For the time being, most of us have pushed the idea of international travel out of our minds. However, United Airlines recently placed an order for 15 Boom Overture jets that are capable of travelling at twice the speed of modern airliners. Looks like when travel returns, it’s coming back with a boom.
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In an effort to bring supersonic travel back 18 years after Concorde’s final flight, the aircraft flying at 1,300mph has the potential to halve the transatlantic journey from Newark to London in three and half hours. Concorde currently holds the record – two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds – between New York and London in 1996. Yet, due to a downturn in passenger numbers and maintenance costs, Air France and British Airways discontinued their service in 2003.
Purchased from Denver based aerospace company, Boom Supersonic, trials of the ultra-fast jets are set to commence in 2026. Under the agreement, once they meet United’s safety, operating and sustainability requirements, the company has the option to acquire an additional 35 aircraft. Carrying fewer passengers than the abolished Concord jets, The Overture will accommodate between 65 and 88 seats and initially be priced at business class prices.
“The world’s first purchase agreement for net-zero carbon supersonic aircraft marks a significant step toward our mission to create a more accessible world,” said Blake Scholl, Boom Supersonic founder and CEO. “United and Boom share a common purpose—to unite the world safely and sustainably. At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations.”
In the past, environmentalists have criticised supersonics for burning more fuel per passenger than comparable subsonic planes. However, United CEO Scott Kirby believes the industry is in a better place to succeed this time around. “United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today’s advancements in technology are making it more viable for that to include supersonic planes. Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travellers access to a stellar flight experience,” Kirby said. “Our mission has always been about connecting people and now working with Boom, we’ll be able to do that on an even greater scale.”
Another issue facing the return of supersonic passenger planes is noise pollution, with residents living under flight paths potentially finding themselves in opposition to the plan. Before any new plane takes off the runway, the Civil Aviation Aviation Authority in the UK and the US Federal Aviation Administration must grant approval. While the idea of cutting travel time in half is always exciting, let’s just hope we can head overseas by 2026.