scholl said.
“This isn’t science fiction, we are actually doing this. You will be able to fly New York to London in three-and-a-half hours for $5,000 (£3,548) return,” he said, before adding it will be a similar price to current transatlantic business class flights.
Boom says a first prototype of the 40-seat plane is said to be completed by the end of 2017. It will travel 2.6 times faster than any other airliners, up to speeds of 1,451mph (Mach 2.2).
In comparison, Concorde’s top speed was around 1,350mph.
The smaller size of the planes compared to the 100-seat Concorde is what enables the cost savings.
“Concorde was just too expensive to fly, and to fill 100 seats at $20,000 each,” Scholl said. “You have to bring the ticket price down, and make the aeroplane the right size so you can fill the seats.”
The use of carbon fibre and other lightweight materials not available at the time of Concorde makes the planes approximately 30% more fuel efficient as well. Scholl is also heading up a heavyweight engineering team filled with veterans from Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Gulfstream, NASA and Boeing, as well as having board-level members with a history at Virgin.
With some estimates that affordable supersonic mass travel could eventually become a $100bn industry, compared to the total 2015 airline industry value of $742bn, this really could be the next big leap in travel.
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