American Airlines has become the latest carrier to achieve the dream of ultrafast travel with the order of 20 Boom Supersonic jets on Tuesday.
Fifteen of the same planes, which promise to cut flight times, have already been booked by United Airlines last year, and Denver-based Boom says it has orders for 130 planes already from the likes of Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
But the planes don’t even exist yet: the first Overture model is expected to roll out of Boom’s North Carolina factory in 2025, with the plane entering commercial service by the end of the decade.
The promise held by the new jets is potentially groundbreaking: the planes are designed to travel at twice the speed of today’s fastest commercial jet — at Mach 1.7 over water — while carrying only slightly fewer passengers — 65 to 80.
Overtures’ launch would restart commercial transatlantic supersonic travel almost 20 years after the Franco-British Concorde supersonic airliner was grounded and decommissioned amid exorbitant ticket prices, high fuel consumption and high running costs – and following the fatal airport crash Charles de Gaulle. in Paris in July 2000.
The crash victims of AF4590, when the aircraft collided with a hotel shortly after take-off, included all 109 people on board and four on the ground. The incident was unrelated to supersonic travel.
Can Boom’s supersonic jets succeed where Concorde failed?
Why did Concorde fail so spectacularly? Andrew Charlton, managing director of Aviation Advocacy, an independent air transport consultancy, shared his thoughts on the matter with Newsweek.
“One [reason] was that you could fly alone [the supersonic jets] in some limited sectors,” he said. “The second was that it was extremely expensive, burned a lot of fuel, and you couldn’t fit many passengers in it.”
Boom has learned from the Concorde failure, and the company says the Overtures won’t have the same problems.
“To [Boom’s] the planes are promising a number of things,” Charlton said. “The first is that with newer technology and a curved nose, the plane will make a significantly smaller sonic boom than the supersonic Concorde jets, which made a noise that described the British Noise Advisory Council. in 2004 as intolerable”.
Boom’s Overtures are also expected to cover far more routes than Concorde’s supersonic jets.
“One of the problems Concorde had was that it could only fly supersonically over water, which seriously limited its usefulness. You couldn’t fly, for example, from Singapore to Sydney, you couldn’t fly from LA to New York, you can. Don’t fly from London to Hong Kong.”
Boom says the Overtures won’t have the same problem.
The company has said the planes are being designed to fly over 600 routes around the world “in just half the time”, promising that “flying from Miami to London in just under five hours and Los Angeles to Honolulu in three hours are among many possibilities” airplanes offer.
“They also claim you don’t have to worry about it environmentally,” Charlton added.
“The Overture is the first supersonic aircraft designed with a focus on endurance from day one,” says Boom. “We are optimizing the aircraft to accommodate 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and facilitate net zero carbon operations.”
Boom said it aims to achieve net zero carbon dioxide by 2025, when the first Overture model will be ready, and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
No details on fares have been released yet, as each airline will set the exact price of flying the supersonic jets. But according to Boom, the company is designing Overture to “allow airlines to offer fares comparable to today’s business class.”
Newsweek has reached out to Boom Supersonic for comment.
Will Boom Overture change air travel as we know it?
“Right now what we have is marketing and nothing else,” says Charlton.
“The first thing is that no aircraft on earth is currently authorized to fly at Mach 1.7, although I think it’s only a matter of time.” Concorde flights had a top speed of just over Mach 2.
“The second thing is, all the SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) available in the world, put together, would only supply Lufthansa for four days – so somehow Boom seems to think it has right to stand at the front of the queue for the SAFs that are available,” he added.
“All over the world, especially in Europe, there are mandates coming up for airlines to use SAF. So there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the SAF market, which no one seems to have thought through yet. Everyone’s just assuming courage that we will have the SAFs we want.”
Charlton also said that Boom’s Overtures does not have an engine manufacturer working on the four engines that are designed to power the planes. “They don’t even have a registered engine manufacturer,” he said. “Rolls-Royce spent some time working with them in terms of trying to develop things, but they have now left.”
Newsweek has asked Boom to confirm this statement.
Even if those open questions were resolved, Charlton doesn’t think the new planes will revolutionize air travel as a whole.
“It will be the icing on the cake,” he said. “It’s not going to change aviation as we know it. It’s targeting a very small sector of the market. If everybody in the world gets a supersonic business jet, it could change aviation, but I just don’t think that’s what it will.” happen, because I think the costs will become very prohibitive”.
But Charlton’s skepticism is not shared by many in the aviation industry – especially those who are already investing in new aircraft.
“Looking forward, supersonic travel will be an important part of our ability to deliver to our customers,” said Derek Kerr, American’s chief financial officer.
“We are excited about how Boom will shape the future of travel for both our company and our customers.”
In response to Kerr’s enthusiasm, Blake Scholl, chief executive of Boom, said, “We are proud to share our vision for a more connected and sustainable world with American Airlines.”
“We believe Overture can help American deepen its competitive network advantage, loyalty and overall airline preference through the paradigm-shifting benefits of cutting travel times in half.”