United Airlines has no simple ambition: return to offering supersonic commercial flights, a milestone that has been rising for years after the Concorde experience. It is certainly not an unlikely and outdated goal, given that the President of the United States himself Joe Biden, illustrating in April the $ 621 billion plan dedicated to upgrading American infrastructure, cited supersonic (commercial) flights as one of the biggest news to come within the next decade.
United Airlines has found a precious ally in Boom Supersonic to reach the target. Under the agreement made today, the company will purchase 15 “Overture” airliners from the startup, with a further option to increase the order to 35 units. These are aircraft capable of traveling to Mach 1.7 speed, which is about double what the fastest airliners can achieve. The advantages naturally translate into halved travel times, but not only: if the development of the aircraft goes through, Overture could also become one of the first commercial airliners with zero emissions thanks to the use of SAF fuel (sustainable aviation fuel).
Good to know: the last supersonic commercial flight was carried out in 2003 by a Concorde on the New York-London route. Three years earlier, on July 25, 2000, a tragic accident claimed the lives of 113 people aboard an Air France Concorde and marked the beginning of the decline of supersonic flights. The idea of flying again by breaking down the sound barrier returned cyclically in the following years.
Despite the promising premises, the evolution and outcome of the project is not taken for granted. Primarily Boom Supersonic anticipates that it will take several more years to see the fruits: the new supersonic planes will be completed by 2025, the following year the tests in the skies will begin, but we will have to wait until 2029 for the first flights with passengers on board. In the meantime, the startup will have to overcome two more stumbling blocks: obtaining authorizations from the flight agencies US and international, and convince other potential buyers and lenders that the new generation of supersonic aircraft has overcome the critical issues of the previous one, namely safety, high costs and low demand.
For some questions Boom Supersonic and United Airlines already have convincing answers – at least on paper. The startup is in fact collaborating with Rolls-Royce to fine-tune the jet engines, United points out that Overture will be 75% more efficient than the Concorde, and also quieter – the sonic boom will only occur when the plane flies over the water. . And when it comes to the cost of the plane, the figure shouldn’t be much different than that required for a Boeing 787 – an airliner used for medium and long-haul flights. The Boom Supersonic project also appears to be grabbing the attention of other major investors – the New York Times mentions Japan Airlines – and it could find fertile ground in the post-pandemic phase where the desire to return to travel will grow.