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Will supersonic passenger planes boom again?

SINCE the moment that three British Airways Concordes touched down at Heathrow in 2003, on their final journey before being retired from service, air-heads have pined for the days of supersonic passenger jets. Concordes were cramped and noisy, but they were the very emblem of the jet-setting elite. One’s time had to be very valuable indeed to justify paying thousands of pounds extra to shave three-and-a-half hours off of a transatlantic trip.

One of Concorde’s most wide-eyed fans was Richard Branson. The airline boss apparently kept a model of the plane—with his Virgin livery replacing British Airways’, naturally—on his desk. Little wonder, then, that he is putting his effort behind the latest in a line of pretenders to the supersonic crown.

This week Boom Technology unveiled a prototype of a plane that will eventually be capable of flying at Mach 2.2. That would allow the three-engine, 50-seat jet (pictured above) to cross the Atlantic in three hours and thirty minutes, about the same as the old Concorde. It hopes to test a one-third-sized model in the skies next year, with the final version ready to take paying passengers in 2023—20 years after the…Continue reading

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