Connect Paris to New York in less than three and a half hours. This is the promise of Boom, an American start-up that aims to resuscitate supersonic commercial flights more than fifteen years after the last landing of the Concorde. Friday, January 4, it has formalized a fundraising of $ 100 million (87 million). This sum must make it possible to finance the manufacture of a first prototype on a reduced scale. A first test flight is expected by the end of the year.
Called Overture, the aircraft can reach a cruising speed of Mach 2.2 (2.2 times the speed of sound), or nearly 2,300 kilometers per hour. It's slightly more than its European ancestor. And about 2.5 times faster than today's airliners. The plane will be able to carry 55 passengers, against a hundred for the Concorde. "This is similar to the number of seats in business class and first class on long haul," explained in 2017, Blake Scholl, the founder and boss of the company.
Above all, the Overture must reduce operating costs. "They were very important to the Concorde, especially because of its fuel consumption," says Scholl. His plane, he promises, will take advantage of the latest technological advances: it will be lighter, more aerodynamic, more fuel efficient. Initially, Boom ensured that a transatlantic flight would cost only $ 5,000, almost half of the last flights on the Concorde. But society has since returned to this promise.
Beyond the promises, many questions remain unanswered. For example, the company still has not found a motor manufacturer, even though Mr Scholl assures Forbes magazine that he is in discussions with the main players in the sector. In addition, delays accumulate. The first test flight was initially scheduled for 2017. And the first commercial flight, announced for 2020, is no longer expected before 2023. Boom will also find new funding: the cost of the project is estimated at $ 6 billion .
Created in September 2014, Boom currently has only a few dozen employees, mainly engineers. Alumni of NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin or SpaceX, the space company of Elon Musk which serves as an example to follow. "They've proven that a newcomer can do incredible things," enthuses Boom's founder. The start-up is also helped by the teams of Virgin Galactic, the company of billionaire Richard Branson, who wants to send tourists into space.
Despite the commercial failure of the Concorde, "airlines are extremely interested in our project," assured Mr. Scholl in 2017. Since then, Boom claims 76 orders. Virgin Atlantic, Mr. Branson's airline, will be a priority for the first 10 aircraft. Japan Airlines, which has invested $ 10 million in the start-up, has filed an option for 20 supersonic aircraft. Three other companies also ordered. But their identity has never been revealed.
Mr. Scholl has ambitions. The entrepreneur already imagines his plane making more than 500 routes in the world. It figures the demand at 1,300 devices in the first ten years. With a list price of $ 200 million, "this represents a potential of $ 260 billion," he said. And he sees even further: "In the long run, the goal is to connect any city in the world in less than five hours and for only $ 100. "
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