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article imageU.S. startups want to bring back supersonic passenger planes

By Karen Graham     Jul 19, 2018 in Technology
Three U.S. startup companies plan to introduce supersonic jets in the mid-2020s. One company, Boom Supersonic, made its debut at Farnborough this week, pledging to revive commercial supersonic flight.
Boom Supersonic, along with Aerion Supersonic and Spike Aerospace, plan on reviving faster than the speed of sound flights by the mid-2020s.
According to Reuters, instead of spending billions of dollars to make a new supersonic aircraft, the companies aim to modify the existing engines to serve a market that has been dormant since Concorde stopped flying in 2003.
Former Amazon staffer Blake Scholl, who co-founded Boom Supersonic, delivered the company's pledge this week in front of a fully-restored Concorde jet at the Brooklands aviation and motor museum in Weybridge, southwest of London, according to CTV News.
Concorde landing at Farnborough in September 1974.
Concorde landing at Farnborough in September 1974.
Steve Fitzgerald
Scholl said the company is manufacturing a prototype aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, that is expected to fly for the first time next year. "The story of Concorde is the story of a journey started but not completed — and we want to pick up on it," Scholl said to an audience that included retired Concorde staff.
"Today... the world is more linked than it's ever been before and the need for improved human connection has never been greater," Scholl said. "At Boom, we are inspired at what was accomplished half a century ago."
The company was founded in 2014, and by December 2017 it had raised $51 million, enough to build the XB-1 “Baby Boom” demonstrator, complete its testing and to start early design work on the 55-seat airliner.
The XB-1 Boom demonstrator
The XB-1 Boom demonstrator
Boom Supersonic
The proposed aircraft has a maximum flying range of 8,334 kilometers (5,167 miles) at a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 kph (1,463 mph). If the plane takes off, it would be the first supersonic passenger aircraft to fly since the final flight of the Concorde in 2003.
Skepticism abounds over supersonic planes
There are many skeptics, including Daniel Rutherford, with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and program director for marine and aviation, reports Mashable.
Rutherford is the co-author of a new report from the ICCT that estimates supersonic planes will burn around five to seven times more fuel than today's planes, and in doing so, spew loads of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Boom XB-1  Baby Boom
Boom XB-1 "Baby Boom"
Boom Supersonic
According to the report, if the three U.S. startups are able to produce their smaller, business-type jets, there is nothing keeping them from flying over water, nor limiting the amount of greenhouse gases and other pollutants they will spew into the atmosphere.
"Currently there are no effective environmental standards for these aircraft," said Rutherford. "So they could operate over water where they like."
And Rutherford does acknowledge the interest in supersonic flight - simply because it will cut travel time in half. But he doesn't like rushing planes out before their considerable pollution problems can be addressed. "As an engineer, I want to say if we rush this, we’re going to make the wrong choices," said Rutherford.
Nasa Quiet Supersonic Technology Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator. The plane is now known as the X-59 Qu...
Nasa Quiet Supersonic Technology Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator. The plane is now known as the X-59 QueSST.
NASA
Independent air transport consultant John Strickland also noted supersonic travel was unproven commercially. "Business traffic, on the face of it, is the most lucrative for airlines," Strickland told AFP.
"But if there is an economic downturn or something happens where the market for business class traffic drains away, then you have nothing else left to do with that aircraft. "I think it's going to be some time before we see whether it can establish a large viable market... in the way that Concorde never managed to do."
Reuters notes that the U.S. is already pushing for different standards for ultra-fast planes but is now facing resistance from European nations that want tough rules on noise.
“A modest first step is for manufacturers to commit to meeting existing standards for new aircraft,” added Rutherford.
More about boom supersonic, Concorde, Pollution, Hypersonic, Boeing