Building a supersonic plane isn’t the stuff of science fiction.
For 27 years, up until 2003, Concorde ran a supersonic route from NYC to London — the only problem was that it cost $100,000 a seat and the plane had 100 of them.
Now, a new startup wants to upend its legacy and provide something that’s not only faster than the Concorde, but also cheaper. And it’s already attracted the attention of the Virgin Group, which has options on the first 10 planes, and has offered to help manufacture it.
“We’re building a supersonic aeroplane that you can actually afford to fly. No bulls—,” Boom founder Blake Scholl told Business Insider. “This thing will actually fly.”
Scholl has been obsessed with supersonic planes since Concord shut down its line in 2003. In 2007, he set up a Google alert to track the next company to try to make one. No one ever did.
“If you look back to Concorde, it wasn’t really a technical failure, it was an economic failure,” Scholl said.
By 2016, he’s decided to just make one himself — and make it affordable. A flight from NYC to London would only take 3.4 hours and cost $5,000 round trip. The regularly 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, would be shaved down to 6 hours.
Boom’s designs mean the plane would fly at Mach 2.2, or 1,451 m.p.h., more than 2.6 times faster than other airlines today. Whereas Concorde built a plane to fit 100 people, Boom’s smaller plane would only fit 40 to keep the price down and demand up.
Supersonic travel is currently forbidden by the FAA over land, so it’s starting with only international routes that cover a large portion of water, Scholl explains. His vision, though, would be to make supersonic travel available over land and water.
“The real future is supersonic everywhere. To do that, you have to show that this isn’t something that’s disruptive,” Scholl says.
Over the past year, he’s assembled a team that’s worked on more than 30 different aircraft, from Virgin Galatic’s Spaceship Two to helping design the autopilot for Boeing’s 787. They’re designing the plane so it won’t have as loud of a sonic boom — where the company gets its name — thanks to both its design and its size.
Scholl promises the company will starting testing subsonic flights of the aeroplane in late 2017 near Denver. If everything goes according to plan, it will move to testing supersonic flights at Edwards Airforce Base.
The Virgin Group, which owns Virgin Airlines, already has the options on the first 10 planes, the company announced Wednesday. Another European carrier, which is unnamed, has options on an additional 15, to a tune of $5 billion, Scholl says.