Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has joined hands with aerospace start-up Boom to help build a new fleet of supersonic commercial jets, capable of traveling at speeds over twice the speed of sound.
According to the start-up, its planes would be able to make it from New York to London in just 3.5 hours, with tickets costing an ''affordable'' price of $5,000 per seat - ''the same price as business class.''
Virgin would initially help Boom with research and development, according to a spokesperson for the Virgin Group who spoke to The Verge. Branson's spacecraft manufacturing company, The Spaceship Company, would provide ''engineering, design and manufacturing services, flight tests, and operations'', according to the spokesperson. Virgin would also get the option to acquire the first 10 planes if production went well.
''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,'' the spokesperson said.
Boom's planes would have 40 seats in all, along two aisles with one seat per row. The planes would be able to fly at Mach 2.2 (1,451 miles per hour), more than twice the speed of modern commercial airplanes, with the planes zooming at a lofty altitude of 60,000 feet, around 20,000 feet higher than the average commercial airline's cruising height. The test flight is expected to happen by the end of next year.
The company plans to roll out its first prototype plane in 2017 and says commercial flights could begin within the next few years.
''This is supersonic passenger air travel, no bullshit, and it's actually affordable," Boom CEO Blake Scholl told The Guardian.
''Ultimately I want people to be able to get anywhere in the world in five hours for $100," Scholl said. "To get there you have to improve fuel efficiency, but step-by-step supersonic air travel will become available for everyone."