Futurism

We Are Witnessing the Return of Supersonic Travel

In Brief


People last experienced supersonic travel in 2003, the last flight of the Concorde jet. Thanks to Boom Supersonic, the method of travel is returning.

The potential return of supersonic travel has been a hot topic lately, thanks in no small part to the Denver-based startup Boom Supersonic. Now, the program is getting another boost in the form of an investment by Japan Airlines. JAL announced on Tuesday that it’s investing at least $10 million in the startup, which hopes to return supersonic speed to the commercial market. Boom is expected to be faster, more affordable to fly and quieter than its predecessor, the Concorde.

As part of JAL’s investment in Boom, the Tokyo-based carrier now has the option to purchase up to 20 Boom aircraft. The airline will also help Boom by providing its experience and knowledge to help design the aircraft and establish what the passenger experience will look like.

According to Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl, the two companies have been working together for more than a year. Tuesday’s announcement formalizes the relationship. JAL is the first commercial airline to go public with its funding in Boom. However, the supersonic company, which plans to launch commercial service by the mid-2020s, already has orders for 76 planes, including orders from five global airlines. In addition, the company has received backing from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which has options on the first 10 Boom jets.

When they enter service, Boom’s aircraft are expected to be at least 30x quieter than the Concorde. In addition, the company estimates that its fares would be comparable to business-class fares we’re used to seeing today, and 75% lower than those of the Concorde’s. Among other factors, the Concorde was doomed by its high fuel consumption and high operating costs, components Boom isn’t expecting to have issue with.

The current Boom model is designed to reach speeds of Mach 2.2 while cruising — more than 1,450 miles per hour. In all, the supersonic jet could make the trip between the West Coast of the US and Tokyo in 5.5 hours — less than half of what the trip currently takes. Plus, by 2023, Boom plans to offer lie-flat seats on its supersonic jets.

“We expect to do many deals with many airlines,” Scholl explained to TechCrunch in an email. “Initially, our goal is to select at least one partner in every region of the world. We will continue to engage with other global carriers to maximize the value of JAL’s investment and bring back supersonic commercial travel.”

JAL’s investment isn’t the first time that commercial airlines have ordered or invested in supersonic jets. While Boom has high hopes for what its future will look like in terms of partners, orders and investments from the commercial aviation sector, the Concorde had a similar outlook during its beginning stages. In the 1970s, several airlines places orders for the Concorde before eventually cancelling — TWA, American, Continental, United, JAL and more. Even with this investment, commercial supersonic travel returning to the skies is still a long way off.

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