Image courtesy of Boom Supersonic.
Sometimes, air travel is a hassle to even the most well-traveled road warriors, in part because of the long flight times that one might have to endure. Remember back when Concorde was still flying around between New York and London/Paris? Why would you choose to spend eight hours or more in an economy class seat when you could jet across the Atlantic Ocean at 2.02 times the speed of sound, arriving on the other side of the pond in just two-and-a-half hours?
The only two supersonic airliners ever produced were the Concorde, and its Russian twin, the Tupolev Tu-144. Both have been out of service for a long time, and for the time being, travelers have been relegated to slowly cruising across in the world at jets that travel at roughly 0.85 times the speed of sound. The reason why supersonic flight has been discontinued was that these jets were eight times more inefficient than conventional jets available at that time; furthermore, the loud sonic booms that they caused were the subject of many complaints by disgruntled residents.
In recent years, we've seen many startup companies investing again in supersonic travel, which could potentially be a feasible mode of transportation due to the fact that travel time could cut by much as a factor of 4. One such company is Denver-based Boom Supersonic, who is developing a three-engine, 55-seat aircraft that would travel at 2.2 times the speed of sound, and be able to travel from the west coast of the United States to Japan in about five hours. Plus, these aircraft are rumored to offer lie-flat business class seats, a luxury that Concorde didn't have.
File photo of a lie-flat business class seat concept on the Boom Supersonic aircraft. Image courtesy of The Points Guy/Boom Supersonic.
Today, Japan Airlines announced that it will invest at least $10 million in Boom Supersonic, gaining 20 options to purchase the jets once they become available. By doing so, Japan Airlines (or JAL, as it is commonly known) confirms its investments in passenger experience, as many of its flights to the United States are fairly long. By using Boom's jet, that travel time could be shortened to just half of what it takes today.
I'm really excited to see that some airlines have confirmed their interest in supersonic travel, but alas, it will be several years to see what the future holds for aviation. As of right now, supersonic travel over the United States is illegal, and in order to succeed, Boom needs to convince officials that supersonic travel should be made legal, in order for the benefits to be realized.
Are you excited about this innovative travel concept?