Betting that business travelers will pay top dollar for faster trips across oceans, United ordered 15 Overture aircraft from Boom Technology Inc.
United will purchase 15 supersonic jets for its initial order, with options for an additional 35 planes. At $200 million per plane, the order is projected to total $3 billion dollars.
Boom plans to start production of the Overture by 2023. Target delivery is later this decade and United expects to start commercial supersonic flights by 2029. Each jet can seat as many as 88 passengers.
“High speed is going to replace subsonic over long distances,” Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl said. “This is about unlocking travel that we don’t have today.”
As the debut operator for the Overture aircraft, United said that its coastal hubs will play a pivotal role in transatlantic and transpacific supersonic flights.
The fleet of Overtures will make it uniquely useful for United, according to the company’s VP for corporate development, Mike Leskinen. While the US bans commercial supersonic flights over the mainland, United foresees the return of three and a half-hour flights from New York to London.
Or, six-hour flights from San Francisco to Tokyo. “It has a tremendous amount of value for a big chunk of our high-end business customers,” Leskinen said. “We’ve got our eyes firmly on New York to London for inaugural service and we will evaluate opportunities beyond that.”
In designing the Overture, Boom is trying to hurdle previous aeronautical and financial challenges in resurrecting supersonic flights back to the market.
The last time a supersonic aircraft flew commercially was in 2003 using Concorde jets jointly developed by Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corp.
Boom is yet to complete funding for its development costs. The company already managed to raise more than $250 million. However, Scholl said that Boom projects up to $8 billion in funding before a single Overture can take its first flight.
A similar company, Aerion Corp, collapsed a month ago after getting more than $11 billion in advanced orders. Unfortunately, Aerion failed to get adequate funding before it could launch a maiden flight. Consequently, the Denver-based Boom hopes to escape a similar predicament.
The United deal is the first time Boom received a cash deposit for the airplane. Earlier, Japan Airlines and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group placed pre-orders, which gives them options for future purchases.
However, United remains confident in Boom’s development path “from point A to point B to point C” for Overture, Leskinen said.
Meanwhile, analysts think that the market for new supersonic aircraft could reach $160 billion by 2040, according to UBS Group AG analyst Myles Walton. While the extra speed can attract a number of business customers, the cost might prove too high for some clients.
At sea level, the speed of sound is 760 miles per hour (1,223 kilometers per hour). Overture jets will fly at around 1,300 miles per hour, or Mach 1.7, about twice as fast as conventional jetliners, according to Boom.
The cruising altitude of 60,000 feet will be higher than most other commercial air traffic. Like the Concorde, it will break the sound barrier only over oceans.
“I’ve done a lot of business trips around the U.S. that I make day trips — I can get back to see my kids that evening,” Leskinen said. “This will open up Western Europe to do the same.”
The Overture’s predecessor, the venerable Concorde, flew for 27 years until 2003. The Concorde cruised over the Atlantic at Mach 2, or around 1,500 mph.
However, its unsustainable fuel requirements and high operating costs made it a very expensive option. Only two airlines Air France and British Airways bought units.
Scholl said that the Overture will cost 75% less to operate compared to the Concorde. In a collaboration with Rolls-Royce, Boom will repurpose some of the former’s engines for use in the Overture.
As a result, the jet will use 100% sustainable aviation fuel and emit zero carbon emissions. Last October, In October, Boom unveiled the XB-1, a smaller demonstration model powered by older General Electric engines.
Watch United Airlines video announcement of its Overture jet orders:
Do you often take transatlantic or transpacific flights for business purposes? Do you want a return of supersonic flights that offer faster travel across the ocean? Also, have you traveled by Concorde before?
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