United Airlines was first to place an initial order for Boom’s supersonic Overture airliner, now American Airlines has joined the queue.
United signed the initial contract in June 2021 to purchase 15 of Boom’s Overture airliners. Once Overture meets United’s demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements, United could exercise its option for 35 more aircraft. United Airlines Ventures (United’s corporate venture capital fund), allows the airline to invest in emerging companies that have the potential to influence the future of travel.
On August 16, 2022, American Airlines announced it agreed to purchase up to 20 Boom Supersonic Overture aircraft with an option for an additional 40 aircraft.
American Airlines, made an unspecified non-refundable deposit on the initial 20 aircraft.
What is interesting, is that both airlines quote similar reasoning for the purchase, citing reducing long-haul flights by half, and the use of 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) – jet fuel made from sustainable and renewable sources, rather than traditional fossil fuels.
Reducing travel time
Presently a trip from New York to London takes six and a half hours. Overture will be able to cut this down to three and a half hours, while a trip from Los Angeles to Honolulu is projected to take just three hours, down from nearly six hours. A Miami to London flight will be under five hours, cutting the nearly nine-hour flight time between the cities by almost half.
‘There are tens of millions of passengers every year flying in business class on routes where Overture will give a big speed-up, and airlines will be able to do it profitably,’ said Boom CEO Blake Scholl.
Scholl insists his company’s aircraft will be different, with tickets costing about USD4,000 to USD5,000 to fly from New York to London, compared to the USD12,000 tickets that Concorde users paid nearly 20 years ago.
The Boom Supersonic Overture
Still under development, the Overture is expected to reach speeds of Mach 1.7 (1,300mph) over water, double the speed of current commercial aircraft, and reducing most long-haul flights by almost half. Due to sonic booms and noise, the Overture airliner will reduce speed over land to just under Mach 1. Overture does not need to use afterburners to reach supersonic speed, and thus its engines will be more fuel efficient.
Last month at Farnborough (FAI), Boom announced changes to the design, going from three engines, to four identical engines placed under the delta-shaped wings.
“The use of four engines keeps weight and temperature balanced and shrinks the size requirements of each engine, which allows the production of those engines to fall within current supply chain and manufacturing capabilities”, Boom Supersonic explained.
Boom says the Overture program will cost between USD6 billion and USD8 billion, with the list price of $200 million per aircraft.
The four engine Overture will be rolled out of Boom’s Greensboro, North Carolina factory in 2025, with first flight expected to take place in 2026. After certification, the Overture supersonic aircraft is forecast to start airline service in 2029.
Each aircraft will carry between 65 and 80 passengers.
The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents pilots, criticised the American Airlines deal, saying the carrier should instead focus on reducing cancellations and delays which have hit its operations this year. “If there aren’t any changes to how management schedules this airline and its pilots, there will just be supersonic cancellations”, APA spokesperson Dennis Tajer said.
Sceptics have also questioned Boom’s ambitious timetable, especially in light of the many years an established manufacturer, like Boeing, takes to get aircraft or even retrofits approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Another issue is that Boom does not yet have an engine manufacturer lined up, although they are presently in negotiations with various engine manufacturers.
Environmentalists are also not happy, saying that supersonic aircraft use an extremely large amount of fuel compared to traditional commercial aircraft.
History has proved that the British-French Concorde failed because of the high cost of flights, noise and a downturn in the aviation industry. It remains to be seen whether Overture will overcome all these challenges.
Watch this space!