Richard Branson, billionaire and founder of Virgin Group Ltd. (Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

Supersonic Air Travel `Next Big Thing,' Billionaire Branson Says

(Bloomberg) -- Supersonic jetliner travel, which ended more than a decade ago with the Concorde, will make a comeback and transform the aviation industry in coming years, according to billionaire Richard Branson.

“The next big thing, hopefully in my lifetime, will be supersonic travel coming back and people traveling around the world in next to no time,” Branson told Bloomberg Television in an interview in Washington Tuesday. “And hopefully in a relatively environmentally friendly way.”

Branson’s Virgin Galactic is already working with Boom Technology Inc. on its supersonic jet, and Japan Airlines Co. in December took an option to buy as many as 20 of the aircraft from the Colorado startup.

Boom is planning to build a 45- to 55-seat aircraft that cruises at Mach 2.2 (about 1,500 miles per hour) -- capable of whisking passengers between New York and London in about three hours. The Concorde, flown by British Airways and Air France, retired in 2003 after almost three decades in service as customers, weighed down by hefty operating costs, abandoned the jets.

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