Ecological, very expensive and never so fast: supersonic planes are back in the skies

Ecological, very expensive and never so fast: supersonic planes are back in the skies
Ecological, very expensive and never so fast: supersonic planes are back in the skies

Enough with the feelings of guilt, with the fear of flying, especially beyond the sound barrier, and with savings investments. We return to fly faster, to shorten distances, to gain more time than money. The new frontier, which is actually a return to the ancient, has been traced by United Airlines which has ordered 15 super-fast aircraft powered by “green” fuel from the start-up Boom Supersonic. That is, in essence, the return to supersonic flights, to the era of speed first of all that seemed to have ended twenty-one years ago with the last, tragic flight of the Concorde. If the new plane, which will be called Overture, meets all required safety standards, it could carry passengers starting in 2029, at twice the speed of today’s airliners and allow the American airline to make journeys in half the time. For example: a connection between Newark, one of the New York airports, and London would last three and a half hours while Newark and Frankfurt would be connected in four hours.

For Jon Ostrower of the trade magazine Air Current, more than a restoration is a revolution: “The last time United ordered a supersonic plane, man had not yet set foot on the moon.” The journey, however, does not go smoothly yet. So far the company has raised $ 270 million from various investors but has formed an alliance with aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce. Among the obstacles to overcome there is also the noise pollution of an airplane that passes the sound barrier. It will also have to receive the green light from the authorities to be able to fly at an altitude of about 18 kilometers, compared to 12 kilometers for a jet aircraft. “But the interest in a supersonic aircraft remains real, especially for transatlantic flights – explains Michel Merluzeau of Air – A way of traveling reserved for a certain type of customer, high-end such as businessmen”, who may have meetings in New York and London on the same day. But it could also be of interest to governments, to quickly transport heads of state or special army units in a short time from one part of the world to another.

United’s willingness to fly faster “goes against the trend of most airlines for the past 50 years: to fly cheaper and not faster,” Ostrower explained. The supersonic plane had always struggled to establish itself due to the very high costs. In service from 1976 to 2003 with British Airways and Air France, it had very high fuel consumption which was reflected in the price of the ticket. As a result, it was never profitable for the two companies. To mark the end of the jet, in addition to costs, was the Concorde accident shortly after take-off from Paris, which accelerated the end of the jet. 113 people died in the tragedy. Hopefully, United will purchase 15 aircraft but the company has optioned a further 35. First flight scheduled for 2026.

According to the founder and CEO of the start-up Blake Scholl, it is the first order in the world for a supersonic aircraft with green fuel. Even Japan Airlines, four years ago, had optioned 20 Boom Supersonic aircraft even if to carry out the project “10, 15 billion dollars are needed,” Merluzeau emphasizes. The doubt about the project is that it is managed by a start-up that has no experience in building commercial aircraft. But this is not the time to fly low.

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