The high-speed supersonic jet race just got a lot faster with the introduction of Virgin Galactic’s hat into the race. But how does it compare to the legendary Concorde? And will it be worthy of the mantle of Concorde 2.0?
What is the Virgin Galactic Mach 3 Aircraft?
For many years Sir Richard Branson has dreamed of owning a fleet of Concorde aircraft. After failing to acquire some from the original builders, BAC and Aérospatiale, he then missed out when they went to British Airways for a pound and finally couldn’t take control of them when the aircraft was retired.
It seems that finally, his company, Virgin Galactic, has decided to build his supersonic aircraft as revealed yesterday. However, how will the aircraft compare to the original Concorde? Let’s compare.
We begin our comparison with the typical cabin configuration of both aircraft.
The Concorde carried a crew of three (two pilots and a flight engineer) and had a maximum capacity of 128 passengers. Now, remember, because the Concorde flew so fast, it didn’t have any lie-flat seats nor a lot of legroom typically found in business class cabins today.
The Virgin Galactic airframe, on the other hand, will only support nine to nineteen passengers depending on cabin configuration (likely lie-flat sets or private jet configuration).
Generally, in our many, many comparisons, we don’t compare the speed of the two aircraft. After all, once they reach a cruising speed of around Mach 0.89 (the most fuel-efficient speed for a typical sub-sonic plane), they rarely go faster.
However, speed is the point of a supersonic aircraft. If you can get from A to B faster than another design, then you will get business.
The Concorde flew at a speed of Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,179 km/h). The new so-far unnamed Virgin Galactic Mach 3 aircraft will fly at a speed of Mach 3 (3704.4 kilometers per hour or 2301.81 miles per hour).
Winner: Virgin Galactic
It seems that Virgin has traded passenger capacity for speed. This aircraft is not designed for airlines but rather for private individuals (although we would not rule out airlines like Qatar or JAL having a few on their books). After all, the Concorde was designed to fix the one unsolvable problem of air travel for high wealth individuals – long travel times. After all, you can get more wealth but not more time.
Thus we would like to still award Concorde a win in this analysis, thanks to an hour difference in speed compared to what would be a staggering ticket price difference.
If the Virgin Galactic aircraft is successful, it is likely they will upscale the technology to 100 passengers or more. When that’s the case, it will be no contest.
If you want to read how the Boom Supersonic aircraft compares to the Concorde, you can here.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.