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Future American Airlines plane can fly from LA to Hawaii in 3 hours

Make no mistake, these new supersonic planes will be an exclusive affair, limited only to the rich and affluent.

boom overture plane in flight
Image: Boom

Today was a good day for the cash-rich yet time-poor, with aviation startup Boom announcing the sale of 20 of its supersonic Boom Overture passenger jets to American Airlines. 

The Boom Overture is expected to have a top speed of Mach 1.7 — or just over 1,100mph.

In practice, this will allow passengers to travel between London and New York in just 3.5 hours. On conventional aircraft, this route normally takes around seven hours. 

San Francisco to Tokyo — another proposed route for the Boom Overture — will take as little as six hours, compared to almost 11 hours with a subsonic airliner.

Passengers should expect to pay dearly for the convenience. Because of the high upfront costs of the aircraft ($200m per plane) and high levels of fuel burn, the only way to make the Boom Overture economically viable for airlines is to configure them in an all-business class configuration.

Boom suggests a one-way ticket between London and New York will cost around $5,000. That’s not far removed from the cost of a normal business class ticket. But still far beyond the reaches of most travelers. 

Fortunately, those with “break the sound barrier” on their bucket list have plenty of time to save up. Development on the Boom Overture is ongoing. That said, the company expects the first aircraft to enter into service by the end of this decade. 

American Airlines — which also has the option to purchase an additional 40 aircraft — is in a queue with other major carriers, including United Airlines, Japan Airlines, and the Virgin Group. 

“Looking to the future, supersonic travel will be an important part of our ability to deliver for our customers,” said Derek Kerr, American’s Chief Financial Officer, in a statement.

“We are excited about how Boom will shape the future of travel both for our company and our customers,” Kerr continued.

Back to the future

boom airplane on tarmac
Image: Boom

KnowTechie notes that neither the Boom Overture, nor the scaled-down testbed aircraft that will demonstrate the plane’s underlying concepts, have yet flown.

That’s understandable. Previous supersonic passenger jets had long development times. 

The iconic Concorde, although an undeniable feat of technological engineering, was notorious for its development delays and overspends. These contributed to its high upfront costs, and thus, its slow sales. 

Boeing abandoned work on a similar jet — the Boeing 2707 — in 1971 over development costs and a lack of a clear market. The Soviet Union’s equivalent, the Tupolev Tu-144, was quietly phased out due to its miserable safety record — and yes, high operating costs. 

The Boom Overture has the advantage of modern manufacturing technologies. The aircraft is expected to use composite materials in its construction, thereby reducing its weight, and thus, the rate it consumes fuel. 

Boom also plans to use conventional aviation tech where possible

boom flight in sky
Image: Boom

Whereas the Concorde used custom engines — namely the Olympus 593, manufactured by Rolls Royce and SNECMA — the Boom Overture will use conventional engines, albeit modified to deliver faster-than-sound performance. 

From the outset, the Boom Overture is set to outperform the Concorde in sales figures. Just 20 units of the Concorde were made, with the sole customers British Airways and Air France.

Singapore Airways and Banff International operated the jet, but never actually owned any. They merely leased them. 

If American Airlines decides to execute its options, in addition to the 20 Boom Overtures it has already ordered, Boom will have sold triple the number of Concorde jets ever produced. And that’s just with one airline.  

I admit, the return of supersonic passenger aircraft to our skies is an alluring proposition. But make no mistake, it will be an exclusive affair, limited only to the rich and affluent. Just like the Concorde. 

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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