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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Japan Airlines pumps millions into supersonic passenger jet

Aim is to produce a "reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers'

An artist's impression shows Boom's 55-seat supersonic aircraft. Courtesy Boom Supersonic
An artist's impression shows Boom's 55-seat supersonic aircraft. Courtesy Boom Supersonic

Japan Airlines (JAL) said Tuesday it had invested US$10 million in the US airline company Boom Supersonic to help revive supersonic flights that could cut journey times in half.

The Japanese airline company will also have the option to buy up to 20 Boom aircraft through a pre-order arrangement.

The new-generation supersonic aircraft, scheduled to be launched in mid-2020s or later, has a maximum flying range of 8,334 kilometres at a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 kilometres per hour.

This year The National reported how Dubai was among those showing interest in the faster than sound aircraft. In April Boom was invited by the Dubai Future Accelerators, an initiative that has been closely linked with HyperLoop One and Tesla arriving on UAE shores. Mr Scholl shadow danced around questions over any plans with Etihad, Emirates or Qatar Airways but is open to meetings with all interested parties.

Boom plans to build its 55=seat supersonic jet using off-the-shelf technology, and sell its seats for the normal price of business class travel. The prototype “Baby Boom” is being built now to be ready for flight in 2018.

“Supersonic technology is 50 years old,” said Mr Scholl. He said Concorde was designed with a slide rule and paper as part of a Cold War economics in the 1960s.

“Today’s advancements in both research and development technology and aviation knowledge mean the economics are now more than viable. Concorde cost $20,000 a seat, that made it unaffordable to most. Our seats will be at the same price as a normal business class or first class seat and you can fly from Dubai to London in four and a half hours. We see the first commercial flight in 2023.”

Boom formed in 2014 it says it has also secured reservations for its first 25 aircraft at $200m a plane. Virgin, Richard Branson’s airline, has earmarked 10.

If it takes off, it would be the first supersonic passenger aircraft since Concorde took its final flight in 2003.

The aim is to produce a "reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers", said Blake Scholl, the founder and chief executive of Boom Supersonic.

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On top of the "strategic" investment, JAL will collaborate with Boom to refine the aircraft design and help define the passenger experience for supersonic travel, JAL said.

The Denver-based firm in return will help JAL receive necessary permits from authorities and work together to promote the introduction of the aircraft.

"Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic travel with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers," said the JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki.

JAL received a government bailout after a high-profile bankruptcy restructuring in 2010. The carrier relisted on the Tokyo bourse two years later.