Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson is backing a plan to resurrect supersonic air travel for the first time since Concorde was retired 13 years ago.
The Virgin owner is helping develop of a US-based passenger jet that may be able to fly transatlantic in three hours and 15 minutes – half the current flight time between London and New York.
A prototype of the jet, manufactured by aerospace company Boom, was unveiled in Denver yesterday.
Sir Richard confirmed that space flight company Virgin Galactic has an option to buy ten of the new aircraft, which will be capable of flying at 1,451mph – more than 100mph quicker than Concorde, The Times reported.
A demonstration model – XB-1 or “Baby Boom” – is due to take off on its maiden test flight in southern California late next year, and could operate as a passenger service by 2023.
The company claimed that the Boom aircraft would be cheaper to build, quicker and more efficient than Concorde.
The is expected jet to carry just 45 passengers — 55 fewer than Concorde — with tickets costing about £3,500.
Sir Richard said: “I have long been passionate about aerospace innovation and the development of high-speed commercial flights.”
Blake Scholl, a former Amazon executive and founder of Boom, added: “Sixty years after the dawn of the jet age, we’re still flying at 1960s speeds. Concorde’s designers didn’t have the technology for affordable supersonic travel, but now we do.”
The passenger jets could operate on 500 different routes but would initially concentrate on London to New York, San Francisco to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Sydney, he added.
Boom would reach the quickest times on the New York to London route. Existing passenger jets take about seven hours for the journey.
The aircraft will travel at the usual cruising altitude for jets of 60,000ft and reach speeds 2.6 times faster than other airliners, the company added.
It will be built using a carbon-fibre composite instead of aluminium to save weight. Seating will be in single rows, enabling all passengers to have a window view.
Boom has declined to state how much Virgin has invested in the venture, although it said that about a dozen investors were backing the business.
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