Concorde may not return but United Airlines has put in an order for new high-speed aircraft from Boom Supersonic that break the sound barrier. Olivia Palamountain reports
United Airlines is buying into next-generation aircraft that facilitate a leap forward in returning supersonic speeds to aviation and could disrupt the way we fly forever.
The new fleet will come from Boom Supersonic, an aerospace company on a mission to redefine commercial air travel through its sustainable, supersonic “Overture” airliners.
Once fully operational, these extraordinary planes will be the first commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one. Not only are they capable of flying on 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) they can also travel at twice the speed (Mach 1.7) of today’s fastest passenger jets. (The speed of sound is Mach 1.)
United has agreed to purchase 15 of them, with an option for a further 35, once they meet with United’s safety, operating and sustainability requirements. “XB-1”, a demonstrator aircraft was rolled out in 2020, and its net-zero carbon flight test programm is now underway.
United CEO Scott Kirby says: “United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today’s advancements in technology are making it more viable for that to include supersonic planes.
“Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience.
“Our mission has always been about connecting people and now working with Boom, we’ll be able to do that on an even greater scale.”
The first supersonic United aircraft are expected to fly in 2026 but commercial passengers won’t be able to book tickets onboard until 2029. United and Boom will also work together to accelerate production of greater supplies of SAF.
Thanks to its rapid flying capabilities, Overture can connect more than 500 destinations in nearly half the time – an incredibly exciting proposition for passengers and the industry.
Among the many future potential routes for United are New York Newark to London in just three and a half hours, New York Newark to Frankfurt in four hours and San Francisco to Tokyo in just six hours.
Comfort will also be key: Overture is designed with features such as in-seat entertainment screens, ample personal space, and contactless technology.
United is not the only company that is investing in Overture. Boom’s order book, including purchases and options, stands at 70 aircraft – including interest from the United States Air Force for government.
“The world’s first purchase agreement for net-zero carbon supersonic aircraft marks a significant step toward our mission to create a more accessible world,” says Blake Scholl, Boom Supersonic founder and CEO.
“United and Boom share a common purpose – to unite the world safely and sustainably. At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations.”
Are supersonic flights gathering pace? As reported by Metro, Nasa’s Concorde II supersonic jet will take to the skies in 2021 as the US government agency prepares to test a new “quiet” aircraft, which can travel at high speeds without emitting a deafening din.
This is important because supersonic passenger jets are currently banned over the US due to the earsplitting sound the planes make as they break the sound barrier.
However, the closure of Aerion Supersonic last month proves that the business of getting ultra-speed jets into the sky is no easy feat. After 17 years of trying and backing from Texan billionaire Robert Bass, the company failed to build even a prototype, let alone an aeroplane.