Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is teaming up with aerospace startup Boom to help build a new fleet of supersonic commercial jets that can travel at more than twice the speed of sound. The startup claims its vehicles will be able to travel from from New York to London in just 3.5 hours, with tickets costing an "affordable" price of $5,000 per seat — "the same price as business class."
The planes will be able to fly at Mach 2.2, or 1,451 miles per hour
Virgin will initially help Boom with research and development, a spokesperson for the Virgin Group told The Verge. Branson's spacecraft manufacturing company, The Spaceship Company, will provide "engineering, design and manufacturing services, flight tests, and operations" to Boom, the spokesperson said. Virgin will also have the option to buy the first 10 planes if production goes well. "Richard has long expressed interest in developing high-speed flight and building high speed flight R&D through Virgin Galactic and our manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company," the spokesperson said.
Boom's planes will have 40 seats total, divided into two aisles with one seat per row. They'll be able to fly at Mach 2.2 (1,451 miles per hour), more than twice as fast as modern commercial airplanes. And the vehicles will zoom at a lofty altitude of 60,000 feet, around 20,000 feet higher than the average commercial airline's cruising height. Boom hopes to test out its first plane by the end of next year.
If Boom can pull off its vision, its vehicles could be the first commercial supersonic jets to enter service after the Concorde was retired in 2003. The Concorde boasted 100 seats, but a single round-trip ticket ran upward of $10,000. Boom founder Blake Scholl says that his planes will be a more realistic option for customers. Scholl even suggested that customers could commute daily cross-country or across the Atlantic. "Imagine departing from New York at 6AM, and landing at Heathrow by 2:30PM London time," Scholl told The Guardian. "You’ll be able to make afternoon meetings, you can stay until 9:30PM, have a full productive day, and back in New York at 8PM [local time] so you can tuck your kids into bed."
The 11-person company doesn't have a prototype yet
As groundbreaking as this all sounds, Boom still has a long way to go. The 11-person company doesn't have a prototype yet and needs more investment funds to meet its testing timeline, according to The Guardian. But Scholl said he has more investors lined up, and a major European airline has signed a letter of intent to buy $3 billion-worth of the eventual supersonic jets.
Boom isn't the only group trying to bring back supersonic flights to the commercial airways. A group called Concorde Club says it has enough money to restore a Concorde jet for use in air shows and for private charters, with plans to resume flights sometime in 2019. Airbus has also filed a patent for its own supersonic jet that can supposedly go four times the speed of sound. And a Boston-based company Spike Aersospace is looking to build an $80 million supersonic jet that will be filled with embedded video displays rather than airplane windows.