FLIGHT OF FANTASY

Is the future of air travel Boston to New York in 36 minutes?

No taxi time, just a six-year wait on takeoff.
No taxi time, just a six-year wait on takeoff.
Image: Transcend Air
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You’re usually looking at something like three hours to get from downtown Manhattan to the heart of Boston, Massachusetts.

First, count on a half-hour cab journey to LaGuardia Airport. Then maybe an hour of security clearance and waiting to board. When you finally make it onto the plane, you’ll spend 22 minutes taxiing out, 39 minutes in the air, and seven taxiing in. Ten to 15 minutes to get out of the airport (we’re assuming you didn’t check a bag), then another 10 to 15 minutes in a car downtown. Total journey time? About 182 minutes—assuming no delays, traffic jams or unforeseen circumstances.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Boston-based aviation company Transcend Air. They promise a new six-seat aircraft that will take you from central Boston to New York City in 36 minutes flat—without ever needing to be within sight of an airport.

Transcend Air has developed a prototype for an aircraft it says flies like a jet and takes off like a helicopter, traveling at speeds of up to 405 miles per hour. The technology itself is new-ish, building on craft such as the CL-84, created by Canadair, Transcend Air’s CEO Greg Bruell told Travel+Leisure, “We’re taking a concept first demonstrated in the ’60s and finding a market for it, while updating it with the latest technology so that it doesn’t cost military-scale budgets to build them.”

The company believes it can fly get passengers from A to B in a fraction of the time of commercial planes—and for a comparable cost. But their figures seem a little off. That 36-minute flight between New York and Boston is currently set to cost $283—most one-way flights between the two cities clock come in at just under $100. And while a 55-minute journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco might be worth paying more for, the $315 Transcend quote seems steep compared to the current $120 plane journey, which takes about 100 minutes.

But it’s not just about shaving off minutes in the air. Because, like a helicopter, the aircraft takes off and lands vertically, it can leave from anywhere, saving passengers the time it takes to get to the airport and taxi to runways. Seats will be comparable in size to most present-day commercial airlines—though there’ll be no restrooms, to save on space.

Transcend Air says the initiative is “within reach,” on its website, aiming to launch service in 2024. But the company still has a way to go, including obtaining Federal Aviation Administration certification for the aircraft, which can take years. For now, the “Buy Now” button on their website is just for show—and that three-hour commitment to get from New York to Boston unlikely to change soon.