We’ve reported before about a Colorado-based aircraft manufacturer called Boom, which is developing a next-generation supersonic passenger plane. In 2016, it got a big boost from Sir Richard Branson, and now Japan Airlines is officially joining the supersonic party.
Branson’s involvement with Boom included an option to purchase the first 10 airframes it produces, followed late last year by the creation of a technical partnership between Boom and Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceflight company, committing the two firms to work together on engineering, manufacturing and flight tests.
Now Japan Airlines says it has made a strategic $10 million investment in Boom, and has taken a pre-order option to buy up to 20 supersonic aircraft from the manufacturer. JAL added that it will be working with Boom “to refine the aircraft design and help define the passenger experience for supersonic travel.” In fact, Boom CEO Blake Scholl said his company has been working “behind the scenes” with JAL for more than a year.
Boom’s initial design specs envision an aircraft with 45-55 business class-type seats (about half the size of the late Concorde), a cruising speed of Mach 2.2 (2.2 times the speed of sound, or 1,415 mph – a little faster than Concorde’s Mach 2), a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet, and the beginning of commercial service by the “mid-2020s,” assuming all goes well.
Scholl said last year that the plane could operate profitably on as many as 500 international routes with sufficient demand for a supersonic product, like Tokyo-San Francisco, New York-London and Los Angeles-Sydney.
Sir Richard Branson has estimated that the new SST could make the New York-London trip in three and a half hours, and operate profitably at fares of about $5,000 roundtrip. The aircraft would have a range of 8,334 kilometers, or 4,500 nautical miles, enough to fly non-stop from Beijing to London — or from San Francisco to Tokyo in five and a half hours.
Bloomberg News said Boom now has commitments for 75 aircraft from five airlines, with some customers already paying significant deposits, and it reported that Boom just hired a former Airbus executive as its new vice president of production.
Readers: How much of a premium over business class fares would you be willing to pay for a supersonic flight that cuts your travel time in half or better?