Branson-backed startup planning supersonic business travel with new aircraft
Sir Richard Branson is keeping his jet-setting ways aloft with a new supersonic aircraft from Virgin Galactic and Colorado-based Boom Technology. The plane will carry up to 45 business travelers at 1,450 mph – 2.2 times the speed of sound.
Since the Concorde is no longer an option, the new supersonic jet, XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, is being built now as the new method of getting business people from New York to London in three hours and 11 minutes, or Denver to Tokyo in just under seven hours, according to a story in the Denver Business Journal.
The test plane, known by employees at Boom in Centennial, Colorado, as the Baby Boom, will be tested starting in late 2017. Virgin Galactic, the space arm of Branson’s Virgin Group, Ltd., is helping with the development of the 45-seat option, and testing at supersonic speeds will be done at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California once sub-sonic tests have been completed in the Rockies. Unlike the Concorde, the Boom aircraft needs no afterburner, which will save significantly on fuel costs.
“As an innovator in the space, Virgin Galactic’s decision to work with Boom was an easy one,” said Branson in a statement. “We’re excited to have an option on Boom’s first 10 airframes. Through Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing arm, The Spaceship Company, we will provide engineering and manufacturing services, along with flight test support and operations as part of our shared ambitions.”
Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom, said that most airlines are still flying at 1960s speeds and that this is the next logical step.
"Concorde’s designers didn’t have the technology for affordable supersonic travel, but now we do. Today, we’re proud to unveil our first aircraft as we look forward to first flight late next year,” said Scholl.
The Drum previously reported that the planned “affordable” supersonic flight is expected to start at £1750, or £3500 return, a price that is considerably less than a flight with Concorde's, which cost £5400 one-way.
For Branson as well, this scratches another travel itch as the merger of Virgin America with Alaska Airlines has left him contemplating whether or not to start a rival airline.