• Wed. Jun 22nd, 2022

United Airlines signs deal for Boom supersonic aircraft

The possibility of supersonic air travel is alive again, with US airline United signing an agreement to purchase up to 50 new fast jets from Boom.

Under the terms of the deal between the two companies, United will purchase 15 of Boom’s Overture airliners, once they meet the airline’s safety, operational and sustainability requirements.

The airline has also subscribed to an option to purchase 35 more supersonic jets if things go well.

Bloomberg reports that the list price for the airliner is $ 200 million ($ 261 million) per aircraft, making the original deal worth $ 3 billion ($ 3.9 billion) and potentially up to $ 10 billion ($ 13.1 billion) if the option on another 35 planes were taken in full.

Boom hopes Overture will fly off for testing by 2026, with the first commercial passengers carried by 2029.

The aircraft is designed to fly at nearly 20,000 meters, traveling at up to 1.7 times the speed of sound while carrying between 65 and 88 passengers.

With a range of just under 7,900 kilometers, United said the plane could connect more than 500 destinations in nearly half the travel time of conventional subsonic airliners.

Civilian supersonic air travel is banned overland in the United States, but United sees potential on many international routes.

United cited New York (Newark) to London in three and a half hours, Frankfurt in four hours, and San Francisco to Tokyo in six hours as key serviceable routes.

“This has tremendous value to a large portion of our high-end business customers,” United vice president of corporate development Mike Leskinen told Bloomberg.

In addition to being fast, Boom said Overture was to be the first large commercial aircraft to emit zero carbon, being designed specifically to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

“United continues on its path to building a more innovative and sustainable airline and today’s technological advancements make the inclusion of supersonic aircraft more viable,” said airline CEO Scott Kirby.

“Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust network of routes in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to an exceptional flying experience. “

“The world’s first purchase agreement for a zero carbon supersonic aircraft marks an important step in our mission to create a more accessible world,” said Blake Scholl, Founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic.

Japan Airlines and Richard Branson’s Virgin have pre-orders for the plane, which is actually an option to buy the plane, Boom told Bloomberg, but the United deal is the first time an airline has filed. a cash deposit.

“I doubt that will ever happen”

Aviation analyst Neil Hansford doubts the deal will lead to a final deal.

“I doubt that will ever happen,” he told ABC News.

Mr Hansford said the concept of fast but expensive flights works against a current decline in first-class travel and seats, with many of those with that kind of wealth traveling in hired charter jets or in their own private planes.

He also believes United is not the right airline to capture this high-end segment of the market.

“If it had been someone like Etihad or Emirates, it would have some credibility,” he said.

Will Overture succeed where Concorde failed?

Large-scale commercial supersonic jet travel has been on hiatus since the official withdrawal of the Concorde in 2003, three years after a fatal accident in France that killed all on board.

The Concorde was slightly faster than the Overture should be, sailing at around twice the speed of sound.

However, a slowdown in air travel after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the maintenance of aging cells, and the rising cost of fuel – which the plane used in large quantities – combined to make the plane’s flight unsuccessful. profitable.

Mr Hansford, who has flown on Concorde before, said the plane had other serious drawbacks.

One was its famous engine sound, combined with the shock wave when breaking through the sound barrier, which prevented operation in some areas.

Another was space.

“I couldn’t carry a regular briefcase because there wasn’t enough room,” he said.

He added that his luggage arrived a few hours after arriving aboard the Concorde, which was transported on a regular commercial flight.