In what could be one of the biggest developments in air travel for decades, Sir Richard Branson has unveiled plans for a commercial jet faster than Concorde.
The supersonic airliner - XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, dubbed “Baby Boom” – will be able to fly from London to New York in three-and-a-half hours, according to designers. Just enough time for you to consume Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and a gin and tonic before the wheels hit the tarmac.
The plane, due to enter service in the early 2020's, will fly at a speed of 1,451mph, making it 10 per cent faster than Concorde and 2.6 times faster than current jetliners.
It won’t be cheap, mind you. A return flight will cost around $5,000. The plane is a joint project between Virgin Galactic and Denver-based US firm Boom Technology.
Branson’s long been fascinated with breaking the barriers of aviation technology, whether it’s the non-stop air balloon trips he made in the nineties to all that gravity-baiting Virgin Galactic he’s been testing in deserts over the last decade. And the new jets will be part of his Galactic vision:
"I have long been passionate about aerospace innovation and the development of high-speed commercial flights,” said the magnate. “As an innovator in the space, Virgin Galactic's decision to work with Boom was an easy one. We're excited to have an option on Boom's first 10 airframes.
It would certainly go about filling the Concorde-shaped hole left by British Airways, who grounded their iconic airliner permanently in 2003 following low passenger numbers following a tragic crash in 2000, and high maintenance costs.
Not just super-fast, this 40-seater jet promises its well-heeled passengers a super sleek experience, with a single window seat for everyone and neat overhead luggage compartments. Aviation experts involved in the design include bods from NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing.
"Sixty years after the dawn of the jet age, we're still flying at 1960s speeds," said Blake Scholl, CEO of Boom Technology.
"Concorde's designers didn't have the technology for affordable supersonic travel, but now we do."
When you see it put like that, the man has a point. We’ve been wasting hours upon hours, days, weeks even, sat in mid-air watching middling comedies we didn’t catch at the cinema. And who knows, if this comes off, maybe we’ll need to get those spacesuits ready.