American Airlines Bets on Supersonic Flights in the Future

Boom Supersonic’s Overture. It is sleek.

American Airlines, which is apparently the world’s largest airline, has dipped its toes into the future of fast travel by pre-ordering the Boom Overture supersonic jet, an aircraft that is being designed to fly twice as fast as current commercial aircraft.

Denver-based Boom Supersonic, a little-known start-up company, is currently designing what they think will be the next generation of superfast aircraft. And so confident that this is the future, American Airlines has placed a non-refundable deposit for 20 of the new Overture planes. The only trouble is they haven’t yet built one because they do not yet have approval from the regulators.

There has only really been the one commercial aircraft that could fly faster than the speed of sound and that, of course, was the Concorde, an Anglo-French collaboration that flew between 1976 and 2003. It was primarily relegated to flying across the sea as regulators in most countries didn’t want the noise pollution—associated with the sonic boom created by flying so fast—that assaulted the ears of the land-based public below.

The Concorde was fuel-hungry and cramped and expensive to fly in as it carried you faster than the speed of sound, which is 1,236 kph. The Overture is expected to fly about as fast as the Concorde with a cruise speed of Mach 1.7, which is about 2,000kph for the likes of you and me. That is faster than the speed at which the earth spins and more than twice as fast as existing airliners. To put it into perspective, that would cut the time from, say, London to Miami from 9 ½ hours down to about 5 hours. It is this time-saving that all the airlines that have shown an interest in the Overture believe will be a key selling point.

Boom believes that their design will overcome all of Concorde’s shortfalls. The plane is designed to burn fuel a lot more frugally but more than that, the engine design will allow for the new eFuel that is currently entering the market. The fuselage is engineered from carbon composites making it lighter and the shape of the delta-winged aircraft will allow for a better drag coefficient. The aim is to become the very first carbon-neutral aircraft.

Flights on Concorde were really expensive but even with just 80 passengers, Blake Scholl, the CEO of Boom, believes that the cost of the flight between London and New York will be less than USD5,000 on an Overture. It used to be over USD7,000 back in the day on a Concorde.

How the inside will look.

Even though the first scheduled test flight of the Overture is not until 2026, the company claims to have pre-orders for 130 aircraft, which is impressive for a plane that hasn’t taken flight yet, and which seems to indicate that the airline industry has an appetite for fast flight. Even with the bans on sonic booms over land, American Airlines still believe that there are up to 600 routes they can use the plane on. United Airlines seems to agree and has likewise ordered 15 of the jets.

“Looking to the future, supersonic travel will be an important part of our ability to deliver for our customers,” said American Airlines CFO, Derek Kerr. “We are excited about how Boom will shape the future of travel both for our company and our customers.”

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