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The Future of Flying: Flights Could Be Getting Much Shorter

This is an excercpt from the series Far & Away, from National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal.

OF ALL THE JOYS of a bygone era of luxury air travel, Concorde was in a class by itself: supersonic flights that shrank the globe and made the hands of clocks tick backward. Now we’re closer than ever to a return to supersonic flights on commercial airlines, at prices far more affordable than Concorde ever was.

By the end of this year, a bluntly named aircraft manufacturing startup, Boom Technology, says it will fly a one-third size model of its supersonic airliner. The plane is called Baby Boom and it will test design and performance. The full-scale Boom airplane is scheduled to start three years of testing and certification in 2020. Many hurdles lay ahead, but the jet could be flying passengers in late 2023. Virgin Atlantic has ordered the first 10 of the $200 million jets. Other airlines have signed on, Boom Technology says, and a total of 76 orders are on the books so far.

Boom Technology says its Mach 2.2 plane will be able to get from New York to London in three hours, 15 minutes with round-trip tickets priced at about $5,000. Day-trips across oceans for business meetings would be possible. San Francisco to Tokyo would be five and a half hours instead of 11 hours today.

The plane will be roughly the length of a 737, only skinnier, and carry up to 55 passengers. Most rows will have a single seat on each side of the aisle with under-seat storage for carry-on bags. Seating will be about the same size as domestic first class today—38-inches for each row. While lie-flat business-class beds may be an option, there’s no need for them when you’re in the air as long as it currently takes to get from New York to Dallas.

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A new Captain at Airbus

Airbus SE is hunting for a new captain (CEO) to steer it through some of its worst turbulence in years.

The plane maker is facing investigations around the world over alleged corruption at a time when many of its most senior executives have laid plans to depart or already exited. While Airbus has secured orders for jets that have lengthened its backlog for years, it and rival Boeing Co. face big production challenges—including tight supply lines—to deliver those planes.

Airbus on Friday confirmed Chief Executive Tom Enders wouldn’t seek an extension to his contract beyond April 2019. His No. 2, Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Brégier, who runs the commercial plane division that delivers most of Airbus’s revenue and profit, will leave in February.

Boeing'a attraction to Embraer

Boeing Co.’s attraction to Embraer SA fits one of the goals Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg has set for the aerospace giant: creating a level playing field in the commercial jetliner business.

Boeing this week confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that it was in talks with Embraer.  But factors such as potential VETO from the Brazilian government could thwart a tie up. Analysts said that the chances of a full takeover were slim and that an expansion of the companies’ existing joint venture was a more likely outcome.

 

Airbus and Indigo

Airbus SE said this week it had completed a record-setting order for 430 jets from four airlines.  These four airlines are linked to a U.S. private-equity firm.  This one announcement narrows the gap opened up by rival Boeing Co. on new plane deals in 2017.

The European plane maker booked the order first outlined at last month’s Dubai Airshow for A320neo family jets.  These 430 jets are destined for carriers linked to Indigo Partners LLC: Frontier Airlines in the U.S., Hungary’sWizz Air Holdings WIZZ PLC, Mexico’s Volaris and JetSmart, a new Chile-based carrier.

The sale is the biggest-ever bulk buy of planes in terms of aircraft number, with the jets carrying a list price of $49.5 billion before discounts that analysts estimate could run as high as 60%. Airbus and Indigo didn’t disclose the actual terms.

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