Richard Branson is working with a Colorado aviation startup called Boom to bring back supersonic flights to the business world, the Guardian reports. Boom aims to create a new plane that can fly at supersonic speeds of up to Mach 2.2 (1,451 mph) and cost passengers as little as $5,000 round-trip to make the commute from New York to London is less than three and a half hours. Boom wouldn’t be the first commercial supersonic passenger plane, of course. That title goes to the Concorde, which was retired in 2003.
"We are talking about the first supersonic jet people can afford to fly," Blake Scholl, the founder and chief executive of Boom, told the Guardian. Seats on the Concorde cost up to $20,000 per trip. "Concorde was just too expensive to fly, and to fill 100 seats at $20,000 each. You have to bring the ticket price down, and make the airplane the right size so you can fill the seats."
The Boom, which is being built in conjunction with the Spaceship Company, one of Branson’s R&D arms of Virgin Galactic, will have two rows of 20 seats on either side of the cabin. That means everyone will get a window seat and be able to see the curvature of the earth since the plane will be flying at 60,000 feet, which is 20,000 feet higher than most commercial flights.
Scholl says the Boom will be able to sell seats for a quarter of the cost of the Concorde’s seats primarily due to advances in carbon fiber technology, which make the Boom 30% more fuel efficient. "We’re not using any technology that doesn’t already exist," Scholl said. "It is just putting it together in the right way."
Besides the New York to London trip, the Guardian notes that Boom is also planning supersonic flights from San Francisco to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Sydney. A Virgin Group spokesperson noted that the Boom’s development is "still in the early days" and much is yet to be done. However, the company has already optioned the rights to buy the first 10 Booms off the production line. The first Boom plane is expected to be tested by the end of 2017.
"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," Scholl told the Guardian. "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."