In development since the early 2000s, Aireon’s AS2 bizjet taps into an aerodynamic quality known as “natural laminar flow” to optimize the aircraft’s performance at two different cruise speeds—one just below the speed of sound, and another at roughly Mach 1.4 (or 1.4 times the speed of sound). Such flexibility means the AS2 can efficiently ferry up to 12 passengers at high subsonic speeds over land and at supersonic speeds along transoceanic routes.Photo: Courtesy of Aerion
In development since the early 2000s, Aireon’s AS2 bizjet taps into an aerodynamic quality known as “natural laminar flo
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Photo: Courtesy of Aerion
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Supersonic Travel Is Booming

Dec 06, 2016

Starting in the early 2020s, business-class travelers will get something more than mere celebrity-chef-curated menus and flat-reclining seats when they plunk down a few thousand dollars for a transoceanic flight. If Blake Scholl has his way, they’ll also get extra time on the ground—three hours and 45 minutes on each leg of a ­typical ­seven-hour New York to London route.

Scholl is the CEO of Denver-based Boom Technology, a venture-backed aerospace startup developing a 45-seat jetliner that will cruise at 1,451 miles per hour, or Mach 2.2. That’s more than twice as fast as conventional airliners. At that speed, a traveler could theoretically have breakfast in New York, attend afternoon meetings in Europe, and arrive back home in time to tuck the kids into bed. But first the company will have to overcome the bad economics that forced the last generation of supersonic airliners into retirement.

The first era of supersonic passenger flight ended in 2003 when a British Airways Concorde jetliner made that aircraft’s last commercial journey. For three decades the Concorde lost money for its operators. It was a notorious fuel guzzler, and its high operating costs made for costly tickets that proved tough to sell. Most passengers simply weren’t willing to pay a huge premium for a shorter flight.

Boom grew out of Scholl’s realization that the Concorde could have survived and thrived if it had been 30% more efficient, a threshold that recent advances in design, materials, and manufacturing put within reach. Like the Concorde, Boom’s jetliner offers only premium-class seats—from which conventional airlines generate nearly half their revenue—and puts them on a three-engine supersonic airframe. Ticket prices will stay roughly in line with those for conventional business-class seats, Scholl says, but passengers will spend about half as much time in the air.

Boom isn’t the only aerospace company looking to reintroduce supersonic passenger flight. Boeing (ba) and Dassault have dabbled in supersonic aircraft designs. Gulfstream—whose coveted G650 business jet cruises at just below the speed of sound—is quietly studying supersonic business jet concepts. Aerion of Reno and Spike Aerospace of Boston round out the group.

But challenges remain. “One thing all of these concepts have in common: They don’t yet have an engine,” says Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at Teal Group, an aerospace consultancy. “Until they have an engine, they don’t have market.”

Scholl disagrees. His company aims to use a modified version of the engines that power Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. “We have buy-in from the guys that design these engines that this is going to work,” he says. Boom plans to fly a prototype next year to test some of its technologies. The company has already taken orders for 25 aircraft (10 for Virgin) and predicts demand for 1,300 supersonic jetliners over 10 years starting in 2023—and that’s just for existing intercontinental business-class markets.

Says Scholl: “There’s line of sight to making this work at economy prices.” Buckle up.

A version of this article appears in the December 15, 2016 issue of Fortune.

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