This post originally appeared on Travel & Leisure
New York to London in three and a half hours? San Francisco to Tokyo in four hours and change? That’s the promise behind Boom, a supersonic plane start-up whose brain trust includes alumni of NASA, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing.
Like many start-ups, Boom is in early stages. It hopes to fly its first prototype plane in the second half of 2017. But even in beta mode—if you can call it that—Boom has shown exceptional promise. Already, it has joined Y Combinator, an start-up incubator with extremely rigorous standards (a notable alum in the travel world is Airbnb).
That may be why Richard Branson’s Virgin group, which owns the fastest airline in the country, Virgin America, is signing a letter of intent to buy 10 of these supersonic planes once they’re ready for commercial production. The deal represents an investment of roughly $2 billion on behalf of Virgin. At a proposed $5,000 per passenger ticket, it’ll take 400,000 passengers for Virgin to break even.
Also part of the deal, Virgin’s Spaceship Company is committing to provide engineering, design, and manufacturing support for the supersonic planes. The move may well expedite the timeline for Boom’s official arrival.
According to a statement by Boom, one more airline—a Middle East carrier—has also bought in, with an option for 15 planes. The name of the airline or the potential routes, however, haven’t been revealed.