Soon, we will be able to travel from London to New York in three hours – for the same price we currently pay for the arduously longer eight-hour flight. That’s according to Boom, an aerospace startup company designing the next supersonic passenger jet.
Looking over the last few decades, one may ask themselves the question of how much has air travel progressed during this period? We now have double-decker jumbos, safer journeys than ever, better in flight entertainment and lower prices. But it is not that exciting – to us cynical folk it simply means longer queues and more time standing around. Air travel is not enjoyable; we don’t look forward to it. If anything we fear it more than ever. We fear every time there is turbulence; we fear suspicious characters lurking around the airport and now, thanks to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and Germanwings Flight 9525, we fear for the integrity of the plane and the level of trust we have placed in the pilots’ hands. Air travel has become a dangerous and nerve-racking chore; a means to an end we wish we could do without.
However, Boom, based in Denver, plans to send the human race supersonic again and put the thrill back into flying, after we said a final goodbye to Concorde over fifteen years ago. Concorde was both a leap for aviation and an engineering masterpiece, a spectacle – returning air travel back to the once glamorous days of absolute luxury and privilege. Though for all its glory, Concorde took its final flight in November 2003 – deemed to be too expensive to run, too polluting and among a multitude of other things, it had become dated. Competitors had built jumbo jets capable of carrying many more passengers, at a much-reduced cost per seat to airlines – passing on a portion of savings to the ticket buyers and generating higher profits. Cheap travel was winning over fast travel – jumbos were the way forward, and all investment was heading that way.
Now, though, with technology having advanced considerably since Concorde was developed, Boom, along with many industry experts, believe it is viable to produce the next generation of supersonic passenger jets. The company has designed a forty-seat plane that can fly 2.6x faster than existing airliners, at 1,451 mph (Mach 2.2). The jet will be split into two single-seat rows and will fly at 60,000 feet, 50% higher than current passenger jets and at a height where passengers will be able to see the curvature of the globe. The aircraft will be built of a carbon-fibre composite opposed to the usual aluminium.
Demand growth has been high since the turn of the millennium, coupled with falling prices; the air travel industry looks like one that will continue to grow powerfully for the foreseeable future. As the world economy continues to grow, we will see strong air travel growth with it, particularly from developing countries. The industry will be presented with millions of more customers, building space for new entrants to the market. New players will stand to offer technologically advanced aircraft, innovative service and an all round better experience. Existing companies in the market will be closely watching this space try to stay ahead of their competitors and potential new entrants. And that is exactly what has happened. One UK based airline, Virgin, has already signed a letter of intent with Boom to purchase $2bn worth of planes.
So, our generation may yet get to go supersonic. Imagine being able to travel between London and New York in three hours; you could almost commute.
Every single day, technology makes Planet Earth that little bit smaller.