Airlines show interest in Boeing Sonic Cruiser

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The Independent Online

More than a dozen airlines, including British Airways, have expressed a serious interest in Boeing's proposed high-speed Sonic Cruiser, a senior executive from the US aircraft manufacturer said last night.

John Roundhill, vice president of marketing for the new sub-sonic plane, said that he expected Boeing to decide whether to launch the plane next spring and that it could be in service by 2008.

The Sonic Cruiser will fly at 0.95 Mach – just below the speed of sound, making it 15-20 per cent faster than conventional aircraft. Boeing said it will also be quieter than today's big twin-engined aircraft and no more environmentally harmful.

The basic model being discussed with airlines would be a twin-aisle aircraft seating 200-250 passengers. It would have a range of 7,000-8,000 nautical miles, enabling it to shave nearly two hours off the flight times from London to Singapore, Los Angeles to Sydney and Hong Kong to New York.

Longer-range variants capable of flying from London to Sydney in 18 hours are also under consideration, but Mr Roundhill said no airline had yet expressed an interest. He would not comment on the size of the potential market or on development costs.

But industry observers believe that if Boeing does launch the Sonic Cruiser it will cost at least $10bn to $12bn (£7.1bn-£8.5bn) to develop – the same as the new Airbus Superjumbo, the A380.