Boom supersonic / United
The return of supersonic passenger travel took a significant step forward this week after United Airlines announced it would buy 15 aircraft from Boom Supersonic.
The agreement between the two companies provides for United to purchase 15 of Boom’s Overture aircraft still under development, as long as the high-speed jet meets specific safety, operational and sustainability requirements. United, which also has the option to purchase an additional 35 Overture aircraft at a later date, plans to put the aircraft into commercial service in 2029.
Introducing United’s supersonic fleet. @United will purchase up to 50 Overture aircraft and operate the fleet on 100% sustainable aviation fuels. https://t.co/zVG2aMCVKx #BoomSupersonic pic.twitter.com/kg9eoFT2Ww
– Boom Supersonic (@boomaero) June 3, 2021
Colorado-based Boom has yet to build a working version of Overture, though a smaller prototype called the XB-1 was unveiled last October and is slated to make its maiden flight later this year.
Overture is said to carry up to 75 passengers and fly at speeds of Mach-1.7. That’s a little over 1,300 mph, or twice as fast as today’s fastest commercial airliners.
That means that Overture can fly from Newark to London in three and a half hours, Newark to Frankfurt in four hours, and San Francisco to Tokyo in six hours, for example.
Given the environmental impact of aviation, Boom aims for Overture to become the first large airliner to be net carbon-free and optimized to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel.
“An outstanding flight experience”
“United continues on its journey to build a more innovative, sustainable airline, and today’s technological advances are making it possible to include supersonic aircraft,” said Scott Kirby, United CEO, in the announcement this week. “Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the world’s most robust route network in the industry, will give business and leisure travelers access to an outstanding flight experience.”
Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic, said the two companies share a common goal of “uniting the world safely and sustainably”. Scholl added, “At twice the speed, United passengers will experience all the benefits of personal life, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxed vacations to destinations far away.”
United isn’t the first major airline to show interest in Boom’s technology. Japan Airlines and the British Virgin Group have already signed contracts for a total of 30 Overture jets.
With this latest deal, Boom seeks to launch the first supersonic passenger service since Concorde’s last commercial flight in 2003, but it’s likely that routes will be limited for the next generation of supersonic aircraft. This is because many countries prohibit jets from flying faster than the speed of sound to prevent the annoying sonic boom. In other words, Overture may be restricted to coastal airports, with flights going over the ocean rather than inland.
Ticket prices can also be out of reach for many travelers. While airlines will have the final say, Boom expects airlines to be able to offer fares at business class prices – much more expensive than coach seats.