As someone who has lived for years on one continent while the vast majority of my friends and family live on another, I have long dreamed that some brilliant company would finally make a real-life, Star Trek-style transporter beam. One minute I'd be standing in the chaos of Heathrow, next I'd be hurrying towards the luggage carousel at JFK.
In my more realistic moments, I admit that's a long-shot, but for me and other frequent travelers, a recent bit of news out of the aviation industry might be the next best thing to "Beam me up, Scotty!" Apparently a startup backed by Sir Richard Branson is trying to bring back supersonic air travel 13 years after Concorde folded--but this time at a price you might actually be able to afford.
London to New York in Under Four Hours
The company behind this push to bring back supersonic travel is Boom, an aviation startup based in Colorado. Supported by Virgin, which has signed an option to buy 10 of the new planes, Boom is using currently available technology to build jets capable of flying at Mach 2.2, or 1,451 mph (faster than the Concorde's top speed of Mach 2.01), which will cut the flying time between London and New York to under four hours.
All of which is fine and dandy, but the return of super-fast flight will do nothing for me personally if a seat runs $20,000, like it did on the Concorde. But no, apparently Boom has something much more affordable in mind.
"We are talking about the first supersonic jet people can afford to fly," Blake Scholl, the founder and CEO of Boom, told The Guardian. "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 return, [which is roughly] the same as [the cost] of business class." He claims flights could commence in as little as a few years.
Boom's planes will be smaller than the Concorde, with just 40 seats arrayed in two long rows. "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," notes Fast Company.
Zooming Across the Pacific?
It's still early days for the effort, Virgin has stressed, but Scholl is clearly thinking big. "The same thing works in the Pacific. San Francisco to Tokyo will take four and a half hours, you can leave in the morning have meetings, eat great sushi, and be back in California before midnight on the day you left. This is not saving you an hour here or there, this lets you commute," he said, painting a picture of a whole new age of business travel for The Guardian. The company is also eyeing the L.A. to Sydney route.
Of course, it's too soon to get overly excited about the return of commercial supersonic flight. The project needs more funding to get off the ground, and who knows what technical or regulatory hurdles will crop up. But I, for one, am rooting for Boom.
How about you, would you be interested in flying with Boom at the price projected?