Old but gold (?): “BOOM Supersonic, Concorde’s son!”

We always say “I need more time” or “I’d like to get there in 5 minutes” and maybe we have a solution as regards flights…again. Again, because we are talking about an “old” idea which has already been developed and put into practice, the “Concorde”. Obviously, now we have better technologies than in the past and maybe it is a better time to put into practice this concept.
But as we all know, “Concorde” failed.

So, the first question is: “Can Boom Supersonic succeed where Concorde failed?

The largest challenge is the technical realization of a supersonic passenger aircraft which can achieve the specification that Boom outlines.
Then, Boom wants to make a faster aircraft than Concorde that will fly 4,500nm at Mach 2.2. But the most important thing is about one of the reason of Concorde’s failure: operating cost. The company wants to produce this aircraft and it wants to do it with an operating cost that will make the operation of the aircraft profitable.

Marty St. George, a JetBlue Airways Corp. executive and industry veteran says:“I have no problem seeing the demand for this airplane. […] The issue is can you do it and make the numbers work?”
But, as you can read on company’s website, vision is really clear:

“THE FUTURE IS SUPERSONIC:
We’re building the supersonic airliner anyone can afford to fly.”

So, company really believe that is possible to realize this project and that is economically sustainable.

So, “why can’t we fly faster?”

That’s the question driving the startup which says it’s time to bring supersonic jet travel into the mainstream – in a modern way. Boom will need to sell the airlines not just on a technically disruptive aircraft, but also on one that can accomplish such feats of velocity cost-effectively. It must earn a solid profit.

The startup’s signature city pairing is New York to London, which would take a little more than three hours to fly and give a corporate traveler the opportunity to make a day trip across the pond and back. “Leave New York at 6 a.m., make afternoon and dinner meetings in London, and be home to tuck your kids into bed.”
Indeed, on company’s website you can read:

“Offer passengers more of what they value most: TIME!
Everyone wants faster flights. Boom makes speed practical and affordable.”

The idea is: a 45-seat aircraft that cruises at Mach 2.2 (1,451 miles per hour) with fares no more expensive than a current business-class round trip. A typical business ticket between New York and London ranges between $5,000 and $10,000. By combining 45 seats and a high frequency (due to the short flight time), the problem of filling a 100-seat Concorde with the resulting lower departure frequency should be avoided.

Boom has got some points right in the business discussion. But it all depends on the per-seat costs of the flight. Flights to the US market can only be made over water as supersonic passenger transport flights are forbidden over US land territory.
The company is focused on over-water routes and doesn’t plan to market its aircraft for quick zips across America or places like the Middle East to Western Europe.

But there is an issue for this kind of flights: nowadays, being up in the air is fast becoming the same as being in the office, with robust internet communication a priority for carriers, thus reducing the biggest attraction of supersonic flight-speed. Mix that with the flat beds and premium dining, and the business-class cabin can become a comfortable den in which to be productive, rested, and well-fed on the kind of 15- to 20-hour flights that are quickly becoming routine.
In fact, Teal Group’s Aboulafia says:“You used to be stuck in a tube. […] Now it’s an office in the sky. Everything has gotten way more comfortable.”
Many people now flying for the better part of a day adopt a “Who cares?” attitude.

History is full of examples of ideas that didn’t work in the past but now they can or already work. Especially in the economic world, we all know that the market has to be ready for a product, the timing is fundamental. So, the question is: “Is the market ready again for this solution?”
Maybe yes or maybe not, but in my opinion it depends. It depends on how people perceive business flights, because for many people a long time travel is the perfect moment to work on a project or to treat the details of something they are working on. It’s a fifty-fifty situation.
In the end, company’s destiny depends on the choice of the target market, because in my opinion this idea could work in a segment of the business class and not the entire business class market.

Sources:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-29/supersonic-is-coming-back-will-the-airlines-buy-it

http://boomsupersonic.com

https://leehamnews.com/2016/11/17/will-boom-succeed-concorde-failed/#more-21495

http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/15/13629104/boom-supersonic-jet-prototype-unveil-concorde

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/15/richard-branson-supersonic-flight-virgin-boom

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2016/11/return-mach

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaredmeyer/2016/10/28/supersonic-flight-make-america-boom-again/#29dd1a4a7002

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Enrico Di Stefano

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One thought on “Old but gold (?): “BOOM Supersonic, Concorde’s son!”

  1. melihdagistanli says:

    I think that there are some certain reasons why airplanes did not become faster compared to the high technological development before. The reasons are nicely explained in this link: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/06/youre_now_free_to_move_about_the_countryslowly.html

    First of all, there is already a technology that makes us capable of flying over the speed of sound but it is still very costly. In addition to this, Supersonic flights are allowed only over water—and are thus limited to connecting wealthy cities separated by an ocean. So, unless the conditions don`t change, it will be hard to implement supersonic flight solutions to the market.

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