Air France Concorde
Concorde awaits my arrival in New York for my trip on Air France flight 1 to Paris on Sunday, May 25, 2003. To say that the 160,000 Delta Air Lines SkyMiles which I used to be a passenger on this aircraft was a great use of those miles would be an incredible understatement. Photograph ©2003 by Brian Cohen.

United Airlines Goes Boom: Supersonic Travel in 2029?

United Airlines entered into an agreement with Boom Supersonic to purchase a fleet of 15 airplanes which will be capable of supersonic travel — with an option to acquire 35 additional airplanes — in an effort to return supersonic speed to commercial aviation as soon as 2029.

United Airlines Goes Boom: Supersonic Travel in 2029?

The model of supersonic airplane which United Airlines is purchasing is called Overture, which is a net-zero carbon aircraft that will fly on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel and is slated to meet the demanding safety, operating, and sustainability requirements of the airline.

“Capable of flying at speeds of Mach 1.7 — twice the speed of today’s fastest airliners — Overture can connect more than 500 destinations in nearly half the time”, according to this official press release from United Airlines. “Among the many future potential routes for United are Newark to London in just three and a half hours, Newark to Frankfurt in four hours and San Francisco to Tokyo in just six hours. Overture will also be designed with features such as in-seat entertainment screens, ample personal space, and contactless technology. Working with Boom is another component of United’s strategy to invest in innovative technologies that will build a more sustainable future of air travel.”

Mach 1.7 is actually 1.7 times the speed of sound, which is slightly greater than 1,300 miles per hour and thus is slower than the Concorde, which flew as fast as Mach 2.1. The top speed of conventional airplanes is typically 500 knots — or approximately 575 miles per hour.

At a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet and a length of 205 feet, Overture will be able to carry between 65 and 88 passengers up to a range of 4,250 nautical miles, which is approximately 4,888 miles. By contrast, Concorde also cruised at an altitude of 60,000 feet; but its range was 4,143 miles and contained 100 seats — 40 seats in the front cabin and 60 seats in the rear cabin, with two seats per row on either side of the aisle — and Concorde was approximately one foot shorter in length than Overture…

…but the Overture airplane is expected to be 75 percent cheaper to operate than the Concorde as a result of advancements in engines and lighter fuselages in recent decades.

The Race to Market by Competing Technologies

In this article at The Gate on Sunday, March 27, 2016, Boom Supersonic — which is based in Denver — had been hoping to beat to the market similar offerings proposed by a partnership between Aerion Supersonic and Airbus Group; as well as proposed by a partnership between Lockheed Martin and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States, which has supposedly progressed one step closer to supersonic travel becoming a reality.

There is even a company which claims that it has plans for an airplane which can travel at up to approximately 12 times the speed of Concorde where it would be able to fly from New York to London in eleven minutes; New York to Dubai in 22 minutes; and New York to Sydney in 32 minutes…

…and this does not even include the assorted futuristic technologies about to which I referred in this article where you could travel from New York to Beijing in as few as two hours; or this article pertaining to possibly one day traveling from London to New York in approximately one hour; or this article where passengers can be transported between Toronto and Montréal in as few as 30 minutes with Hyperloop technology.

One competitor reportedly claimed on Friday, May 21, 2021 that the company was running short of money to get its airplane into production. “Aerion Supersonic, which had touted plans to build a $375 million jet-building facility at Orlando Melbourne International Airport, abruptly announced Friday it was shutting down”, according to this article written by Rick Neale for Florida Today. “‘The AS2 supersonic business jet program meets all market, technical, regulatory and sustainability requirements, and the market for a new supersonic segment of general aviation has been validated with $11.2 billion in sales backlog for the AS2,’ a company statement released Friday afternoon said.”

Neither the official Internet web site of Aerion Supersonic nor its official social media channels — such as its Twitter account — indicate that the company has indeed abruptly halted its supersonic endeavors at the time this article was written.

Summary

Although I flew as a passenger on Concorde — I still intend to post a retroactive trip report on my experience, which will include photographs and video — I would like to be a passenger aboard either this aircraft or its potential competitors during flights…

…but Concorde supposedly failed because tickets were expensive — as well as maintaining the fleet of aging aircraft. The affordability of traveling on an Overture airplane remains to be seen — especially with fewer passengers and more luxury amenities.

Supersonic travel is still technically “vaporware” at this point; but one can hope that it will return in some form — and hopefully, more affordably and substantially more fuel efficient — as soon as possible…

…but I do not believe that that day will be as soon as in the year 2029 — although it is looking more and more likely that it will occur within our lifetimes…

Concorde awaits my arrival in New York for my trip on Air France flight 1 to Paris on Sunday, May 25, 2003. To say that the 160,000 Delta Air Lines SkyMiles which I used to be a passenger on this aircraft was a great use of those miles would be an incredible understatement. Photograph ©2003 by Brian Cohen.

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