A flight from San Francisco to Tokyo is about 11 hours long, which to many, feels like wasted time. What if you could shrink that time in half? Sure, you’d still be able to burn through a TV miniseries before the wheels touch down, but think about how much extra time you’d have in Tokyo that you otherwise would’ve wasted in the skies.
If all goes according to Japan Airlines’ (JAL) plan, you’ll be able to get to HND from SFO in 5.5 hours by the middle of the next decade. The airline has just sunk a $10 million investment into Boom Technology, a Denver-based startup that is working to revive supersonic aircrafts for intercontinental commercial travel. Only two commercial airlines have ever flown at supersonic speeds—faster than Mach 1, the speed of sound—including the French-British Concorde, which stopped flying in 2003 after decades of high costs and a 2000 crash that killed 113 people.
Now, supersonic aircrafts are almost exclusively reserved for military use, but Boom has started to recruit major airlines to re-enter the fray. Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic Airways signed on to buy 10 Boom jets, which will hold around 50 passengers and fly at Mach 2.2., and now JAL has agreed to purchase up to 20 jets, potentially signaling a game-changing air-travel trend. Per a Bloomberg report, Boom is in talks with more than a dozen airlines to sell its jets.
First the startup has to make sure its planes meet modern regulations. Boom will conduct its first test flight—a two-seater called the XB-1—by the end of 2018, but in a press release, the company said it’s already teamed up with JAL to crack larger issues for when civilian travel creeps closer to reality, such as convenience and comfort.
“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,“ said Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and CEO. “JAL’s passionate, visionary team offers decades of practical knowledge and wisdom on everything from the passenger experience to technical operations. We’re thrilled to be working with JAL to develop a reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers. Our goal is to develop an airliner that will be a great addition to any international airline’s fleet.”