Commercial airflight was a revolutionary thing, opening up the world to travellers like never before.

Since then there has been a number of aerospace advances improving the efficiency and affordability of commercial air travel but arguably the most important of them all remains largely unsolved.

Sure commercial flying has improved, routes have increased and the in-flight entertainment has improved but commercial aeroplanes still pretty much fly at the same speed as they did back in the 1950s. The Boeing 737, for example, is a 50-year-old design that remains a workhorses of the airline industry.

When it comes to sipping a gin and tonic 40,000 feet above the ground, our need for speed remains somewhat unsatiated.


But Boom Technology, an aviation start-up based in Colorado, aims to change all that.

The firm is working to produce a commercial airliner that can travel more than two and half times the speed of current passenger jets - bringing supersonic jet speed into the mainstream.

This month the company unveiled a subscale prototype of a supersonic passenger jet it hopes can be the next generation Concorde, more than a decade after the first super speed passenger plane was retired.

The company's eventual commercial plane holds the promise of Sydney to Los Angeles in six hours. Photo / Supplied
The company's eventual commercial plane holds the promise of Sydney to Los Angeles in six hours. Photo / Supplied

The prototype called XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator nicknamed Baby Boom won't take to the skies until 2017. It is one-third the size of the plane it hopes to be which is designed to eventually hold 44 passengers as it shoots across the sky, cutting travel time in half.
The company is hesitant to put a timeframe on when such a plane might be ready for the public but it won't be before 2020.

The passenger aeroplane will fly at Mach 2.2 speed, a velocity which takes its name from a scale developed by 19th century scientist Ernst Mach.

Basically, Mach 1 speed means an object is travelling at the speed of sound while Mach 2 means it's going twice as fast as the speed of sound.

Boom Technology wants to create a passenger jet that travels at Mach 2.2 speed, clocking in at 2335km per hour. By contrast, current airliners travel at a speed of Mach 0.85.

Such a plane would cut the journey from Sydney to Los Angeles to just six hours. The busy route between New York and London would be reduced to 3.4 hours and cost commuters around $US5000.


Not exactly affordable for your average punter, but a price point that will be very enticing for some.

It is certainly not the only company to put forth a concept for a hyper-speed passenger jet, a technology that promises huge financial reward if it can be cost-effectively pulled off.

To get there, the company says it will embrace modern aerodynamics and a carbon fibre composite instead of aluminium to make the plane lighter.

In order for it to reach the virtually unprecedented speeds, the plane will fly at a height of 60,000 feet above sea level, meaning passengers will be able to see the curvature of the Earth.

The passenger jet will have a single row of upright chairs on each side of the aircraft. Photo / Supplied
The passenger jet will have a single row of upright chairs on each side of the aircraft. Photo / Supplied

Boom Technology did not immediately respond to a request for an interview but CEO Blake Scholl told The Verge that his motivation comes from the pain of frequent long distance travel.

"I've got little kids, and their grandpa lives in Hong Kong, which is 18 hours away," he said. "They see him once a year, and they'll never be close. It's because we're basically flying with the same aeroplanes we were using when my grandparents were little."

The company's quest has been boosted with the backing of Virgin Galactic and its billionaire CEO Richard Branson who has optioned 10 planes, should they ever be built.

The deal is reportedly worth $US2 billion. An unnamed European carrier has also shown interest and has reportedly optioned 15 jets meaning the company has a reliable source of future income should they succeed.

Branson is not the only high profile name to be attached to the project. Blake Scholl, who is an ex Amazon executive has recruited employees from industry heavyweights including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and NASA, with astronaut Mark Kelly on board as an adviser.

The seats will not fold down into a bed. Photo / Supplied
The seats will not fold down into a bed. Photo / Supplied


There has been one famous case when a passenger jet broke reached the Mach 2 speed barrier but ultimately the revolutionary jet proved commercially unsustainable.

The world renowned Concord Jet was produced by French aerospace company Aérospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation but was retired in 2003 after a solid 27 years in service.

The supersonic jet which travelled at double the speed of sound and to this day holds the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a civil aircraft, closing the 5567km gap between London and New York in just two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

Ostensibly it was successful cutting-edge feat of engineering but it was also a fuel-guzzler and a money-loser for its owners.

It also was the epitome of luxury - a trap that Boom Technology says it doesn't want to fall into to.

Concorde flew everyone from the Queen to Mick Jagger, famously helping Phil Collins to perform Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia on the same day in 1985.

Passengers were fed caviar, lobster, steak and fresh strawberries with double cream, washing it down with Dom Perignon champagne.

It seemed the slender plane with the iconic droop nose could do no wrong until 2000, when Flight 4590 exploded into flames just 90 seconds after taking off in Paris.

All 109 people on board were killed when the aircraft ran over debris on the runway, puncturing the tyres and a fuel tank, causing the engines to fail. Four others died on the ground, when the plane crashed into a nearby hotel.

The crash, among other factors, eventually led to Aérospatiale's successor Airbus stopping maintenance on the planes and eventually decommissioning them.

And companies such as Boom Technology have been trying to fill the void ever since.