This is one fast baby boomer!
Thirteen years after the venerable Concorde was retired, Richard Branson has unveiled a prototype for a supersonic passenger jet that is hoped will whisk passengers from New York to London in 3 ½ hours,Sky News reported.
The XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator – dubbed the “Baby Boom” – bears a resemblance to the erstwhile British and French Concorde, which flew up to 128 passengers at more than twice the speed of sound.
The XB-1 — a joint venture between Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Denver-based company Boom Technology — is expected to have its first test flight next year in Southern California.
“I have long been passionate about aerospace innovation and the development of high-speed commercial flights,” the billionaire Virgin Group founder said. “As an innovator in the space, Virgin Galactic’s decision to work with Boom was an easy one.”
He said that through Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing arm, the Spaceship Co., “we will provide engineering and manufacturing services, along with flight test support and operations as part of our shared ambitions.”
With a cruising speed of about 1,450 mph, the full-scale XB-1 will fly up to 44 passengers 10 percent faster than the Concorde – and more than 2 ½ times faster than current jetliners – by 2020, The Verge reported.
The new speedster was developed by top aviation experts who worked for NASA, Boeing and SpaceX, a company created by Tesla Motors CEO and PayPal founder Elon Musk.
“Sixty years after the dawn of the jet age, we’re still flying at 1960s speeds,” said Blake Scholl, the founder and CEO of Boom Technology. “Concorde’s designers didn’t have the technology for affordable supersonic travel — but now we do.”
The Concorde — which went into service in 1976 — was retired by Air France and British Airways in 2003 amid rising maintenance costs and decreasing passenger numbers after a crash in July 2000 that killed all 109 people aboard in France.
It was the only fatal accident involving the Concorde.