United Airlines has contracted with Boom Supersonic to buy 15 supersonic planes with an option to buy an additional 50, the companies announced on Thursday.
The terms of the deal are however still subject to change based on United’s safety testing results and Boom’s ability to deliver despite never having built or flown a supersonic jet.
Boom’s Overture jets could be on the ground in 2025, flying by 2026, and expected to carry passengers by 2029 if they pass inspection.
At that point, Boom says its supersonic jets will be able to fly from New York to London in only 3.5 hours or from Los Angeles to Sydney in just 6 hours and 45 minutes – a trip that normally takes seven hours. United Airlines says it is too early to announce ticket prices, but the boom said that ticket prices will be $5,000 per seat.
U.S. CEO Scott Kirby said the merger of Boom and United will give travelers the most robust route network in the world, combined with Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation.
Aside from United, Rolls-Royce and the US Air Force have also made contracts or memoranda of understanding with the company. Virgin Group (which is also developing a supersonic jet) and Japan Airlines have already placed preorders for the boom, one of which has secured $240 million in funding.
XB-1 has just recently been revealed as Boom’s first full-scale demonstrator, due to take flight in 2021. By comparison, the XB-1 is smaller than Boom’s full-size production model, which should be ready for passengers in 2029.
A prototype can hold only the pilot, whereas a commercial-ready version can carry 88 passengers and four crew members.
Using three General Electric J85-15 engines, the demonstrator should reach Mach 1.3 speeds.
Compared to the Overture jet, the full-scale version will be 205 feet long, cruise at 60,000 feet, and reach speeds of Mach 1.7.
Neither company has provided extra details about the types of fuel they will use or how they will achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Both claim that the jets will be “net-zero carbon from day one[and] optimized to run on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel.”
Faster speeds could lead to greater pollution in the environment, according to environmental groups.
In terms of CO2 emissions, the aviation industry contributes to 2 percent and supersonic jets, more than the global aviation industry. Boom claims it will be carbon-neutral, but simply put, it needs more fuel to go faster.
The boom has failed to meet its deadline, despite promising to begin flight tests in 2017 in order to ferry passengers in 2020. It has now been nearly a decade since that timeline began.
Since the Concorde, built by British Aerospace and French aerospace company Aérospatiale, was retired in 2003 after 27 years of service, there have not been any supersonic commercial jets in operation. Airbus lost money on Concorde because it was a gas guzzler.
As part of Boom’s research, new technologies are being tested to mute the sonic boom caused when a supersonic plane breaks the sound barrier. Supersonic jets were banned from US soil in 1973 because of the cannon-blast booms.
The President signed an executive order in October 2018 requesting that the Federal Aviation Administration revisit the ban. Despite making climate change and infrastructure top priorities of his first day in office, President Joe Biden’s stance on supersonic travel is still unclear.