BY JAN WONDRA
As the latest indication that the reputation of Colorado continues to grow in the field of aviation and aeronautics, Japan Airlines has signed an agreement with Boom Technology to invest in development of an airplane that could reduce the flight time between Tokyo and the U.S. West Coast to just five and a half hours.
Boom, located near Centennial Airport and founded in 2014, is designing a Mach 2.2 55-passenger supersonic transport that Boom says will cruise at 1,450 miles per hour. That’s a cruising capacity of 2.2 times the speed of sound.
Japan Airlines or JAL has invested $10 million in the start-up with the goal of reviving supersonic air travel by the middle of the next decade. The investment includes an option to purchase 20 planes, about half as many as the now-retired Concorde, which was retired from service in 2003.
The new plane would have a flight range of 4,500 miles before refueling, meaning it could traverse a good circumference of the globe in one flight. The company projects that it could design and produce a commercial supersonic plane by 2023.
“This is about signaling to the broader ecosystem that this is something that there’s real airline customer interest in,” said Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and CEO. “The money is largely symbolic, but it’s an important symbol. JAL doesn’t put $10 million around without thinking really hard about it.”
The potential for the concept spans the globe. Boom Technology says the market could include 1,000 supersonic airliners traveling as many as 500 global routes with business class fares. As of this month, Boom says it has gathered 76 commitments. The company, which also refers to itself as Boom Supersonic, has been actively involved in funding development—raising $51 million in venture capital this year alone, including the JAL investment.
The world’s only other commercial supersonic plane was the iconic Concorde, a French-British collaboration. It flew for 27 years beginning in 1976 and was retired amid concerns over high operational costs. The Concorde traveled at twice the speed of sound, crossing the Atlantic in just three and a half hours. Its demise was hastened by a 2000 crash that killed 113 people.
Boom Technology says its new design would keep the Concorde delta wing configuration, but would be built of lower-weight composite materials, which would cut manufacturing costs as well as reduce flight-operation costs. The company says the design and materials would reduce take-off noise and the tell-tale “boom” sound made by supersonic speeds over land areas.
With the money already raised, the company says it can move ahead with the development of a small two-seat demonstration aircraft, a one-third scale it calls the XB-1. Boom expects to conduct its first test flight by the end of 2018.