Commercial supersonic transatlantic travel is on course to roar back almost 20 years after Concorde was decommissioned.
American Airlines on Tuesday agreed to buy up to 20 ultrafast jets from the aviation startup Boom Supersonic, with an option to purchase 40 more.
The Overture jets, which promise speeds of up to Mach 1.7 over water – twice the speed of today’s fastest commercial aircraft, though below Concorde’s Mach 2.04 – are expected to roll off the production line from 2025 and carry the first passengers in 2029. Concorde flew at a top speed of Mach 2.04
American is the third airline to place an order for the jets, after United Airlines which ordered 15 last year, and Virgin Atlantic, which reached a deal in 2016.
Blake Scholl, the founder and chief executive of Boom, said: “We believe Overture can help American deepen its competitive advantage on network, loyalty and overall airline preference through the paradigm-changing benefits of cutting travel times in half.”
The Overture will carry fewer passengers than subsonic passenger jets, with 65 to 88 seats – less capacity than Concorde had – which will initially be priced at business class rates.
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Neither Boom nor the airlines have released expected prices, but Scholl previously said tickets would be “affordable”.
He said: “I started this because I was sad that I never got to fly on Concorde. I waited but no one was doing it, so I decided to. Ultimately I want people to be able to get anywhere in the world in five hours for $100 (£83). To get there you have to improve fuel efficiency, but step by step supersonic air travel will become available for everyone. This is supersonic passenger air travel, no bullshit, and it’s actually affordable.”
Derek Kerr, American’s chief financial officer, said: “Looking to the future, supersonic travel will be an important part of our ability to deliver for our customers. We are excited about how Boom will shape the future of travel both for our company and our customers.”
Boom says the new aircraft is designed for a range of 4,250 nautical miles, and could fly about 600 routes around the world. It estimates that flying from London to New York would take 3.5 hours compared with 6.5 hours by current means. London to Miami would take just under five hours, versus the almost nine hours today.
Under the terms of the agreement, Boom must meet industry-standard operating, performance and safety requirements as well as American’s other customary conditions before delivery of any Overtures.
Asked about the carbon footprint of such flights, a Boom spokesperson said the company prioritises “circularity by repurposing used tooling, recycling components on the shop floor, and leveraging additive manufacturing techniques that result in less manufacturing waste and lighter, more fuel-efficient products”.
The company aims to achieve net zero carbon dioxide by 2025 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, and says flights will fly on “up to 100% sustainable” aviation fuel.
Concorde, which was flown by Air France and British Airways, was retired in 2003 after 27 years of service. It was three years after the aircraft’s only fatal incident when an Air France Concorde flight crashed on takeoff at Paris killing all 109 on board and four on the ground.
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