Boom Technology Inc., seeking to build a supersonic jet for passenger travel, got a $10 million investment from Japan Airlines Co. as the U.S. startup aims to revive ultra-fast travel that ended more than a decade back with the Concorde.
Japan Air also agreed to take an option to purchase up to 20 aircraft, the two companies said in a joint statement posted on the carrier’s website. The Asian carrier is the second company to publicly announce an intention to purchase Boom’s supersonic jet, after billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic.
Boom’s idea is to build a 45-to-55 seat aircraft that cruises at Mach 2.2 (1,451 miles per hour), or capable of whisking passengers between New York and London in about three hours. The Concorde, flown by British Airways and Air France at twice the speed of sound, retired in 2003 after almost three decades in service as customers abandoned the jets amid declining economies and maintenance costs to keep them flying soared.
Japan Air, also known as JAL, will provide its knowledge and experience as an airline to support Boom in developing the aircraft, the company said. The aircraft, which aims for an entry into service in mid-2020s, will have a range of 8,334 kilometers, roughly the distance between Beijing and London.
Boom Technology had commitments for 75 planes and customers have paid significant deposits, CEO Blake Scholl said at the Paris Air Show in June. Orders were spread across five airlines.
Boom, which says a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo could be completed in five and a half hours, has already struck a deal with the Spaceship Co., the manufacturing division of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, to use that company’s engineering, design, and flight-test support services.
“The future needs friends,” Scholl said on Twitter ahead of the 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.”
On the Concorde, deep-pocketed passengers could fly the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound from 1976 to 2003. After costs and noise complaints killed off that supersonic jet, NASA, Lockheed Martin Corp., General Electric Co. and a number of startups including Boom saw new designs and technology that could make supersonic flight a commercial reality.
Boom in November hired Bill James, a former Airbus SE executive who led wing-design on the A380 superjumbo, as its vice president of production operations. The company was in the process of selecting a site for a production facility, and was in talks with about 20 airlines to sell the plane.
Boom’s demonstration aircraft passed a preliminary design review in May, with the demo plane’s first flights scheduled for late next year.
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