A letter from Boom Founder & CEO Blake Scholl
It’s an iron law of human society that people travel to and trade with nearby communities more than they do with faraway lands. This principle is so robust that ancient trading records have even been used to locate lost Bronze Age cities. And when the time and money costs of travel fall through faster transportation or more direct routes, human beings go more places more often.
In history, we have seen this pattern play out time and again. When steamships began to replace sailboats in the mid-1800s, global trade exploded. Meanwhile, the transcontinental railroad connected San Francisco to the eastern United States — before 1869, most trips to San Francisco were one way. And recent research has shown that high-speed rail and low-cost airlines have increased research collaborations between professors at universities in different cities. Connecting a city to the world with direct flights dramatically increases local economic activity, as the city’s businesses enjoy easier access to trading relationships, talent, and capital.
Faster, cheaper travel is critical for bolstering economic growth, forging human relationships, and enhancing cross-cultural understanding. To understand this truth, consider a counterfactual: what if jet aircraft suddenly disappeared?
Faster, cheaper travel is critical for bolstering economic growth, forging human relationships, and enhancing cross-cultural understanding.
Without jets, a prop-plane trip to Asia would take days in each direction, and business travelers would stay closer to home. The prices of smartphones, automobiles and other complex goods would skyrocket — and their quality would decline, if they could even continue to be manufactured. In short, global trade would collapse, sending the world spiraling into an economic depression.
Life would be less rich in non-economic terms, too. Researchers would have fewer opportunities to share their ideas at academic conferences. World leaders would rarely see each other face to face. Beyoncé would not go on a world tour. Sports would stay local — international matches would be rare. Fewer international students would have access to education at the world’s best universities.
To be sure, people could try to use the Internet as a substitute for some kinds of travel, but research shows that it’s inferior. Nobody wants to celebrate his anniversary over a video call — and few business deals close without a handshake. There’s no replacement for meeting someone face to face. The best things in life require higher bandwidth than the Internet affords.
The speed of the jet is critical to the modern world. But what if we could travel much faster than today’s 550-mph jet aircraft? If the past is our guide, more speed will extend and deepen human cooperation across the planet.
Humanity should be much further along in the quest for speed. In the century from 1858 to 1958, we literally went from sailboats to subsonic jet aircraft. In the sixty years since, we have stagnated. Today’s jet aircraft fly as slow if not slower than the Boeing 707, introduced in 1958. Most of us have forgotten what it is like for travel to get substantially faster and more convenient with every passing generation.
That is why we at Boom are committed to making commercial supersonic flight available to as many people as possible. Our supersonic airliner is the first step of Boom’s mission — to make the entire planet dramatically more accessible. When our first plane comes to market, the need for relentless pursuit of ever more effortless access to every part of the globe will become obvious.
Most of us have forgotten what it is like for travel to get substantially faster and more convenient with every passing generation.
At subsonic speeds, there are some destinations that are too far away for regular travel. But at supersonic speed, an entrepreneur in Sydney can enjoy a much wider, more global audience for his innovations. The despair of long distance won’t weigh as heavily on a Parisian who finds the love of his life in Montreal. And an American completing her residency in London can see her parents in Chicago more than once or twice each year.
We think our supersonic airliner will be one of the most transformative airliner programs in history, which will give us the freedom to pursue even faster, more economical aircraft. The state of aerospace technology today allows us to deliver supersonic operating costs similar to those of subsonic business class — several times better than was possible when Concorde was designed. But by showing that there is money to be made in supersonic technology, we expect to stimulate new investment by the entire aerospace supply base in the technologies to go faster at lower cost. Think about how the world will change when Mach-4 travel is available at today’s economy class prices.
Crucially, the supersonic renaissance we are spearheading will happen with no net increase in carbon emissions. For one, lavish and wasteful premium subsonic features like first-class suites will become unnecessary when flights take half the time. Removing these extravagances saves weight and floor space and therefore reduces fuel burn. And under the historic CORSIA framework agreed to by the International Civil Aviation Organization, all international aviation emissions growth from 2020 on will be offset. The agreement applies equally to supersonic and subsonic aircraft, and it takes effect years before any new supersonic aircraft enters service.
As we see it at Boom, the pursuit of ever-faster travel speed is really a moral imperative. Supersonic flight offers the world a deeper form of human connection, just as earlier airplanes and trains and steamships once did. Some people say that speed makes the world smaller. But at supersonic speed, the planet is as big as ever. Life is bigger when it is experienced in person — with supersonic speeds, we’ll all experience a bigger world than ever before.