Airline travel should be one of the beacons in the pantheon of civilized benefits. You can cross great distances in a relatively short period at a price many can afford. When it comes to the actual experience, though, finding the best experience is often the search for the lesser of all evils. Even after paying your money you could get bumped from overbooking and some in the industry seem to focus on how to make the experience even less comfortable than is already the case.
But take heart because sometimes good news bubbles out, like the development of a middle seat you'd want to take. And now comes this week's news from the Paris Airshow that real supersonic flight is coming back.
Boom Technologies, a nascent aircraft producer, announced at the annual show that 5 airlines have placed orders for 76 supersonic craft that will run at Mach 2.2. That's San Francisco to Tokyo in 5 hours instead of 11, or New York to Paris in 3.5 hours rather than 7.
Someone order my croissant and café au lait.
It's been years since the British-French Concorde could take a little more than 100 passengers at twice the speed of sound -- Mach 2.04 -- and make the transatlantic route between the U.S. and EU in a few hours. For many of us who did weekly business travel for too long, anything that shortens the flight is something to cheer.
What helped kill off the Concorde is noise. There's that pesky sonic boom that happens when the craft moves faster than sound and the shock wave is, uh, shocking.
Presumably Boom is working on the problem because others are as well. NASA is working with Lockheed Martin on a supersonic model that would cut the noise by almost 40 percent and make it viable for transcontinental flight, otherwise known as New York to Los Angeles in 2.5 hours. Startups with backing from Airbus and Virgin Galactic are also in hot pursuit of what you might call -- apologies to the old Rocky & Bullwinkle Show -- Hush-a-boom.
Right now, Boom -- the aircraft company, not the mythical silent cartoon explosive is the only one with public target dates. A smaller proof-of-concept vehicle is expected to fly late next year. Production would be in full swing by ... 2023.
Okay, yes, that's six years away. But as a sweetener, Boom says that lower costs of operation should allow a one-way transatlantic flight for about $2,500, or what you might expect for business class today. It's enough to make an entrepreneur open a branch office.