London to NY in 3.5 hours?
Richard Branson’s latest supersonic aircraft makes it possible
The billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has pledged to help the Denver-based start-up company Boom build a new generation of supersonic jets and kick-start a new wave of transatlantic flights that check in at under four hours.
This hasn’t been the case since 2003, when Concorde made its final flight.
Not only will the aircraft soar through the skies at 1,450 mph, but Branson claims it will be “affordable” (if you have a spare £4,000, that is).
Here’s what we know so far…
The prototype is ready
A spokesman for Boom revealed that the “XB-1 Supersonic” will be the fastest civil aircraft ever made. The company, founded in 2014, has nicknamed the jet the less futuristic-sounding “Baby Boom”. Branson, famous for Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic – which aims to take tourists to space, supported the project. A prototype was presented to the public in November.
“Baby Boom” will fly at an altitude of 59,000 ft and its speed will be even faster than the legendary Concorde, which ceased operations three years after a fatal crash in 2000. By comparison, a standard passenger aircraft flies at an altitude of between 30,000 to 40,000 ft high, and rarely exceeds a 500-600 mph speed range.
It will have just 45 to 50 seats, compared with Concorde’s 92 to 128. Although £4,000 sounds expensive for a return flight, it seems a bargain when you consider that most normal business flights cost the same amount.
Branson has announced that he plans to initially buy ten of these jets at price of £160m each.
When will it be ready to take off?
The first “Baby Boom” test flight is set to take place near Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California in 2017, with plans to launch the first commercial departures in 2023 – exactly 20 years after Concorde’s last hurrah.
Other possible routes include San Francisco to Tokyo in five-and-a-half hours and Los Angeles to Sydney in under seven hours.
It could go even faster
It’s speculated that aircraft could even be equipped with hypersonic technology in the not-so-distant future, which is five times faster than the speed of sound. Jets capable of this could transform aviation and connect the world in ways never seen before.
For example, a flight from Sydney to London would take just two hours. Scientists from different countries have been working together on this project, and a first test flight of a rocket was successful in May 2016.
Earlier this year, Canadian engineer Charles Bombardier revealed a concept plane capable of taking ten passengers at a top speed of Mach 24 – covering 12,430 miles in under an hour, or the equivalent of London to New York in 11 minutes.