THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
United Airlines plans to have a fleet of new supersonic planes capable of flying passengers above the speed of sound by the end of the 2020s. They would be the first commercial airliners to fly for two decades, following the end of Concorde, the innovative Anglo-French plane which was retired due to high costs, diminished demand after the 9/11 attacks, and concerns about noise and safety after a fatal crash in 2000.
The new supersonic jets will be made by Boom, a Denver-based operation which was set up in 2014. Boom plans to start trials of a small-scale prototype within a year and have the full-size plane operational by 2029.
Boom said that United has agreed to purchase 15 planes with an option to buy 35 more at a pre-negotiated price, and that the agreement includes a non-refundable deposit. Their Overture plane will be capable of flying at Mach 1.7 (1.7 times the speed of sound), reducing travel time between London and Newark, NJ (United’s hub) to 3½ hours from the current six-plus hours. San Francisco to Tokyo would take six hours instead of 10-plus hours today. The Boom Overture will have 88 seats, making it smaller than Concorde which had between 100 and 128 passenger seats depending on layout. Boom Chief Executive Blake Scholl said that technical advancements since Concorde, such as lighter carbon fiber parts and quieter and more efficient engines, being designed in partnership with Rolls Royce, “allow the airplane to fly faster and burn less fuel while being quieter”.
United said it planned to buy 15 Overture jets as long as they meet regulatory and operational standards. The firm’s Head of Investor Relations, Mike Leskinen, said, “Demand is not the issue here.” He said that United believed there will be enough demand from business travelers for supersonic journeys flying from the airline’s hubs on the east and west coasts of the United States.