With the arrival of supersonic airplanes, United Airlines plans to transform the friendly skies into ultrafast sky.
The carrier announced this morning that it would purchase 15 planes from Boom Supersonic, with the option to buy 35 more later.
The Overture, Boom’s first commercial supersonic plane, has yet to be built or certified. It hopes to begin passenger service in 2029 with a plane traveling at Mach 1.7, cutting flying durations in half. That means a seven-hour journey from New York to London would take 3.5 hours instead of seven.
When announcing the deal, United CEO Scott Kirby said, “Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience.”
Even though the sale’s details have not been published, the companies believe it would yield immediate benefits.
Boom Supersonic, based in Denver, has received $270 million in funding and grown to 150 employees since its inception in 2014. Landing a definite order with a legacy airline affirms founder and CEO Blake Scholl’s ambition of bringing supersonic flying back to life.
— United Airlines (@united) June 3, 2021
From 1976 to October 2003, the supersonic Concorde flew commercial flights.
Scholl said, “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.”
United’s decision to order Boom supersonic jets keeps up with the company’s strategy, which Kirby has defined since taking over as CEO a year ago.
Kirby is working hard to expand the airline’s potential. United purchased a stake in eVTOL start-up Archer Aviation earlier this year and partnered with Mesa Airlines to order 200 electric planes built to fly short distances. United had just announced a multimillion-dollar investment in a carbon capture startup and pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
Boom’s promise to power the planes with engines that run on sustainable aviation fuel was one factor that drew United to buy supersonic jets.
It’s still unclear whether Boom’s ambition to bring supersonic commercial planes back to life will succeed.
The XB-1 demonstrator plane will make its first flight later this year, according to the manufacturer. Boom will begin manufacturing the Overture in 2023 and fly for the first time in 2026 if all goes according to plan. The final stumbling block will be gaining approval from regulators, including the Federal Aviation Administration.
When that happens, United plans to focus on long-haul international flights between major global hubs such as San Francisco and Tokyo and New York and Paris.
Mike Leskinen, United’s vice president of corporate development, believes the Overture will significantly impact some of the airline’s biggest foreign routes. “If we can cut the time to fly from the East Coast of the U.S. to certain cities in Europe and do it with lower emissions, we think that’s very attractive,” he said.