Richard Branson invests in ‘affordable’ supersonic flights with ‘mini-Concorde’

A prototype plane is planned by the end of next year and commercial flights could begin in “a few years”

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The Independent Online

Sir Richard Branson has staked a claim on 10 supersonic jets that could offer “affordable” 3.5 hour flights between London and New York.

Branson has signed an option to buy 10 next-generation supersonic jets that may introduce 3.5 hour flights between London and New York for the round-trip price of $5,000.

“Richard has long expressed interest in developing high-speed flight and building high speed flight R&D through Virgin Galactic and our manufacturing organisation, The Spaceship Company,” a Virgin Group spokeswoman said.

“We can confirm that The Spaceship Company will provide engineering, design and manufacturing services, flight tests and operations and that we have an option on the first 10 airframes. It is still early days and just the start of what you’ll hear about our shared ambitions and efforts.”

Branson is partnering not with Boeing or Lockheed Martin – legacy aircraft makers that are also working on new supersonic jets – but Boom, a Denver-based start-up, that hopes to beat competition to market by using existing technology that would not need to seek approval by regulators.

Boom has unveiled a design for a 40-seat jet that can fly at Mach 2.2, which means a London to New York flight would take 3 hours and 24 minutes at 60,000ft. At that height, each of the 40 passengers would be able to view the curvature of the earth from window seats split either side of the aisle.

While $5,000 for a round-trip doesn’t sound cheap, Boom’s founder said it’s significantly cheaper than Concorde, which cost $20,000 a ticket and had 100 seats to fill.

The Boom website advertises a dream of “leaving New York in the morning, making afternoon meetings in London, and being home to tuck your kids into bed”.

“The idea is for a plane that goes faster than any other passenger plane built before, but for the same price as business class,” Blake Scholl, Boom founder and chief executive officer, told Bloomberg.

A prototype plane is planned by the end of next year and commercial flights could begin in “a few years”, Scholl has said.