It’s been 50 years since the first Concorde took her maiden test flight, inaugurating the era of supersonic passenger travel, and almost 16 years since that era drew to a close, back in 2003. Since then we’ve had indulgent A380s and efficient 787s, but the truth is, we never really got over the Concorde. It’s still the one that got away, memorably beautiful if rather high-maintenance. Now several manufacturers are planning to eclipse those memories with planes that are cleaner, quieter, and yes, quicker than the Concorde. Up first: Denver-based Boom Supersonic, which is hoping to fly a prototype this year, and if all goes well, by 2025, have their 55-seat Overture craft whizzing passengers from Tokyo to San Francisco, typically a 9½-hour journey, in 5½ hours. Perhaps precipitously,
has taken an option on 20. Until this jet arrives, here’s a look at how its speediness will compare with the original Concorde and other brisk vehicles, existing and theoretical, that make our hearts beat faster.
From left: Boeing NeXt Hypersonic Concept; Boom Overture; Concorde; Shanghai Maglev Train; Francisco high-speed ferry
3,400 MPH: Boeing NeXt Hypersonic Concept
First Flight: No earlier than 2029
This still very-much-theoretical hypersonic aircraft could make Mach 5 (about 3,400 mph) travel possible at altitudes of 100,000 feet.
1,451 MPH: Boom Overture
Seats: Up to 55
First Flight (of the XB-1 ‘demonstrator’): Late 2019
Japan Airlines and Virgin Group are collaborating with Boom on developing faster-than-Concorde flights, at business-class prices.
The original Concorde crossed the Atlantic Ocean in under three hours. Even today, most commercial planes are lucky to make the trip in twice that time.
1,350 MPH: Concorde
First Flight: March 2, 1969
Last Flight: Oct. 24, 2003
Flights between New York and Paris (or London) took three hours, cost about $10,000 round-trip and afforded views of the curvature of the earth.
267 MPH: Shanghai Maglev
First Run: 2004
The magnetically levitating Chinese train connects the Shanghai Metro to Pudong International Airport (which are about 27 miles apart) in just over seven minutes.
64 MPH: Francisco
Seats: 950 (plus 135 cars)
First Run: 2013
Ferry operator Buquebus named this jet-powered high-speed catamaran—which links Montevideo, Uruguay, to Buenos Aires in two hours—for Pope Francis.