Supersonic Passenger Travel is Back in Business

Photo: Boom Supersonic

Futuristic aircraft manufacturer Boom Supersonic made waves at the Paris Air Show this week as it revealed its revolutionary aircraft prototype and design, which could hit the skies for testing as early as next year. The aircraft, which is expected to make supersonic travel affordable (though affordable is a relative term — it’s guessed that seats will be around $5,000 roundtrip), can reach speeds of Mach 2.2, or 1,451 mph.

What may have originally been seen as an overly ambitious goal is getting a fair bit of backing, with 76 aircraft ordered, some of those orders placed by international airlines. One recognizable name placing their bets with the company is Virgin, but not the Virgin you may have flown across the Atlantic or the States. Instead, Virgin Galactic has placed an order for the first 10 planes to roll out (and is also providing manufacturing services and testing support). The price tag? $200 million apiece.

The future of supersonic travel, now very within reach, is exciting to many aircraft and travel enthusiasts alike. After all, many travelers of a younger set are begrudgingly miffed they never had the chance to fly on the Concorde, which was not only expensive to maintain, but also ridiculously expensive to fly.

The interior of the Boom Supersonic passenger aircraft is anything but shabby. Photo: Boom Supersonic
However, don’t just bet that hordes of people will be climbing onto a Boom Supersonic aircraft any time soon, though test flights of a technology demonstrator are scheduled for 2018. That first model, in fact, isn’t even for passenger travel. It’s about 68 feet long, and holds two individuals. The future passenger version is almost triple that size, at 170 feet, and makes space for six crew members and 55 passengers. This passenger version is expected to offer commercial flights around 2023.

The startup, though, is just getting started. It currently only has 35 employees and is receiving backing from investors to get its dream off the ground. Boyd Group International, an optimistic consulting firm, is projecting the sell of more than 1,000 aircraft, and maybe even 2,000 if the U.S. government relaxes its laws against over-land supersonic flights.  While that seems like a ridiculously high sales estimate, the excitement level for a supersonic airliner is admittedly the highest it has been in decades.