Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — New York to London in 3½ hours? Seattle to Tokyo in six hours?
Those much-abbreviated flight times, once the exclusive purview of the long-departed Concorde jet, are again in sight for air travelers, according to upstart aircraft innovator Boom Supersonic.
Denver-based Boom says its Overture jet will be capable of hitting speeds of Mach 1.7 while flying over water (around 1,300 mph depending on atmospheric conditions) while carrying 65 to 80 passengers, burning 100% sustainable aviation fuel and enjoying a flight range of 4,250 nautical miles.
A supersonic pre-launch effort: On Tuesday, Boom announced it had reached an agreement with the world's largest airline, American Airlines, to sell 20 Overture aircraft with an option for an additional 40 planes.
Boom says its order book, counting purchases and options, for the Overture now stands at 130 planes and includes the new contract with American as well as earlier announced deals with United Airlines and Japan Airlines.
"We are proud to share our vision of a more connected and sustainable world with American Airlines," Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom, said in a press statement. "We believe Overture can help American deepen its competitive advantage on network, loyalty and overall airline preference through the paradigm-changing benefits of cutting travel times in half."
While the proposed Overture is slated to tear it up while flying over water, exceeding the subsonic cruising speed of a typical commercial jet by a factor of two, federal regulations restrict supersonic flight over land. That's thanks, in part, to the ground-trembling sonic booms that follow in the wake of supersonic travel.
Is this a Concorde reboot? The iconic, droop-nosed Concorde was developed and built in a joint venture by British and French aerospace manufacturers and provided the world's first and only supersonic commercial passenger service from 1976 until 2003. The planes were well-known for their speedy transport capabilities, but also for their fuel inefficiency, excessive noise and very pricey seats, which could run as high as $10,000 per flight.
Besides falling prey to cash-strapped carriers that were looking to economize amid falling passenger volumes and increasing fuel costs in the early 2000s, the horrific crash of a Paris-to-New York Concorde flight in 2000 shortly after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport helped seal the fate of the aircraft. While Boom is amassing orders for the Overture, only 14 Concordes were operational over its 25-plus years of in-flight service.
But Scholl insists the Boom Overture will be different when it debuts in 2029, with tickets costing about $4,000 to $5,000 to fly from New York to London.
"There are tens of millions of passengers every year flying in business class on routes where Overture will give a big speed-up," Scholl said in an interview with the Associated Press, "and airlines will be able to do it profitably."
Breaking News: @AmericanAir places deposit on 20 Overture aircraft. American, the world's largest airline, is poised to have the world's largest supersonic fleet. The agreement also includes an option for an additional 40 Overture aircraft. https://t.co/VbGWQiXnCCpic.twitter.com/BhHken9Yws— Boom Supersonic (@boomaero) August 16, 2022
Not so super-fast, just yet: Boom's Overture is currently still very much in the design phase though the company released renderings of the plane last month it described as representative of "final production design." A one-third scale proof-of-concept prototype, nicknamed the "Baby Boom," has been undergoing ground testing at a Colorado facility and is rumored to be nearing readiness for the start of flight testing.
Boom says it's currently on schedule to roll out the first Overture in 2025 and carry its first passengers by 2029.
But there is plenty of skepticism about Boom's optimistic timetable among industry experts who note the development of new planes typically runs for many years and earning the requisite safety and operational sign-offs from the Federal Aviation Administration can extend the process.
Notably, Boom has not yet zeroed in on an engine maker to power the four-engined aircraft though it is reportedly in talks with Rolls Royce and others.
"With a supersonic jet, you don't design a plane, you design an engine first," Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at consultant AeroDynamic Advisory, told the Associated Press. "This is just a collection of freehand drawings until that engine happens."