Saturday 10 December 2016

Supersonic Boom: New passenger plane to fly faster than Concorde

Mach 2.2

Published 15/11/2016 | 01:00

'Baby Boom', the XB-1 prototype
'Baby Boom', the XB-1 prototype
'Baby Boom', the XB-1 prototype
Concorde's last flight from New York lands at Heathrow on October 24, 2003. The airplane was retired from commercial use on that day following a fall in passenger numbers and high maintenance costs. Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Boom''s design team
A British Airways Concorde arrives at Logan International Airport in 2003. Photo: Douglas McFadd/Getty Images
A British Airways Concorde on a Christmas flight to Finland, December 24, 1987. Photo: Mohamed LOUNES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A new generation of supersonic jet is promising Concorde-style travel that "anyone can afford to fly".

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Anyone who can afford $2,500 for a transatlantic flight, that is.

That's the estimated fare for a three-hour flight from London to New York on a Sir Richard Branson-backed prototype due to take off next year.

Boom is a US-based company aiming to "overcome the challenges of supersonic passenger flight," and Virgin Group is one of its investors.

The company is developing a slim-body aircraft capable of flying at Mach 2.2 (1,451mph), with the first passenger flights due "in the early 2020s".

Concorde, which flew for the final time in 2003, reached Mach 2.0.

'Baby Boom', the XB-1 prototype
'Baby Boom', the XB-1 prototype

State-of-the-art aerodynamics, carbon fiber reinforced plastic and advanced turbo-fan engines will make the airliner "as efficient and affordable as business class" in today's airlines, Boom says, making return transatlantic flights doable in a single day.

XB-1, its prototype 'Demonstrator' plane, will take to the skies in 2017.

Ultimately, the finished product will be the world's fastest civil aircraft, carrying 45 passengers in one, premium class. Each will have a large personal window, direct aisle access and seat dimensions "similar to short-haul first class".

Other agencies, including NASA and BAE Aerospace, are also working on next-generation supersonic jets. Key to their success will be the ability to operate quieter flights, without the noisy 'boom' associated with Concorde.

An 'X-Plane' under development for NASA by Lockheed Martin aims to produce a supersonic "heartbeat" (a less disruptive, soft thump), for example.

Boom also says its flights will produce "a much quieter" noise.

A British Airways Concorde arrives at Logan International Airport in 2003. Photo: Douglas McFadd/Getty Images
A British Airways Concorde arrives at Logan International Airport in 2003. Photo: Douglas McFadd/Getty Images

If supersonic jets do succeed in making ultra-fast flights more affordable, airlines will quickly look beyond transatlantic travel to other profitable routes - trans-Pacific, for example, or to major hubs in Asia, Australia and Latin America.

"This isn't just for people with private jets - it's for anyone who can fly business today, and soon for everyone who flies," said Boom Founder and CEO, Blake Scholl.

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