United Airlines Plans To Bring Back Supersonic Air Travel By 2029

United Airlines has announced a firm order of 15 “Overture” jets from Denver-based aerospace company Boom Supersonic, with an option for 35 more, contingent upon the new airliner meeting United’s safety, operating and sustainability requirements.

Specifications

The new supersonic jet by Boom Supersonic, dubbed Overture, promises the following:

  • Passenger capacity: 65 – 88
  • Length: 205 feet (about the same length as a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner)
  • Cruising altitude: 60,000 feet
  • Speed: Mach 1.7 (Concorde had a cruising speed of Mach 2.02)
  • Range: 4,250 nautical miles (4,888 miles)
  • Emissions: Net-zero carbon emissions (using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)
A video sneak-peak of the projected plan between Boom and United.
credit: youtube.com/boomsupersonic

Operating just under twice the speed of sound, the new Boom Overture jet promises to drastically cut air travel times, with new reduced transatlantic and transpacific flight times:

  • New York to Frankfurt: four hours (currently seven hours)
  • New York to London: three hours, 30 minutes (currently six hours, 30 minutes)
  • San Francisco to Tokyo: six hours (currently 10 hours, 15 minutes)

Timeline

Boom Supersonic plans to roll out the aircraft upon the following timeline:

  • 2025 – rollout
  • 2026 – first flight
  • 2029 – enters passenger service

Onboard Mock-up

More spacious than Concorde, the new Overture jet promises “comfort, productivity and privacy, featuring in-seat entertainment screens, ample personal space, and contactless technology.”

United Airlines Supersonic Jets
A mock-up of what business class can look like onboard this aircraft.
credit: boom supersonic

Based upon a single mock-up cabin rendering, it appears the aircraft can accommodate fully lie-flat business class seats in a 1-1 configuration.

The aircraft will offer a premium cabin with screens and plenty of personal space.
credit: boom supersonic

Efficiency, Noise, & Fuel

Boom Chief Executive Blake Scholl said there have been significant technological advancements since the Concorde was designed, such as lighter carbon-fiber components and quieter, more efficient engines. Boom last year announced a partnership with Rolls Royce Holdings PLC to develop propulsion systems for the aircraft.

The engines “allow the airplane to fly faster and burn less fuel while being quieter,” he said. The Boom has said that its aircraft won’t be noisier than typical jets around airports and that sonic booms will at first only occur over the ocean, though United and Boom hope that policymakers will eventually approve supersonic routes over land.

Careful considerations need to be made as supersonic aircraft (i.e. the Concorde) let off sonic booms once exceeding the speed of sound which can cause disturbances and damage on the ground.
credit: bosshunting.com.au

Environmental concerns have also weighed on demand for supersonic jets, which would use more fuel than conventional jets. Boom says the Overture would be capable of using only sustainable aviation fuel. Supplies of the fuel made from plants or waste are limited, however, and it still produces some emissions and currently costs five times more than regular jet fuel.

Is This A Serious Order?

Despite being a “firm” order, there are certain contingencies. Not only must the new Boom supersonic aircraft obtain FAA safety certification but it must meet United’s new rigorous sustainability requirements.

In all likelihood, United will have complete discretion over whether to proceed with this order due to inevitable production delays, inherent in virtually any new aviation-related technological innovation.

Final Thoughts

There’s excitement surrounding this announcement because a supersonic jet has not transported passengers since Concorde’s untimely retirement in 2003. The last time United ordered supersonic aircraft, humans had not walked on the moon. While this particular model may never take off, the new partnership between Boom and United demonstrate the longing for faster air travel. And doing it without pollution is all the more exciting. The two companies will work together aiming to carry passengers at supersonic levels again.


Sources:

Cover Image: https://www.ft.com/content/903b47e9-86b3-4e68-a5e4-414b142cc7b0

United Airlines Orders Supersonic Jets

https://www.wsj.com/articles/united-plans-to-buy-15-supersonic-planes-11622724910

https://www.bosshunting.com.au/motors/concorde-sonic-boom-sound-listen/

https://boomsupersonic.com/united