back to article Virgin Galactic and Boom unveil Concorde 2.0 tester to restart supersonic travel

On the 13th anniversary of the last Concorde flight, Boom Technology and Virgin Galactic want to start a commercial supersonic passenger jet service that will be faster than its older counterpart and cost no more than a business class ticket. At a Colorado aircraft hangar, the two firms unveiled the triple-engined XB-1 …

  1. macjules Silver badge

    Interesting ...

    When any aircraft passes the critical mach for its rated airframe, the centre of pressure shifts rearwards. I wonder if that would be why they are using a rear engine, given that the noise for passengers at the rear of the jet is going to be pretty horrendous at Mach 2.2?

    IIRC Concorde compensated by using a system to redistribute fuel along the aircraft during acceleration and deceleration.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting ...

      With regard to the interior noise, maybe the idea is to only use the rear fuselage-mounted engine for take-off/climb/acceleration, and cruise on just two? Admittedly that's a pure guess as the technical content of the article is so poor ("ungainly" at low speed, no mention I could see of its actual top speed, and surely the range of any aircraft can be doubled by refuelling???) and there's no link to anything more informative.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Interesting ...

        Would the rear of the cabin suffer from more noise at mach 2.2 if the aircraft is flying faster than the sound shockwaves it is creating? The intake and engine look to be well behind the last window in the cabin. The description says no reheat (which was the noisiest part of a Concorde take off and the brief acceleration through mach 1).

        Maybe the noise will come from the intake design which shockwaves the incoming air down to subsonic speeds and vibrations from the turbine.

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: Interesting ...

          Whilst the XB-1 sounds intriguing the XB-70 Valkyrie would be my preferred way to cross the Atlantic.

          1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

            Re: Interesting ... XB-70?

            A blackbird would be a lot more fun and very slightly faster.

        2. AndyS

          Re: Interesting ...

          > Would the rear of the cabin suffer from more noise at mach 2.2 if the aircraft is flying faster than the sound shockwaves it is creating?

          The internal air is going at roughly the same speed as the passengers and engines, as is the airframe. Engine noise could reach the passengers just fine through those routes.

          Passengers seated on the wing may have trouble hearing the tail engine, though.

        3. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Interesting ...

          I flew (once) on Concorde LHR to JFK, which is another story entirely, I think that I heard about as much afterburner noise inside the cabin as you might hear from a normal aircraft acceleration at take-off, and I was about 5 rows from the back, so closer to the engines.

          Mind you at that point you are mostly wondering why your kidneys just broke through your back and ended up in the champagne glass of the chap sitting behind you.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Interesting ...

      As with all three baggers, it's got one in the tail and two more conventionally mounted.

      The two cannot go either side of the fuselage at the rear due to the tailless arrangement, so they're beneath the wings, where Concorde's were.

      I suspect that's all the engine position considerations there were....

      1. CraPo

        Re: Interesting ...

        How about the Tu-154?

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Interesting ...

          Do you perhaps mean the Tu-144?

          1. CraPo

            Re: Interesting ...

            The Tu-144 had three engines?

            1. Simon Harris Silver badge

              Re: Interesting ... @CraPo

              Oops - thought your reply was relating to a different section of the thread.

    3. Ian Johnston

      Re: Interesting ...

      "When any aircraft passes the critical mach for its rated airframe, the centre of pressure shifts rearwards."

      You're using some random buzzword generator, aren't you?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

    Will be interesting how they get around the fundamental design flaw of having the wheels within the wings, next to the fuel tanks. Supersonic Jet travel will always be associated with a 30cm strip of metal. Like the Shuttle, penetration from debris, just couldn't be designed out.

    Is there any point? When you'll literally be crawling on the M25 for hours beforehand to get to Heathrow, while the new runways are built (and likely after).

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

      That is valid for all aircraft. Your basic village bus 320 has the tanks in the wings too.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

        But Concorde had a thin wing section and lighter smaller undercarriage to fit in there along with the higher take off roll speed, rotating at 200 knots, compared to 150ish for a B747. Relative loads were very different.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

          Relative loads were very different.

          Sorry dude, you have failed to grok the root cause and the actual design flaw.

          What happened to the Concorde at Charles De Gaulle could have happen to any aircraft. The difference between 200kt and 150kt is minimal - a piece of hardened steel bouncing of a wheel will puncture the tank in either case.

          The difference is the aftermath. Due to the way the engines are positioned on the Concorde the whole wing caught fire because the leaking fuel went straight into the afterburner exhaust. The exhaust temperature of a normal non-afterburning turbofan even cranked to max is usually too low to set jet fuel on fire. There is a whole raft of aircraft incidents with fuel leaks out of wings, not one of them caught fire. Example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Transat_Flight_236 - the leak was out of the engine itself. That would have killed a Concorde there and then. Do not even get me started on oil and hydraulic fuel leaks. If you walk around budget airline craft on an airfield - half of them have traces of these. Once again - some of these would have set a Concorde on fire.

          This is the main reason why they were taken out of circulation - no matter how you armor fuel tanks and lines, shit happens - fuel leaks, oil leaks, hydraulic fluid leaks - they all can burn. This is why an afterburning engine is a no-go for civil aviation - it will set that on fire straight away.

          This is what makes this new supersonic aircraft interesting - it is claimed to be non-afterburning. If it is non-afterburning on takeoff it will succeed where Concorde failed regardless of how small is its undercarriage and what level of armor does it have on its fuel tanks.

          1. PassiveSmoking

            Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

            "Due to the way the engines are positioned on the Concorde the whole wing caught fire because the leaking fuel went straight into the afterburner exhaust"

            None of the engines on Concorde were ever actually on fire (though the crew did get a false fire alarm on one of them). The deluge of fuel rushing over them basically drowned them - they were deprived of airflow and flamed out. The probable ignition source was a damaged wiring loom for the landing gear retraction mechanism.

            1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

              That's the speed of the aeroplane, not the metal strip.

              Bingo.

              None of the engines on Concorde were ever actually on fire

              I never said they themselves were on fire. I said they set it on fire.

              The afterburner exhaust setting the leaking fuel on fire was the initial conclusion of the investigation.

              While short from electrics and the flameout (which you mention) have been raised as a possible cause as well later on, neither was proven so the afterburner setting it on fire has always remained as one of the probable causes.

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

            I think Voland carefully omitted the bit about the thin wing section.

            And 200 Knots is a lot more of a difference in load compared to 150 than 33% would suggest.

          3. rh587 Silver badge

            Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

            The difference between 200kt and 150kt is minimal - a piece of hardened steel bouncing of a wheel will puncture the tank in either case.

            It's not minimal, but it may be insignificant depending on how strong your tank is.

            Kinetic Energy = 0.5 x Mass x Velocity squared.

            If we assume an aircraft of mass = 1 (to keep the sums easy), we get:

            0.5 x (150^2) = 11250 units of KE

            0.5 x (200^2) = 20000 units of KE

            The one-third increase in velocity is the result of a 78% increase in KE.

            So yes, going from 150 to 200 is very significant in energy terms.

            1. AndyS

              Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

              > So yes, going from 150 to 200 is very significant in energy terms

              That's the speed of the aeroplane, not the metal strip. While the certainly might be related, let's not pretend to understand the physics of a complex accident with a smarmy 2 line armchair calculation on an internet forum.

          4. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

            Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

            Um, no.

            Air France refused to accept the weight penalty of fitting the spall liners in the wings as it would have meant either using more fuel or having less range - British Airways fitted the liners and survived a number of impacts that would have punctured the Air France jets' tanks.

            And oil and hydraulic leaks? I take it you have only ever worked in IT because if you had any experience with aircraft you would know the sodding things always leak! They're like cars or any other vehicle - all you can do is keep the leaks as small as possible.

            The SR71 Blackbird was (in)famous for needing to have drip trays underneath as fuel was constantly dripping out through gaps in the airframe, and the only reason you see fluid stains (both lubricants and hydraulic) on a budget line more than on someone like BA or American is that the budget brigade have a quicker turn-around and therefore less time for someone to wipe the stuff off.

            And for anyone who doesn't already know, you don't need afterburners to go supersonic - the English Electric Lightning, the 1960's fighter, could easily break the sound barrier without needing afterburners - but it took longer, and the less time you spend in the area around the speed of sound the better - the stress on the airframe increases to the transition point, then decreases again on the other side.

            1. annodomini2

              Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

              The SR-71 and it's predecessor the A12 leaked fuel on purpose.

              The Airframe was designed for operating at sustained Mach 3+, the resultant heating of the Airframe (even with Titanium) at those velocities resulted in quite an expansion of the Airframe.

              So panel gaps were set such that at Mach 3+ the heating would seal the Airframe and subsequently the fuel tanks.

              1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

                "he SR-71 and it's predecessor the A12 leaked fuel on purpose."

                Something I found out only recently, so did Concorde.

                Apparently the air frame grew so much in flight their was a pronounced gap between the back wall of the Flight Engineer's console and the rear cockpit bulkhead which you could put your fingers into.

                Closed up by the time it came to a halt.

          5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Boffin

            " what makes this new supersonic aircraft interesting - it is claimed to be non-afterburning"

            Not really.

            Concorde's mfg were well aware they were the only civil aircraft with reheat and had they got to a 17th Concorde one of the upgrades was deleting it, due to design improvements they'd identified from flight data.

            People also forget Concorde did not fly in 'burner above about M1.2, IE it was just used to punch through the sound barrier. It was "super cruise" before most people ever used the term..

    2. PassiveSmoking

      Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

      Tire-related catastrophe is something that can happen to any aircraft. The deadliest DC-8 crash in history (Nigeria Airways Flight 2120) was triggered by a tire bursting and catching fire on takeoff.

    3. cray74

      Re: Wheels in the Wings Design Flaw

      Will be interesting how they get around the fundamental design flaw of having the wheels within the wings, next to the fuel tanks.

      Air France Flight 4590 didn't have a problem with the wheels being in the wings - landing gear in or under wings is a common design feature of aircraft. The Concorde's problem stemmed from a high takeoff speed, which demanded high pressure tires. If a tire did burst, it had higher pressure and higher rotational speeds to fling chunks into the wings than in other airliners. There had been seven severe cases of tire explosions on prior Concorde flights.

      Meanwhile, the thousands of non-passenger supersonic aircraft flying these days do not have a reputation for tire debris damage.

      Supersonic Jet travel will always be associated with a 30cm strip of metal.

      I always thought the iconic image of supersonic passenger travel was in the movie Snatch.

      Like the Shuttle, penetration from debris, just couldn't be designed out.

      Sure it could. After Air France 4590, the Concorde finally got Kevlar tank liners. Alternately, there are proposal for tire debris fairings.

  3. Sampler

    No overland

    So, no chance in a Sydney to London route (or even Manchester - Leeds would be a pipe dream) with a stop off at Dubai for refuel, as that is a trip I really could do with reducing the time on = (

    Not that I'd be able to afford a ticket for that, given $5k for London to New York you'd be saying what, $10k for such?

    1. Kent Brockman

      Re: No overland

      Well, it could do the distance, max range is 17,668km and London to Sydney range is 16 991km, although it calls for a brief tech stop for flights over 8000km, which might mean its a deal breaker depending where that is.

    2. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: No overland

      With this, I wonder if you'd save time going the long way round?

      ie. Sydney to Honolulu to San Francisco supersonic, subsonic to New York, supersonic to London.

      1. Dr Scrum Master

        Re: No overland

        Even better if it avoids stopping in the USA or even going through US airspace...

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: No overland

        Waaaaaaaaaaaait a second.

        Everywhere I see Boom mentions 9000nm refueled/4500 unrefueled.

        WTF is refueled? Where? How? Are we talking about landing or they have gone off the deep end looking to do in-air passenger aircraft refueling

        There is a fairly limited number of options to land for a refueling stop in the Pacific between Sydney and Hawaii and practically none between LA and Japan unless you fly around the Pacific rim instead of direct. That kinda limits what this aircraft can be used for.

        1. rh587 Silver badge

          Re: No overland

          WTF is refueled? Where? How? Are we talking about landing or they have gone off the deep end looking to do in-air passenger aircraft refueling

          They're talking about a brief landing without de-planing passengers.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: No overland

      So, no chance in a Sydney to London.

      In theory - that route is 70%+ over water and the rest over deserts where you can negotiate to remain hypersonic too so doable. The only slow stretch is the first 45 minutes over France.

      In practice - 10h vs 24 hours stops making a lot of difference - you lose a day. That is different from 10h vs 3h (especially flying west) - you do not lose a business day and this is what Concorde passengers were actually paying for.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: No overland

        I think the solution to getting to Sydney from northern hemisphere locations will eventually come from suborbital flights. A long way in the future though.

    4. LesB

      Re: No overland

      <confused>Manchester to Leeds via Dubai?</confused>

      Seems a bit of a long way round (though better than the current train service most days)

    5. Ed 13

      Re: No overland

      My understanding was that it was the trans-sonic bit (that actually generates the sonic boom) you weren't supposed to do over land. An aircraft at 60,000ft isn't going to going to be heard by anyone on the ground no matter fast it's going (that's over 11miles away).

      1. ridley

        Re: No overland

        There is a sonic boom created for the entire time you are above mach 1, not just when you are transonic.

    6. Jim84

      Re: No overland

      Reaction Engines proposed Lapcat A2 has a 20,000km range and flys at Mach 5.2 (6,400 km/h):

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_Engines_A2

      You'd be able to fly London to Sydney in about 4.6 hours via the north pole.

      At those speeds you could fly over the north pole and then onto west coast US cities or east Asian coastal cities all over water in under 4 hours.

  4. Jimbo in Thailand
    Thumb Up

    YIPPEE! Great news!

    Certainly with today's technology they can make supersonic passenger flight a viable option (for some folks, anyway), especially on a smaller scale than Concorde. Gotta admit, one huge regret for me is never having flown on the Concorde. I watched it fly at the Oshkosh annual fly in many years ago and it was simply gorgeous (and freakin' noisy!). If this new triple-engined XB-1 comes to fruition I will definitely have to put it on my bucket list. ;^)

    ZOOM ZOOM!

    1. PassiveSmoking

      Re: YIPPEE! Great news!

      My mother won a trip on Concorde (a short circumnavigation of the British Isles and a sprint up to full speed). I was so jealous that I didn't get the ride. I do remember watching the takeoff though, that noise punches you in the chest in a way nothing else does. It was glorious.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: YIPPEE! Great news!

        I had a short flight (also won in a completion), we went out to the Bay of Biscay and to full operational altitude and speed. And whilst the view at 60,000 feet was incredible, I cannot even begin to properly describe what the take off and climb out feels like on a light Concorde with a reduced fuel load and no baggage.

      2. James Hughes 1

        Re: YIPPEE! Great news!

        @passive smoking.

        Never seen a Vulcan do a pass and veer away from crowd with afterburners on then...!!

        (Or indeed a Tornado doing a shock and awe pass)

        1. Ivan Headache

          Re: YIPPEE! Great news!

          Find me a picture of a Vulcan with Afterburners please. I'd love to see it.

  5. highdiver_2000

    Now this is stupid. Fuel and airframe costs didn't kill the supersonic travel, Noise restrictions did.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      In technology, whenever someone proposes trying X again, the essential questions are why did X fail last time and what's different now.

      Last time round, no-one paid much attention to noise during design but happily for the designers, 70% of the planet is covered in water. Nevertheless, the economic case was damaged by the quadrupling in price of the fuel between design (1960s) and operation (1970s).

      Whether it is true or not, the article claims that both noise and fuel problems can be mitigated by using materials and designs that were not available half a century ago. That is unproven, but perfectly plausible, given that Concorde was designed using the same technology that put two men on the moon using wooden spacecraft, pencils, hand-caclulations and strong underpants.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fuel and airframe costs didn't kill the supersonic travel, Noise restrictions did.

      Actually, it was that there wasn't an end to end business case. BA might have eventually run Concorde profitably in an expensive niche market, but the British and French taxpayers never saw a return on the vast costs of development because no genuine commercial sales were made.

      Launching an aircraft that used three times as much fuel and carried a third of the passengers of the then new wide bodied format, at the same time as the OPEC embargo was never destined for success. The oil crisis probably couldn't have been predicated, the move to wide body could. There was a further economic price, and that was the opportunity cost of Concorde - the huge technical challenges of SST development forced the Anglo-French aviation industry to put all their eggs in the supersonic basket, whilst Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed bet successfully on wide body, and thus owned the global wide-body market for the subsequent four decades..

      So that's what killed SSTs - that they might be economic if you give them away, but there is no business case for development and building. We'll see if Beardo's people can do things differently - I suspect they'll find that they are no more able to overcome the technical and certification issues than Airbus or Boeing.

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        " the huge technical challenges of SST development forced the Anglo-French aviation industry to put all their eggs in the supersonic basket, whilst Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed bet successfully on wide body, and thus owned the global wide-body market for the subsequent four decades"

        Completely wrong! The 747 was designed by Boeing's "B" team (excellent BBC documentary on it) whilst the "A" team worked on the Boeing 2707 SST; the expectation was that wide-bodies would become cargo planes whilst passenger traffic moved to SSTs but, for the same reasons that Concorde never made any money, the SST project was cancelled.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Completely wrong! The 747 was designed by Boeing's "B" team (excellent BBC documentary on it) whilst the "A" team worked on the Boeing 2707 SST;

          I know that US firms looked at SSTs - and they have revisited the idea time and again. But rather than being completely wrong, I'm completely right. The Europeans didn't have the resources (and more certainly vision) to work on both wide body and SST through the 1960s, and as a result the majority of 747 design work was completed before work really started on the A300 (itself only 260 passengers). To an extent there's the state direction of European aviation at the time, and that always results in vanity projects, "picking winners", and misplaced political judgements.

          There was then a repeat of history, when in 1992 Airbus launched the fuel guzzling four engined A340, which was not what airlines really wanted, particularly when they knew the B777 twin motor of similar capacity and range was only months away (you can argue the details on performance, sales volumes speak for themselves). And of course, the low fuel prices of the early 1990s didn't last, and airlines simply couldn't afford to run a jet fuel hog like the A340 by the mid 2000s.

          Sadly Airbus still suffer from that heritage and a corporate inferiority complex, and that led directly to the belated attempt to build a bigger and better 747, the financially troubled A380, enthusiastically launched into a market actually demanding large, high efficiency long range twin motors. And with Airbus's skills being drained by the A380, the A350 went into service three and a half years after the B787. The A350 might be the right aircraft for a change, but there's almost ten times as many 787s flying as A350s. The opportunity cost of wasting excessive resource on a single project is a long one, and Airbus still haven't learned that lesson.

          Seems to me that the US aircraft industry are generally rather better at predicting what airlines will want. That's not to take away from the individual successes of the Airbus programme (like the A320), simply to state that Airbus have a strong track record of not seeing opportunities from their customer's perspectives, not managing their development resource well, betting too much on high profile, high risk programmes, and as a result too often having the wrong product in the shop. And interesting to observe that the A320 design programme was started as a standalone from the core of Airbus.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Actually, the root cause of the massive cost of Concorde was down a basic fact of the day. Nothing of anything like that size had ever flown supersonic and modelling the stresses associated was an infant science. Thus the thing was seriously overengineered.

        The reason for the interminable project overrun[1] is quite simple. The engines require subsonic airflow and the intake throats are throttled depending on demand, speed, air pressure, air temperature and a variety of other factors. A computer capable of deriving the correct settings from that much variable data in realtime that would also fit in an avionics bay[2] didn't become available until rather later than anticipated.

        [1] Also a monumental unplanned cost.

        [2] Rather than taking up much of the fuselage as can be seen in the test flights, where it was glossed over as "test equipment".

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          " A computer capable of deriving the correct settings.." "..much variable data in realtime "

          Great story.

          Not true.

          In fact each of the engines had 13 "computers" or controllers to do the analysis, covering inlets, outlets, after burners etc.

          This is the 60's. "Computer" does not have to be digital. AFAIK most of them were analogue. Operational amplifiers and sets of resistors.

          But calibrating them....

          However you're right the design pushed the SOA a long way. Duncan Sandys had done a first class job of kneecapping the UK military aircraft industry in 1957 so they had limited experience of >M1 flight. It was said at the time Concorde was as challenging to Britain and France as Apollo was to the US, but in reality it was more like the Shuttle.

          BTW the French wanted it to be even smaller and shorter range. It took IIRC 2 re-designs before the French grudgingly accepted it had to be at least 100 passengers. Ideally it should have been able to fly from Frankfurt, the other big European transport hub for the US (and that would have given the Schipol as well).

      3. Warm Braw Silver badge

        The vast costs of development

        That's the issue.

        There were two reasons people took Concorde:

        1/ It was a day flight, not night-into-morning

        2/ Speed

        It had all the trappings of luxury, short of actually being luxurious - the passenger cabin was cramped and the on-board service constrained by the general lack of space, but not such a problem for a sub 3-hour flight. I only flew from New York to London once (because the other daytime flight, a 747 service, was cancelled) and there was clearly a good deal of empty space on the Concorde flight as they managed to decant a good chunk of the cancelled flights' business passengers onto the service.

        Nevertheless, I could see there might just be enough wealthy people flying on one or two particularly significant routes that could be completed in a small number of hours in daylight - I have never seen so many obviously-loaded people gathered in such a small space. But the number of planes you'd need to service those routes would be so small you'd never get the development costs back.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "number of planes you'd need.." "..so small you'd never get the development costs "

          Yeah, that's the joker. Selling enough to cover the costs and make profit.

          Although with the huge growth in the pacific rim and China there may be more of those well heeled types around than you realize. .

      4. Gary Bickford

        Big difference in development costs today

        So that's what killed SSTs - that they might be economic if you give them away, but there is no business case for development and building. We'll see if Beardo's people can do things differently - I suspect they'll find that they are no more able to overcome the technical and certification issues than Airbus or Boeing.

        This may be one area with a big difference in costs. The original SSTs were designed by hordes of engineers with slide rules, some primitive computer calculations, and paper drawings. (I read once that Boeing had actual full size "proof" drawings for the final design of the original 747 wings, with a rolling catwalk above that the engineers could ride on while they confirmed clearances and added last minute changes.)

        Today a very few engineers with advanced CAD software can design, build, and even test the entire airframe in the computer including routing of cables and hoses, in a small fraction of the time. And the wing shaping, stress management and other mechanical elements can all be optimized on the computer and the fabrication tooling automatically designed to go with it. The skins can be shaped in almost arbitrary ways, that could not even be contemplated back then.

        So I'm guessing that development costs will be one tenth of what the 1960s SST designs cost to get to manufacturing. And certification will be easier, as the computer data will be available for analysis as well.

    3. Chris Miller

      What killed Concorde was the development of the 747. First generation 747s needed a significant occupancy in First Class to be profitable, but all potential First Class passengers will opt for supersonic travel if available. So you couldn't run a mixed fleet of Concordes and 747s, and the market opted for the 747.

  6. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    WTF?

    whoop!

    I will always fly Boom, my next car is a Crash and I'd like an Exploding toaster.

    1. foo_bar_baz
      Pint

      Re: whoop!

      Beat me to it, have an upvote.

      Sent from my iPwn.

    2. Andy Miller

      Re: whoop!

      But you won't be able to take your Note 7 aboard

    3. James 51 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: whoop!

      Obscure Roxette reference of the day?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's an uphill climb..

    The biggest threat I see is BA throwing everything it can at not making it happen, because their management is indeed that petty. You saw that when the original Concorde was decommissioned.

    There's going to be some seriously mucky politics waiting in the wings (unintended pun, sorry).

  8. fpx
    FAIL

    Not Going To Work

    As much as I would like to see them succeed, it's not going to happen. There's simply not big enough of a market for supersonic travel to offset the 10-figure development costs and bring down ticket costs.

    Tickets for the Concorde were $10k+, and that was after development costs were essentially written off. Regular business or first class airline tickets are already $3k+, and that is with economies of scale bringing down base costs like logistics and maintenance.

    There may be motivation to use supersonic travel in point to point travel, e.g., from London to NYC. But when you need to travel between secondary cities, say Brussels to Denver, the advantage from a supersonic leg quickly become negligible.

    With Galactic, Branson has a unique value proposition -- it's a ride that you can't get anywhere else, so people are lining up whatever the price. With Boom, he has to compete against airlines.

    Supersonic may make sense for individual travel on business jets for the super-rich, but only after they solve the noise issues for overland travel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Going To Work

      Well, shit, let me drop uncle Richard a line to let him know that all his expensive analysts and researchers wasted their time, because some random guy on The Register forums says it's not going to work.

      Or you know what, maybe we could assume that some intelligent people have done some serious number-crunching, and have a pretty good idea of the probability that this will pay off. Now we don't know what that probability is, and it may be pretty low, but clearly it's high enough to be in the "worth a punt" range.

      1. fpx
        Pint

        Re: Not Going To Work

        To clarify, I did not say that this plane was impossible to build, just that it would be not economical to run. History is also littered with civil SST projects -- there's a good dozen of them on Wikipedia. When some guys on Kickstarter claim that they can re-build and run Concorde at a fraction of the cost. The company has better credentials than most, but count me a sceptic.

        My guess is that Sir Richard gets some good press out of it, with little risk and no money down. His purchase will evaporate when costs skyrocket.

        Check out Terrafugia. Another group of highly capable people, but they are still trying to get off the ground 10 years on, with a much simpler product.

        Let's meet again in a few years and see how this worked out, shall we? Beer's on me.

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Not Going To Work

        Branson hasn't realised Virgin Galactic is a failure yet. so of course he hasn't realised SST is a dead end also.

        Virgin Galactic is late, very late, original projections were for a maiden flight in 2009, and so far it's test flights have fallen short of space by a very long margin, just 13miles ceiling, when they need to be over 60 miles. Virgin Galactic has taken some $80m in deposits and fares, but has been bankrolled to the tune of $680m.

        Every deadline Branson has stated has come and gone. Still no viable spacecraft.

        Oh, and they have killed four people so far.

        So excuse us if we take Branson's upbeat predictions with a pinch of salt.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not Going To Work

      "With Boom, he has to compete against airlines."

      The thing is, he knows a little about the airline business. So what does he and his team/partners know that the rest of us don't?

      And speaking of point-to-point, there was some talk a year or so back that the end of the big hub airports was imminent with smaller, efficient, quieter aircraft doing point-to-point instead. Not sure if that was pie in the sky thinking or a genuine case of predicting the future of air travel.

  9. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    No so great in time savings

    Fine, so it's 3.25 hours flight time as opposed to 6.75. One hour to get to the airport, two hours check in/security theatre, half an hour hanging around on the taxiway, an hour to clear immigration because they don't like your looks/name/tweets, half an hour to get downtown. 8.25 hours is better than 11.75, but it's a 30% saving of time rather than the 52% it would seem to be.

    1. Andy Miller

      Re: No so great in time savings

      I share your reservations. To make it work the airlines are going to have to put some effort into streamlining the time from check-in to take-off, and landing to check-out. With a small, business-class only plane, mostly full of frequent fliers, this shouldn't be beyond the wit of person. Even BAA may not worry too much; business travellers spend most of their time in their lounges, so there may be little point in holding them for 2 hours in an over-priced shopping centre.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: No so great in time savings

        I like the replacable cabin concept for this. Bascially the cargo hold and the passenger cabins are pods that can be lifted out of the frame and replaced so you can get the cargo hold and cabin with everyone in before the plane has even landed. Swap them over and all you have is the refuelnig time and any other maintance tasks that are required before flight. Would require more space to work but would also save a lot of time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No so great in time savings

          "Bascially the cargo hold and the passenger cabins are pods that can be lifted out of the frame" .. and replace with a nice assortment of bomb bays and missile launchers when various air forces need .. hey, R&D costs covered ..

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No so great in time savings

          "Bascially the cargo hold and the passenger cabins are pods that can be lifted out of the frame and replaced"

          That'll be Thunderbird 2 then?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No so great in time savings

            beat me to it!

      2. Steve Walker

        Re: No so great in time savings

        IMSMR check in for Concorde was far more streamlined than that :-) That high ticket price included some nifty pre and after flight experiences.

        I remember well the "BA" blue slippers & eye cover you got in your "personal" travel pack.

        If someone is stumping up £7.5K+ for a ticket on a plane they would not want to be with the great unwashed in the same lounge as those heading out to *Ibiza*.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No so great in time savings

        I share your reservations. To make it work the airlines are going to have to put some effort into streamlining the time from check-in to take-off, and landing to check-out. With a small, business-class only plane, mostly full of frequent fliers, this shouldn't be beyond the wit of person. Even BAA may not worry too much; business travellers spend most of their time in their lounges, so there may be little point in holding them for 2 hours in an over-priced shopping centre.

        Nice to see someone with enough sense to note that their reservations are not without possible solutions, unlike all the "It won't work!" comments that seem to dominate this discussion. Of course there are many things that make this a challenging proposition, someone would already be doing it if it was easy. But none of the obstacles mentioned so far are without possible solution or mitigation.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: No so great in time savings

          Has nobody noticed the Fast-Track channels through security in airports for those that are happy to pay to arrive at the last minute and saunter past the queues?

          And the executive lounge. And the limos (or motorbikes) that Virgin send out for its well healed clients?

          Assuming that the passengers will all be on an economy route through their journey is a bit daft. The first class passengers that will be paying 10K anyway for a posh bed seat on a slow plane aren't going to be too worried about your total travel time theory.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: No so great in time savings

      Do we need time savings if you have in-flight cheap VOIP, data, skype etc?

      Maybe then Airships with private office / cabins would be viable. Digital Nomads with no ground based office, no more fantastic than economically viable supersonic flight.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Concorde: proof engineering and beauty are not exclusive.

    That's all.

    Of course Concorde took the effort of two entire nations capabilities, and still never made a profit.

    And - as NASA admitted - the challenges made Apollo look like a 4-piece jigsaw.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Concorde: proof engineering and beauty are not exclusive.

      Agree. Concorde was heart-stoppingly beautiful, and this is too. I've to have even one flight.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Concorde: proof engineering and beauty are not exclusive.

        Concorde carried 100 people who could walk up and down in shirt sleeves, sipping champagne at 60,000 feet and Mach II whilst crossing the Atlantic.

        If there was any other plane that could operate at that altitude it would have a small crew wearing spacesuits.

        Staggering piece of engineering.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Concorde: proof engineering and beauty are not exclusive.

          Staggering piece of engineering.

          As a matter of fact yes. But another matter of fact is that the taxpayers of Britain and France paid a vast subsidy for the rich and famous to flit between continents. Sadly most of the engineering learnings don't seem to have been worth much, given that nobody's built an SST since.

          So we should conclude that Concorde was certainly big, noisy and clever, and it was also a job creation scheme for aerospace engineers.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Concorde: proof engineering and beauty are not exclusive.

            "So we should conclude that Concorde was certainly big, noisy and clever, and it was also a job creation scheme for aerospace engineers."

            It was also PR. White heat of technology and all that. Also cold war posturing. The USSR obviously got their hands on a lot of the plans but sill didn't manage to fly their TU-something commercially.

            At the very least, there was a lot of blue sky engineering and data that could never have been collected any other way. Blue sky research is often uneconomic and often goes nowhere, but sometimes the most amazing things are discovered and you can't away put a price on that.

            1. RNixon

              Re: Concorde: proof engineering and beauty are not exclusive.

              The TU-144 entered commercial service before the Concorde did.

              The plane was unreliable and the Russians knew it, and it was insanely noisy, but they had it on passenger-carrying routes. They eventually converted them into freighters, which seems like a really bizarre choice.

  11. Dabooka Silver badge

    Surely some mistake?

    "around $5,000 for a return transatlantic trip"

    Blimey I'd have a go at that price

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surely some mistake?

      Blimey I'd have a go at that price

      When it was $5k return, that was probably about the average house price.....

  12. Stephen 24
    Trollface

    Who are these people who are going to want to travel from third world Britain to a civil war-torn USA in a few years time?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      WTF?

      You are Eeyore and ICMFP.

  13. Whitter
    Meh

    What do we want...

    In all honesty: more leg room, more arse-room, atmospheric pressure.

    Zoom zoom will be great too, but it isn't top of the pile.

    1. MrXavia

      Re: What do we want...

      In addition to more room, I would love faster security

      To me that means more automation, everyone going through a T-Ray scanner, and enough security people on hand to process everyone without queuing!..

  14. James 51 Silver badge

    60 years after the dawn of the jet age, we're still flying at 1960s speeds

    Is that not because of the price of fuel after the oil price shocks in the 70's?

    it'll be designed for refueling for trips with twice that range.

    Mid-air supersonic refuelling, now that would be a sight to see.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Boom? Really?

      "Mid-air supersonic refuelling, now that would be a sight to see."

      I was just thinking exactly the same thing. Not quite sure how that would work, but damn that would be one hell of a fluid analysis problem!

      Also Boom? As the name for your aircraft manufacturing company? Boom? Really? Yes I know there riffing on the Sonic type of Boom, but when people think Boom in relation to Aircraft, Sonic is not the first type that comes to mind...

    2. Peter Ford

      They'd probably slow down for a while to refuel, like the SR-71 did.

      At least this thing probably won't be on the edge of a stall while flying slow enough for a tanker to fuel it...

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      "60 years after the dawn of the jet age, we're still flying at 1960s speeds

      Is that not because of the price of fuel after the oil price shocks in the 70's?"

      It's more simply down to diminishing returns than anything else. The advent of air travel brought international travel times down from weeks to hours. Supersonic air travel reduces that from hours to a couple less hours. For the vast majority of trips it's simply not worth the extra cost. It's the same reason car travel is still limited to 70ish mph and trains haven't all been replaced by high speed maglev. It's not the technology that's holding it back, it's the generally small gains compared to the ever greater cost of actually getting those gains.

  15. Andy00ff00

    Are the designers good at maths?

    "55 passengers, one on each side of the aisle"

    1. BenR

      Re: Are the designers good at maths?

      I thought this.

      Then i realised noone anywhere mentioned the same number of rows on either side of the aircraft.

      I imagine a seat goes missing to squeeze in a toilet or something.

      1. Doc Ock

        Re: Are the designers good at maths?

        >I imagine a seat goes missing to squeeze in a toilet or something.

        The toilet is the extra seat, q.v. Virgin Trains.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Are the designers good at maths?

          Probably an odd number of cabin crew that have to be seated for take off and landing.

  16. SImon Hobson Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Not the first to notice ...

    What a name for an aircraft or aircraft manufacturer. I know others have mentioned it, but we have an icon to go with the public perception of what "BOOM" means !

    1. Gary Bickford

      Re: Not the first to notice ...

      Considering what happens when things going at these speeds meet things going at lesser speeds, perhaps "Splat!" would also be a good name!

  17. tblacklock1972

    Are Go!

    Needs a bit more work but it's almost starting to look like the Fireflash from Thunderbirds.

    http://mateengreenway.com/anderson/Fireflash.jpg

    We can do this.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Mushroom

      "starting to look like the Fireflash from Thunderbirds."

      You are aware that Fireflash's key claim to fame is it's meant to be the worlds first commercial nuclear powered airliner, right?

      There's a reason the engine section detaches.

  18. Mage Silver badge

    OTH

    I think the Ekranoplan is cool, probably much cheaper to run and they actually exist.

    Is supersonic (and hypersonic flight London to Sydney) merely egotism?

    I did think Concorde was amazing. I used to watch the training flights. Noisy.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: OTH

      I think the Ekranoplan is cool, probably much cheaper to run and they actually exist.

      Sure, but didn't/don't most Ekranoplan type vehicles run on inland seas like the Caspian? Being on one going across the Atlantic during a winter storm could be an interesting challenge to one's inner ear/visual cortex coordination. Even if, like me, you're not prone to motion sickness, being surrounded by those who are is distinctly unpleasant. [Memories of a Cherbourg to Portsmouth ferry in a force 10 gale are still vivid even though it was 42 years ago.]

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: OTH

        "Sure, but didn't/don't most Ekranoplan type vehicles run on inland seas like the Caspian?"

        Especially considering that an Ekranoplans cruising height is lower than some of the big waves you get in the open sea. Not to mention the "rogue" waves, which seem to be a lot more common than we ever suspected.

  19. Dave Bell

    Who will want to fly from England?

    Are the people who can afford this going to be based in London?

    Short answer is, we don'r know what Brexit will do. But I am not sure that there will be an airport sufficiently near New York with a local passenger pool that can sustain this. Paris, maybe, but don't forget that aircraft need reserve fuel for the unexpected, to get to an alternative destination, and the extra distance to, for instance, Frankfurt, might soak up that margin. And, even with TGV in mainland Europe, if total journey time matters, getting to the airport is critical.

    It looks like all the eggs in one economic basket-case.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Who will want to fly from England?

      ' don't forget that aircraft need reserve fuel for the unexpected, to get to an alternative destination, and the extra distance to, for instance, Frankfurt, might soak up that margin'

      I'm fairly sure there are airports nearer Paris than Frankfurt that could be used for a diversion. The trick would be to choose one to the west. At least with only a three hour flight a weather divert is fairly unlikely as it'll barely have time to change.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who will want to fly from England?

      Are the people who can afford this going to be based in London?

      I can only assume you've never been to London. No matter what happens with Brexit, London is one of the top five global happening places. Doesn't matter if others are bigger, in net terms richer. In the world of the rich you're nobody if you don't have a pad or business interests in The Smoke.

      There will always be people in London interested in this (and looking at the proposed scale, I can't help wondering if they could get the takeoff run and noise levels within London City limits. That'd be a game changer for the City.

      Not that I like London, or have any time for the filthy rich...

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      "Are the people who can afford this going to be based in London?"

      Sure there are many successful Russian gangsters business men based in London who would love to fly to the States for a day or two.

  20. billat29

    Flying a sports car

    rather than in a bus. Nothing quite like the push back in your seat when you accelerated down the runway.

    And you could get a standby seat on the evening flight from JFK for about $500. It was cramped on board and "most" people prefered to fly subsonic, have a nice meal and sleep on the 747.

    It doesn't matter how much it costs. The rich will afford it. We plebs don't count.

  21. Milton Silver badge

    More Branson Marketing

    Given that most of Branson's ventures have been failures, for some reason so rarely mentioned in the press; that the husk of Virgin Atlantic is busy being consumed by Delta; and that the "Galactic" nonsense in the desert ("astronaut" badges for rich idiots who can be conned into a long, dreary climb to an arbitrary altitude) is going from problem to problem, Branson's grandstanding seems increasingly like the Chesire Cat: he'll keep yakking until all that's left of Virgin is a brand, gradually fading ....

    I wouldn't be all that surprised to discover that this announcement will be used as cover for the winding-down of the "Galactic" tosh, and that this new enterprise will also end up with ever-more-distant deadlines for testing, for flights, for commercial operations etc.

    It's a real pity that more energy, publicity and money isn't being invested in truly revolutionary work like Reaction Engines (http://www.reactionengines.co.uk/, but they're rebuilding the site right now) who have solid science and engineering behind their Sabre engine concept and might actually be able to build not just a single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane (Skylon) but a hypersonic passenger plane (Lapcat) too.

    But of course RE's work is design and engineering, not a bunch of fluffy marketing twaddle, so Branson won't be interested.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: More Branson Marketing

      Couldn't agree more. Virgin Galactic is an epic failure, and I never understood why they needed to create a dedicated launch vehicle (The White Knight) for passengers but latterly have decided to use a 747 for satellite launches, seems buying off the shelf could have saved a lot of R&D and allowed them to concentrate on Space Ship One, oops, Two. The development costs of White Knight Two are elusive, but surely have to be more than a few tens of million $ for a 2nd hand 747.

      I think the future is in projects like Skylon and Reaction Engines, seems to be a far more versatile platform. I met Alan Bond once many years ago, he came to do a lecture at a University Dept I was working at at the time, which was was involved in aerospace. He was still bitter about the way HOTOL was shut down by the MoD. If only he'd been able to pursue that, we'd be in a very different place now.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: More Branson Marketing

        Premature to claim VG is a failure. If the company goes bust, THEN you can claim it a failure.

        But whilst they are still developing and test flying? No, not really.

    2. Gary Bickford

      Re: More Branson Marketing

      It's a real pity that more energy, publicity and money isn't being invested in truly revolutionary work like Reaction Engines

      They seem to be progressing reasonably well, having just received another chunk o' cash after successful testing of the SABRE engine concept. Something I read a couple of weeks ago gave me pause - apparently the timetable for the Skylon spaceplane is being pushed back, because certain military types are taking an interest in using SABRE for military purposes. This tells me that the military are convinced the thing actually works.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The German Guns

    Advertising slogan to be performed by Baldrick?

  23. Count Ludwig
    Windows

    Get rid of those windows to ...

    reduce design cost and complexity

    possibly reduce weight (all that reinforcement)

    probably reduce noise

    increase safety

    <your Windows Advantage (tm) here>

  24. imanidiot Silver badge

    Not a prototype then

    They released some airy-fairy pipedream CGI models not hindered by any form of knowledge of aircraft engineering or design! Unveiling a prototype means being a few weeks off from kicking the tires, lighting the fires and flying the thing. It means having, you know, a product. Instead of pure grade A investor bait that will never materialise anything resembling something tangible.

  25. Androgynous Cow Herd

    Poor marketing...

    One mishap during beta and that "Boom" name is going to be a problem

  26. JimC

    Target market is...

    Max capacity 55 passengers in a 1+1 configuration sounds more like a private jet than a serious airline aircraft. What's the betting that their real target market is for a much longer range lower capacity private jet for billionaires?

  27. DougS Silver badge

    55 passengers?

    Surely if they made it a bit larger to handle a more reasonable passenger load it could be much more economical. After all, it is only going to be used on certain long haul flights - and probably only over water, so NYC to London, SFO to Tokyo and other popular routes would be the target so filling a plane of almost any capacity shouldn't be that hard if it gets there in half the time.

    It is almost not even worth it for London to NYC these days however, given that of all the time taken from door to door to your destination, a three hour savings in flight time might not amount to much as a percentage of travel time. Back in the 60s/70s when you didn't need to show up two or more hours in advance of an international departure supersonic travel would have made a bigger difference in overall travel time.

  28. Ilmarinen
    Happy

    Oh Yes Please...

    Flew in G-BOAC one time. Beautiful machine.

    Actually running the aircraft was profitable, after the huge dev cost had been written off.

    It pains me that after so many years there is no replacement.

    Nor do I think there will be because: Greens.

    Remember when Bristol stopped hearing that double-boom because some activists (bless 'em) got the daily incoming flight to go subsonic earlier to stop "Noise Pollution". And all the squawking about noise in the Good 'Ole US of A when it all started (mainly cos they didn't have a Concorde).

    Good luck to them, though, I hope they succeed. I'll take a ride :-)

    PS: IIRC the afterburners were only used for going transonic - a little push in the back, like the kick-down on a fast car.

  29. YARR

    I'll never afford to fly on one, but...

    ... maybe they could put a directional thrust on that middle engine to help it get airborne on shorter runways? Imagine if you could fly supersonic to NY direct from London City Airport?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was going to make a joke about crossing the sound barrier. Boom boom.

  31. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    yup, the green weenies will kill it

    NOOOOO...too much carbon (whatever) being used

    NOOOOO...too much carbon (whatever) being created

    NOOOOO...wah, wah, wah... whatever else they're whinging about these days

  32. samw

    20 th anniversary since concorde retired?? 13th don't you mean??

  33. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Keep the basics

    I see that they kept the basic premise for the plan working: building the plane in the US.. that was the greatest problem by far for the concorde.

  34. kaseki

    The entire quote is relevant here: "The devil is in the details -- but so is salvation." ...Adm Rickover

  35. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    BA ran (two flights per day LHR to JFK) same as AF from CDG,

    BA properly maintained theirs and made the changes the EASA requested to get the airworthiness certificate renewed.

    AF was in a downward spiral losing cash right and left (had to merge with KLM to stop the decline) and would not commit to the changes.

    The type certificate was held By Airbus (a French company) as AF would have to stop flying, a blow to the French pride, they did not apply for the renewal. Politics is the sole reason its not still in the air.

  36. Milton Silver badge

    Baby steps

    I'd have been pleased, I guess, if one of the really big players demonstrated a commitment to large-scale supersonic travel: if Boeing or Airbus put a sizeable, brave investment into it—preferably Boeing, because they're an American company, meaning that US political objections to the overland commercial supersonic travel would miraculously evaporate—but I don't attach much credibility to any wheeze with Beardy involved. There's too much of the huckster brand-led mentality, all too unpleasantly on display with the "space travel" nonsense of Virgin "Galactic"—conning more-money-than-sense idiots into believing they're "astronauts" because they're in free-fall for a few minutes at some arbitrary altitude (not even going into orbit, in fact going absolutely nowhere at all).

    That said, just as much Virgin "Galactic" is a joke, so this small-scale ambition will probably get nowhere, as the hard, non-negotiable, expensive engineering and commercial details meet the hand-waving marketing drivel of Virgin. Part of the problem is that it only takes 5-6 hours to cross the Atlantic anyway and there simply isn't much point in paying a small fortune cutting two hours off it (believe the "business class fare" if you like, it won't happen).

    Far more compelling would be to more than halve the time taken on really long flights, even antipodean ones, where the difference between 17 hours and 4 hours is a real, highly desirable, worth-paying-for boon.

    It would be nice of Branson stopped faffing around with egotistical branding gobshyte that will lead nowhere and supported something like Reaction Engines instead. There's a company with good science and credible engineering aiming to build not only an actual SSTO spaceship, capable of orbit and return, but also to exploit the same tech to achieve hypersonic passenger flights to the other side of the world. Brussels to Auckland in four hours, anyone?

    But this is the age of superficial marketurds, political bollocks and spin, so of course the money goes to fat-headed gimmicks instead of hard-science-based enterprise.

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