Home Data & Expense New supersonic commercial flight from Boom could go from San Francisco to Tokyo in under 6 hours

New supersonic commercial flight from Boom could go from San Francisco to Tokyo in under 6 hours

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Artist rendering of the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator jet from Boom Technology at Centennial Airport in 2016. Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Travellers could soon fly at supersonic speeds on commercial airlines that zip from San Francisco to Tokyo in under six hours, following a $10 million investment by Japan Airlines into the Denver-based startup Boom Technology.

Boom plans to build jets that travel at 1,450 mph, or 2.2 times the speed of sound, and operate them in a partnership with Japan Airlines by the mid-2020s. Japan Air has agreed to purchase up to 20 jets, according to a Tuesday announcement, and will work with the startup to help develop the aircrafts for commercial use.

Japan Air is the second company to announce its plans to go supersonic with Boom, after Virgin Atlantic Airways pledged to buy the first 10 Boom jets earlier this year. The aircrafts will seat 45 to 55 passengers, and will be capable of flying from New York to London in about three hours, traveling about 5,178 miles before it needs to refuel, the company said. The plan is to offer business class accommodations and keep tickets at business class prices, despite a massive cut in travel times.

Boom isn’t the first company to push for faster travel speeds. Concorde, a French-British airline, traveled at supersonic speeds for nearly three decades until 2003. The pricey flights came to an end because of high costs, noise complaints and a crash in 2000 that killed 113 people.

New regulations will require Boom planes to be more stable while flying at supersonic speeds, and Boom will go through several stages of testing before producing a fully functional jet. The jets will be smaller to simplify safety regulations and construction. The company successfully completed wind-tunnel tests in January, and will be aided by Virgin Galactic for future supersonic testing. Learning from Concorde’s deadly mistakes, the Federal Aviation Administration now requires lower emissions and a quieter boom when traveling at supersonic speeds.

The $10 million investment is significant for Boom since the company has little reputation in the aviation world and no federal funding. But the company will need many more major investments in the coming years in order to develop, test and produce the 76 planes it has on order. As of this latest investments, Boom has raised about $51 million in funds from private investors.

“The future needs friends,” Boom CEO Blake Scholl tweeted ahead of the funding announcement. “Pioneers who stick their necks out, take a stand, support the new, the half-born, while uncertainty remains and the risk of failure is still quite real.”

Boom hired former Airbus executive Bill James as its vice president of production operations while the company moves ahead to select a site for a production facility. The company is in talks with about 20 airlines to sell the plane, according to a Bloomberg report.

Domestic supersonic flights are banned across Europe and the United States because of the noise pollution, but for intercontinental flights that are primarily over oceans or countries without a ban on supersonic aircrafts, the reduced flight times could be an attractive option for travelers.

Boom is planning to test its designs on a one-third scale model, dubbed the “Baby Boom,” in late 2018.

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