This tiny supersonic jet could be the next generation Concorde


Boom Technology, an aviation startup, unveiled today a subscale prototype of a supersonic passenger jet that aims to be the next generation Concorde. The XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, nicknamed “Baby Boom,” won’t take flight until late 2017, but Boom unveiled the prototype to a group of aviation and aerospace executives at Centennial Airport in Denver.

The XB-1 is a one-third scale version of the full production model that Boom hopes to have ready for passengers by 2020. The prototype only has room for the pilot, while the commercial-ready version will eventually hold up to 44 passengers. The startup claims its vehicles will be able to travel from from New York to London — normally a 7-hour flight — in just 3.5 hours, or LA to Sydney — typically a 15-hour trip — in 6 hours and 45 minutes. Tickets will cost the “affordable” price of $5,000 per seat.

New York to London in 3.5 hours

Blake Scholl, chief executive officer and founder of Boom, told The Verge he was motivated to build a supersonic jet to make it easier to travel great distances. “I’ve got little kids, and their grandpa lives in Hong Kong, which is 18 hours away,” he said. “They see him once a year, and they’ll never be close. It’s because we’re basically flying with the same airplanes we were using when my grandparents were little.”

There hasn’t been a supersonic commercial jet in operation since the Concorde jet, constructed by French aerospace company Aérospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation, was retired after 27 years of service in 2003. A number of factors went into Concorde going out of business, including the plane’s only crash in 2000 and Airbus, the successor to Aérospatiale, ultimately deciding to stop maintenance on the aircraft. The Concorde was also a gas-guzzler and a money-loser for Airbus. (Read this excellent piece in Vox for the full saga.)

Boom claims its aircraft can travel at a speed of Mach 2.2 (1,451 mph), or 10 percent faster than the Concorde and over twice as fast as the average airliner. What is it like to fly at that speed. Read The Verge’s Thomas Ricker’s recollection of his trip on the Concorde here, in which he describes it as the moment when he “almost touched the face of God.”