Asia Business Channel

Japan Airlines Invests in Supersonic Technology

Japan Airlines has announced an initial $10 million investment into Boom Supersonic, a Denver, Colorado based upstart that plans to develop a commercial airplane that could fly at 1,450 miles per hour – Mach 2.2 – and cut flight times across the Pacific in half. A flight from San Francisco to Tokyo would take only 5-1/2 hours.

Following the lead of Richard Branson who last year announced that the Virgin Group would have options to buy the first 10 Boom jets, Japan Airlines has options to buy up to 20 Boom aircraft.

Although newer aircraft from Airbus and Boeing can go as fast as 600 miles per hour, the typical cruising speed most airlines is 500 ~ 550 miles per hour in order to maximize fuel efficiency. In the battle for first-class passengers, airlines with long-haul routes have added suites & showers to their airplanes as well as enhancing food, beverage and entertainment selections.

However, business-travellers in multiple market research surveys stress that their most valuable commodity is “time” and they would pay more money to fly in airplanes that go faster. The $10 million investment by Japan Airlines in Boom is tiny in the aviation world, but it shows the willingness of a second airline to go beyond Airbus and Boeing and place a bet on a startup for future aircraft.

The airplane manufacturers that dominate the market — Airbus and Boeing – have billions of dollars in pending orders as record numbers of travelers take to the skies. Their newest planes promise fuel savings but are stuck with maximum speeds of 600 miles per hour.

Airlines and the manufacturers are still haunted by the first super-sonic airplane, the Concorde and the disaster of 2000 in which Air France flight 4590 ran over debris on the runway during takeoff that resulted in a crash that killed all 109 people in the airplane as well as four people on the ground.

Blake Scholl, the founder of Boom Jets said that he envisions an all-business-class configuration that would be more economical than the Concorde was at the time. According to Scholl, Boom is planning to create a one-third scale model of the plane, named “Baby Boom” and test the designs in late 2018 and expects its first planes to be delivered by the mid-2020s.

Japan Airline is doing more than just investing in Boom, they are also providing practical experience to help make Boom a reality. Under the agreement with Boom, Japan Airlines will help "refine" the aircraft's design and help determine what it would be like for passengers on board an eventual supersonic jet.

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