UPDATE | The return of commercial supersonic flights is one step closer following this week's reveal of the Boom XB-1 'supersonic demonstrator' in Colorado, USA.
Backed by Brit billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who has an option to buy the first 10 of these next-gen Concordes, this mockup 'Baby Boom' demonstrator is a scaled-down version of the full-sized XB-1 jet which aims to slash travel times on popular over-water routes like Sydney-Los Angeles and New York-London.
The Baby Boom is more akin to a private jet made for testing the Boom's new wave of supersonic technology, and is one-third the size of the final commercial XB-1 design (both planes are shown below).
The Sydney-Los Angeles route would become a seven-hour supersonic sprint – down from an average 13 hours today – at around US$3,500 (A$4,720) each way, although there's talk of a refuelling stop en route.
The trans-Atlantic dash between London and New York would take just over three hours, down from about an eight-hour flight, at US$2,500 (A$3,375) each way.
Those trips would be flown at just over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.2, or about 2,700km per hour, compared to the Concorde's Mach 2 and conventional commercial jet speeds of 800km/h to 965km/h.
And Boom's passengers would enjoy a far superior experience to Concorde's cramped seating: the all-business class layout of 45 seats will provide plenty of legroom, just one seat either side of the centre aisle, and oversized windows to take in the view from 60,000 feet.
The seats themselves will offer ample space to work and relax, with inflight AC charging ports to keep your travel tech powered up.
Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl says Boom will succeed where Concorde eventually failed because developments in technology and lighter materials will translate into much cheaper tickets which will make supersonic travel affordable to the mainstream.
"Sixty years after the dawn of the jet age, we’re still flying at 1960s speeds," Scholl says.
"I don't know a single person who wouldn't want to get there in half the time, rather than have some free champagne. It won’t be a bucket-list purchase any more. There is a huge market and the margins are enormous."
Scholl sees up to 500 global routes for Boom but will concentrate initially on New York-London, Los Angeles-Sydney and San Francisco-Tokyo.
"Ultimately I want people to be able to get anywhere in the world in five hours for $100. To get there you have to improve fuel efficiency, but step-by-step supersonic air travel will become available for everyone."
Boom plans to start testing its actual XB-1 prototype by the end of 2017 ahead of a launch for the full-size XB1 in 2023.
PREVIOUS | Virgin Galactic has called dibs on the first ten of a new breed of supersonic jets dubbed Boom, with Sir Richard Branson eager to kickstart a new revolution in affordable supersonic flights for business travel and high-end personal travel.
Although smaller than the legendary Concorde, the team behind Boom claim their supersonic jet – built using modern technology such as carbon-fibre composites – will be both quieter and faster.
Fast enough to dash between Sydney and Los Angeles in around six hours – slashing the current flying time in half, so you could leave Sydney at 6pm and still land at LAX around 6.30am local time.
That's almost too fast, given that you'd barely eke out four hours of sleep between take-off, supper, breakfast and landing – in other words, flying from Sydney (or Melbourne, or Brisbane) to Los Angeles would be more akin to catching a red-eye from Perth.
Of course, the very lucrative and low-hanging fruit is the London – New York route, which the Boom jet could clock in a Concorde-esque three and a half hours.
Boom's top speed of Mach 2.2 will bend the needle at 2,716km/h, with the jet soaring at 60,000 feet – almost half as much again as today's commercial flights – where it can slice through the thinner atmosphere while also providing passengers with a stunning view of the Earth's curvature.
But jettison thoughts of jetset luxury: the reality of bums-on-seats economics means that Boom will be fitted with standard (albeit very comfy) domestic-grade business class recliners rather than fully-flat beds.
The designers envisage just 40 seats in each single-class Boom jet, with a 1-1 layout so that every passenger gets both a window view and direct access to the aisle.
The Concorde, by comparison, carried 100 passengers in cramped 2-2 seating.
Virgin Galactic's interest is at present limited to options to buy the jets – at an estimated US$200 million (A$260 million) each – rather than firm orders.
But the boffins behind Boom are serious about their plans to usher in a new era for supersonic travel, and they're seriously cashed up, too.
They'll need to be.
The twelve years since Concorde's last flight has seen no shortage of inspired ideas for next-gen supersonics, however Boom's challenge is not only to build the jet from scratch but also to rebuild the commercial market for faster-than-sound travel.
"This isn't science fiction," says Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl. "We're not using any technology that doesn't already exist, it is just putting it together in the right way."
The aim is to deliver supersonic speeds without astronomical airfares.
"This is supersonic passenger air travel... and it's actually affordable. 'The idea is for a plane that goes faster than any other passenger plane built before, but for the same price as business class. Our ultimate goal is routine supersonic flight for everyone."
The company hopes to wheel a working prototype out of the hangar by the end of 2017.
Photo gallery: Inside the British Airways Concorde
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