American Airlines has put a deposit down for 20 supersonic passenger jets, evoking memories of the Concords.
Boom Supersonic is a startup founded in 2016. They’ve raised millions in venture capitol while designing their plane, but have yet to put even a scale model into the air.
The prospective plane called the Boom Overture is expected to seat 65-88 passenger and have a flight speed of Mach 1.7 (1,000 kn or 1151 mph). Currently, the company is expecting to put the first Overture into clients’ hands in 2029.
American Airlines is the second major airline to invest. In 2021, United Airlines signed a deal to buy 15 Overtures with an option for 35 more. American has an option for 40 more as part of their deal.
While 2029 may seem like a long way away, industry skeptics are questioning that timeline as extremely ambitious. It can take many years to get a new line of aircraft up to scratch for delivery, and Boom Supersonic hasn’t even settled on an engine manufacture. They’re currently in talks with Rolls Royce, but haven’t announced any firm decision.
“With a supersonic jet, you don’t design a plane, you design an engine first,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at consultant AeroDynamic Advisory. “This is just a collection of freehand drawings until that engine happens.”
Boom speculates that the market will bear as many as 1000 supersonic small-capacity jets in long international flights. At Mach 1.7, New York to London would be a 3 hour flight, and LA to Sidney only 8 hours, less than half their current travel times. They claim their jets will be able to make that speed on renewable fuel, too.
The last supersonic jet to be common in air travel, the Concords, were too expensive to be more than a curiosity, and were grounded due to safety concerns over almost twenty years ago. Boom CEO Blake Scholl says the Overture will be both safer and cheaper, meaning profitable for airlines. We still have quite a few years to wait before we learn if he’s right.
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