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Full-scale commercial supersonic passenger jet beginning in 2025

Newsman: United Airlines said it hopes to fly passengers on a planned new supersonic jetliner which would resurrect high-speed flights more than two decades after that method of travel was grounded.

The Supersonic jet can travel faster than the speed of sound. With a cost per jet of $200 million, the deal billion. The new supersonic plane also is designed to have operating costs that are 75% lower than the Concorde according to Rachael Rivas,the spokesperson from United Airlines.  The United Airlines on Thursday announced a deal with Denver-based startup Boom Supersonic for 15 of its “Overture” jets and an option for 35 more and hopes to zoom travelers across the globe in half the time it takes today with an order for new supersonic jets. Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl said in a statement “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.”

Boom unveiled its supersonic sub-scale testing aircraft last year, and intends to start producing its Overture full-scale commercial supersonic passenger jet beginning in 2025, with a planned 2029 date for the beginning of commercial service after a few years of flight testing, design refinement and qualification. The plane hasn’t been built and still requires government approval.

United Airlines became the first official U.S. customer for Boom Supersonic, a company focused on making supersonic commercial flight a reality once again. Overture, which is billed as an environmentally-friendly aircraft running only on up to 100% sustainable aviation fuel, is not expected to be introduced until 2025 and won’t fly until 2026. The first passengers won’t board until 2029, the companies said. Last year, Boom rolled out XB-1, a test aircraft.

Earlier this year, United took a stake in eVTOL start-up Archer Aviation while partnering with Mesa Airlines to order 200 electric aircrafts being designed to fly short distances. That came after United announced a multimillion dollar investment in a carbon capture start-up and committed to be carbon-neutral by 2050. 

United airline said it will buy the jets once Overture “meets United’s demand safety, operating and sustainability requirements” and that the two companies will work together to meet those requirements.

“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,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement. “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 travelers access to a stellar flight experience.” 

Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl said in a statement: “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.”

United said, the Overture jet will be able to fly at speed of Mach 1.7, twice the speed of today’s fasted airliners. That means it can cut flight times on many routes by nearly half. The Concorde was capable of flying just over twice the speed of sound: Mach 2.01.

United cited these as potential routes: Newark, New Jersey to London: 3 ½ hours (Current flying time: 6 ½ hours),San Francisco to Tokyo: 6 hours (Current flying time: 10 ¼ hours)and New York to Frankfurt, Germany: 4 hours (Current flying time: 7 hours)

The Overture jets will have 65 to 88 seats depending on an airline’s configuration, Boom said. United didn’t disclose how many seats its Overture jets will have.

However, the United airline said, it’s too early to say how much the flights will cost but spokesperson Rachael Rivas said the plane is designed to have operating costs that are 75% lower than the Concorde. A roundtrip ticket on the Concorde for the three-and-a-half-hour flight between New York and London could cost about $10,000. The airline is working with Boom far in advance to make sure the Overture is commercially viable.

While the terms of the sale were not disclosed, the companies believe the deal will generate immediate benefits.

Since it was founded in 2014, Denver-based Boom Supersonic has raised $270 million in capital and has grown to 150 employees. The supersonic Concorde flew commercial flights from 1976 until October 2003.

United and Boom’s announcement comes as the high environmental costs of flying face growing scrutiny. The movement to more stringently regulate airplane emissions is now worldwide, and airlines have increasingly advertised plans to reduce their impact on the environment.

 The history of supersonic passenger planes actually dates back decades. Operated by British Airways and Air France. Supersonic flight requires an enormous amount of jet fuel, and the engines are notoriously loud inside the cabin. The flights also historically extremely expensive:

High costs and a fatal crash in 2000 were key factors in the demise of The Concorde in 2003.

The Concorde, operated jointly by British Airways and Air France, was the first supersonic jet to fly commercially. It offered up to 100 passengers first-class, albeit cramped, service at twice the speed of sound starting in 1976. It could cross the Atlantic in less than four hours, about half what it took other jetliners at the time.

After a crash in 2000 that killed more than 100 people and increasingly insurmountable economic problems, the final commercial flight of the Concorde was in 2003.

There’s also growing work on solving the sonic boom, the startling sound supersonic aircraft produce when they break the sound barrier. NASA is working with Lockheed Martin on a supersonic research aircraft, and the agency told ‘Vox’ back in 2016 that a “quiet supersonic airplane” could be possible, potentially resolving a major hurdle for these high-speed flights.

To reduce environmental impact, United says Boom planes will use sustainable aviation fuels, but the limited supply of that might be better used on other planes. Research suggests that supersonic planes would require multiple times more fuel per passenger than a typical plane trip, according to Dan Rutherford, director of the International Council on Clean Transportation’s aviation program.

“These would be alternatives to fossil jet fuel, and that fuel is extremely rare today — and it’s also extremely expensive,” Rutherford said. “It’s a super small market already, and trying to combine that with an aircraft that we know will burn a lot of fuel seems really dicey to me.”

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