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Supersonic travel

United Airlines goes supersonic

3. June 2021

by Varun Sharma

The Chicago-based carrier has announced that it has ordered 15 passenger jets from Boom Supersonic - with an option to purchase 35 more. After stringent safety, operating and sustainability checks, United hopes to add these Mach 1.7 – 1,300 miles per hour - aircraft to its fleet by 2029. Denver-based Boom Supersonic expects to have its Overture aircraft in the air by 2026 for rigorous testing - with delivery to United three years later. 

In 2017 Boom received US$10 million from JAL for research & development and Japan’s flag carrier has an option for up to twenty Overtures in a pre-order arrangement. Boom has produced a prototype aircraft which it hopes will take the skies in the next few months. Overture’s order book, including purchases and options, now stands at seventy aircraft.

JAL has an option for up to twenty Overtures in a pre-order arrangement dating back to 2017

In the past, questions have been raised about the economic and more importantly environmental impact of supersonic aircraft but both Boom and United have been championing Overture and how it will run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). It will be the first commercial passenger jet in the world to do so. 

“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.”

Flying at Mach 1.7 – twice the speed of current commercial aircraft - Overture will be able to cut average flight times in half – and routes that have been mooted for United include Newark to London which will be flown in three and a half hours, San Francisco to Tokyo in six hours and Newark to Frankfurt in just four hours. 

“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,” 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 will be working with Boom to make the overall Overture passenger experience comfortable and in keeping with this premium product. Overture will carry 88 passengers. 

The commercial supersonic aircraft industry is booming. Nevada-based Aerion has unveiled its AS3TM – designed to carry 50 passengers at Mach 4 – over three thousand miles an hour. And as we reported earlier in the year, Spike Aerospace from Boston is planning to launch its own 1,100 miles per hour private jet by 2025.