Thursday, December 28, 2017

Japan Airlines pre-ordered twenty not-yet-built supersonic liners

Supersonic jetliner travel, which ended more than a decade ago with the Concorde, is set for a boost after Japan Airlines (JAL) agreed to invest $10 million in Colorado startup Boom Technology.
The strategic partnership deal will give JAL a 1% stake in the Denver-based company, reports Japan Times.

JAL has actually already been working with Boom for over a year, according to Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl, but this more clearly formalizes the relationship. Having airline stakeholders closely involved in how the development of its aircraft and service plans will work is a huge boon for Boom, which is a very small company.

“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,” said Scholl. “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.”

The airline also secured an option to purchase as many as 20 of the aircraft Boom is developing. The Japanese carrier is the second company to announce an intention to purchase Boom’s supersonic jet after Virgin Atlantic to reveal its support of the US-based supersonic airliner project, which is targeting entry into service in the mid-2020s. Together with the 10 options announced by Virgin in mid-2017, the JAL commitment represents almost half of the 76 options received by Boom to date. Three additional operators for the remaining 46 aircraft remain unidentified.

“We are very proud to be working with Boom on the advancement in the commercial aviation industry. Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic travel with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers while emphasizing flight safety,” said president of Japan Airlines Yoshiharu Ueki.

The plane-maker is still studying where it will assemble its supersonic aircraft. It plans to issue a request for proposals in the first quarter for its factory, which will offer “thousands of jobs,” Scholl said. Boom will select a site late next year, with the facility likely to be completed in late 2019 or 2020.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are working on a global standard for sonic boom that would lift the prohibition on supersonic flight over land. The engine choice and also a noise it produces are crucial factors, says Scholl. “We are in conversations with the European Aviation Safety Agency and the FAA,” he notes. “It will not be louder than anything flying today (such as the Boeing 777-300ER, for example). The conversations with the regulators are from a total impact perspective, and where the best place is to be.”

JAL, which Scholl says intends to use its supersonic aircraft primarily on busy North Pacific trunk routes to North America (which is over water), has had a long-term interest in acquiring high-speed transports. Although the Japanese carrier ordered three Concorde aircraft in 1963, these were canceled after the global oil crisis a decade later. Similarly, the airline also provisionally ordered up to eight of the larger Boeing 2707 before the US supersonic effort was also canceled in the early 1970s.

“The future needs friends,” Scholl said on Twitter ahead of the announcement. “Pioneers who stick their necks out, take a stand, support the new, the half-born, while uncertainty remains and the risk of failure is still quite real.”

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