Commercial supersonic travel got a megaboost this week from United Airlines as the legacy airliner inked a new partnership with the Denver-based aerospace company, Boom Supersonic, to add the superfast aircraft to its global fleet. The move facilitates a leap forward in returning supersonic speeds to aviation.
United is set to purchase 15 of Boom’s ‘Overture’ airliners, once Overture meets United’s demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements. The agreement adds an option for United to purchase an additional 35 aircraft.
The age of the super-fast sound barrier-penetrating commercial flight came to an end in 2003, when the Concorde completed its final flight between New York and London. The British–French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner flew between 1976 and 2003 with a maximum speed that was twice the speed of sound and held seating for 92 to 128 passengers. The flight from New York to Paris took just under three hours.
In addition to being fast, Overture is expected to be the first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one, optimized to run on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Fortified with $270 million in venture capital investments, the aircraft model is slated to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026 and expected to carry passengers by 2029. United and Boom will also work together to accelerate production of greater supplies of SAF.
“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 travelers access to a stellar flight experience,” United CEO Scott 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.”
United’s interest in shaking up the industry with what may be considered a risky adventure comes as no surprise to industry watchers. The airline recently came in with a sizable investment in the electric air taxi business, partnering with Archer Aviation and its emerging EVTOL ventures.
Boom’s Overture aircraft will be capable of flying at speeds of Mach 1.7 – slightly slower than the Concorde but still twice the speed of today’s fastest airliners – Overture will be able to connect more than 500 destinations in nearly half the time. Among the many future potential routes for the United’s supersonic flights are Newark to London in just three and a half hours, Newark to Frankfurt in four hours and San Francisco to Tokyo in just six hours.
The aircraft will also be designed with features such as in-seat entertainment screens, ample personal space, and contactless technology. Working with Boom is another component of United’s strategy to invest in innovative technologies that will build a more sustainable future of air travel.
“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.”