Did you know that Concorde’s taxi to the end of a runway used as much fuel as a 737’s flight from London to Amsterdam? It was its exorbitant fuel bill that did it for the iconic aircraft, as much as its questionable safety record and an aging fleet.
And with the fleet permanently grounded in 2003, many thought the days of commercial supersonic flight were over forever. Well, it transpires they were only over for just twenty years, until 2023 in fact, when a new breed of supersonic aircraft will take to the skies again.
Carrying between forty-five and fifty-five passengers, the new aircraft will get from New York to London in under 3 ½ hours and from London to Sydney in a mind boggling 8 hours.
Prototypes of the new aircraft are likely to be airborne next year, thanks to an injection of cash from Richard Branson, who has already put his money where his mouth is by ordering ten airframes.
Branson has also pledged to provide something as valuable as cash; the hard won experience that his own team at Virgin has gained from attempting to offer passengers commercial space travel.
The new supersonic aircraft has been developed by a US start up called Boom Technologies, which unveiled a prototype earlier this week. The company called the prototype XB-1, although the US media has already renamed it Baby Boom.
It has the same sleek lines and pointy nose that characterised its now officially retired older brothers, but boy, will Baby Boom be able to travel. Its developers are planning on it regularly travelling at Mach 1 (the speed of sound or 768mph). That’s at least 2 ½ times the speed that commercial aircraft travel at today.
So will this type of air travel end up being the preserve of royals, footballers and hedge fund managers? Not according to the company’s owner, Blake Scholl, who, as a former executive at Amazon, probably saw at first hand how keeping prices down helps businesses grow.
He announced at the unveiling ceremony on Tuesday that supersonic air fares will be “about the same as tickets in business class” and future supersonic travellers will “be able to get anywhere in the world in five hours for $100 [£80].”
We wonder if this will now include Saudi Arabia. Why? Because in the 1980s, Concorde was prevented from flying over Saudi Arabian airspace as it was felt that the noise from the aircraft would disturb camel breeding. My, how times have changed.