Whoa: United Airlines Orders Boom Overture Supersonic Jet

Whoa: United Airlines Orders Boom Overture Supersonic Jet

46

Wait, what?!?

United orders up to 50 Boom Overture supersonic jets

United Airlines has today announced that it will purchase 15 Boom “Overture” supersonic aircraft, with an option for an additional 35 aircraft. These planes will join United’s fleet no earlier than 2029.

Boom Overture supersonic plane in United’s livery

This agreement is contingent upon the Overture plane meeting United’s safety, operating, and sustainability requirements. The companies will work together to meet those requirements prior to delivery. Notably the plane is expected to be the first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one, as it will run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

This could potentially cut travel time in half. For example, a Newark to London flight could be operated in 3hr30min, while a San Francisco to Tokyo flight could be operated in 6hr.

As United CEO Scott Kirby describes this:

“United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today’s advancements in technology are making it more viable for that to include supersonic planes. Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience. Our mission has always been about connecting people and now working with Boom, we’ll be able to do that on an even greater scale.”

Meanwhile here’s how Boom Supersonic founder Blake Scholl describes this:

“The world’s first purchase agreement for net-zero carbon supersonic aircraft marks a significant step toward our mission to create a more accessible world. United and Boom share a common purpose—to unite the world safely and sustainably. At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations.”

The plane is expected to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026, and enter commercial service in 2029.

What is the Boom Overture?

For some context, Boom Technology is a Colorado-based aeronautics company, best known for the Boom Overture, which is intended to bring back supersonic commercial air travel.

Here are some basic things to be aware of about the Boom Overture concept:

  • The plane will be 199 feet long (as a point of comparison, a 737-800 is 130 feet and a 777-300 is 242 feet along)
  • The plane will be able to cruise at an altitude of up to 60,000 feet, at Mach 1.7 (as a point of comparison, a 777 can fly at up to 43,000 feet, and at up to March 0.84)
  • The plane will have a range of just under 4,900 miles
  • The plane will be able to seat 65-88 passengers, in an all-business class configuration
  • The plane will be 100% carbon neutral
  • The expected price will be $200 million per aircraft
Potential Boom Overture cabin interior

Is this United Airlines plane order serious?

I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that seeing an airline — United, no less — order a supersonic jet is absolutely surreal. That being said, personally I’d be surprised if this plane ever flies in United’s livery (or perhaps at all):

  • Recently United announced that it would purchase 200 electric air taxis, so this isn’t United’s first “out there” order
  • Ultimately the optics of this are mutually good — it makes United look like it’s an airline on the cutting edge of innovation and sustainability, while giving credibility to the companies behind these prototypes
  • I can’t imagine United is putting much cash down here (as would usually be the case with an aircraft order), and as you can see this is contingent on all performance requirements being met, which is probably pretty unlikely; it’s being claimed that there was a non-refundable payment, but I can’t imagine it was much
  • Personally I’m not convinced there’s actually a big enough market for supersonic travel anymore, as I explained in a previous post

So yeah, as an avgeek it’s awesome to see a rendering of this jet in United’s livery, though personally I wouldn’t be surprised if this is as far as it goes.

Bottom line

United Airlines has placed an order for 15 Boom Overture supersonic jets, with the option for a further 35 orders. This is no doubt a super cool concept, and it’s particularly awesome to see an airline in the United States interested in this plane.

Whether or not this actually becomes a reality is a totally different question, though.

What’s your take — what do you think the odds are that the Boom Overture ever flies? And if it does, what are the odds that United actually flies this plane?

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  1. iflyfar

    100% carbon neutral? I call BS. Carbon offset doesn't count.

  2. DCBanker

    The new format is inconvenient, disappointing, a middle sized disaster

  3. destruya

    This isn't going to happen. But it's a ton of great free publicity for United. They look like they're ~investing in the future~ (forgetting the "future" failed in Concorde and the 2707 never even making it to a first flight) as well as "investing in America" since Boom is out of Denver, all without spending a dime. But best of all, by simply SUGGESTING they're doing this, it makes other airlines have to consider trying...

    This isn't going to happen. But it's a ton of great free publicity for United. They look like they're ~investing in the future~ (forgetting the "future" failed in Concorde and the 2707 never even making it to a first flight) as well as "investing in America" since Boom is out of Denver, all without spending a dime. But best of all, by simply SUGGESTING they're doing this, it makes other airlines have to consider trying to compete if they actually go through with it.

    Boom and Aerion (RIP) all seem like they're trying to develop the ultimate ultra-rich status symbol. Mega yachts the size of naval frigates and likely just as well-armed, and now supersonic bizjets.

  4. JBR

    To me, the biggest B.S. tell is the size of the windows in the interior picture: those windows look larger than anything in aviation, larger than a 787's windows, and larger than a Gulfstream G650's windows. In contrast, a Concorde had exterior windows that were smaller than the average man's hands. That's because the Concorde flew at 60,000 feet , and the combination of the extreme pressure differential between the cabin air pressure and the...

    To me, the biggest B.S. tell is the size of the windows in the interior picture: those windows look larger than anything in aviation, larger than a 787's windows, and larger than a Gulfstream G650's windows. In contrast, a Concorde had exterior windows that were smaller than the average man's hands. That's because the Concorde flew at 60,000 feet , and the combination of the extreme pressure differential between the cabin air pressure and the outside 60,000 foot pressure combined with the need to minimize the outflow of air in a decompression incident meant the Concorde's windows were tiny. Yet the Boom aircraft can have the biggest windows in aviation? Give me a break, it's all B.S. courtesy of an Elon Musk wannabe. But if Boom can pull off in the aviation industry what Tesla pulled off in the auto industry, hurrah for them!

  5. Randy

    With a range of under 4900 miles, doesn't seem like it will save that much time. 2x faster - but say JFK to LHR is 6 hours (or less) - then drop that to 3 hours. Same as Concord - with all the overhead time - to from airport, etc. it that extra 3 hours worth the money for most people?

    You need to be able to fly 7,000 to 8000 miles - to Australia etc to make the time savings significant. I only see niche demand like Concord.

  6. Eskimo

    " first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one, as it will run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel."

    Umm, NO.
    Just because it can run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel doesn't make it "net-zero"

    I also don't think operationally it will run on 100% SAF as it is still very costly (presumably even in 2029). Remember one big reason Concorde failed, the fuel price.

    United's escape clause is just that, an...

    " first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one, as it will run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel."

    Umm, NO.
    Just because it can run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel doesn't make it "net-zero"

    I also don't think operationally it will run on 100% SAF as it is still very costly (presumably even in 2029). Remember one big reason Concorde failed, the fuel price.

    United's escape clause is just that, an impossible 'sustainability requirements' for 2029.

    This is just driving valuation of BOOM up for the wrong reasons. Hell, if they said it would run on crypto-fuel (what ever that is) the valuations would still go up.

    At least BOOM hasn't sold any jets to BALTIA or Global Ghana yet.

  7. Nate nate

    What does it mean for a "plane [to be] be 100% carbon neutral"?

    Are carbon offsets being purchased, or is this running on wind and solar power?

    P.S. the new comments format is brutal but please don't change -- I will be more productive in my day job if I don't read the comments.

  8. AW

    Don't forget, Braniff placed orders for the Concorde too. How'd that work out?

    1. Pierre

      Actually Braniff was the only US airline flying the Concorde (between IAD and DFW, at M 0.95) with their own pilots and FAs. The planes were from AF and BA, the extension of CDG and LHR to/from IAD, and each plane's registration was actually changed in Washington to N-xxxBN with Adhesives, if you can believe it (true...). There were full local rights between DFW and IAD

  9. GBOAC

    I always thought that the market that might make an SST viable was the trans-pacific market where 10-15 hour flights could be shrunk in half time wise. But I don't see in their max range. And actual distances covered/time taken would be greater due to deviating from great circle routes over land.

  10. TheJagMan

    The big problem is the 4900 mile limit...The only way I could this working is when a plane can stop to refuel without un-boarding current pax or boarding new pax...I believe many would pay to cut the flight time in half when the flight is 15+ hours...

  11. Another Lump

    I think any commercial supersonic solution needs to be closer to Mach 3 to be viable. Sub M2 won't do it to overcome flight restrictions, costs, etc just to barely cut cruise time in half (so it wouldn't even come close to cutting overall travel time in half). The net zero claim is BS green washing marketing fluff. Any plane could do that if they want to pass on the cost of more expensive fuel to consumers, which most consumers aren't willing to pay.

  12. David

    If they can indeed fly from SFO-Asia, then there is a real market. United already has a lucrative contract with Apple, and this will put them ahead of all their competitors for Apple’s business (allowing them to charge a premium to shave hours of travel time per way).

  13. JDS

    Don't forget the number of airlines who placed orders for Concorde back in the day - Qantas, Air India, Pan Am and United (among others.) I suspect this will go the same way.

  14. Alexis

    Why not spin Polaris out into a sub brand for this? Hitching the United name and reputation to something that is essentially vaporware screams of bad optics.

  15. Manny

    With so many businessman moving towards private jet, the entire airline industry offloading their big jets (777, 747, A380) and concentrating on A321 and A220 (eventually 737) I think an expensive supersonic exclusive jet for the rich is definitely appropriate for our time. I'm in!!!

  16. Gerard Tremeux

    The private jet segment of air transport is a strong candidate for supersonic travel. There is a significant portion of the population whose time is valuable enough that super sonic travel makes sense.

    With recent developments in aerodynamic design around softer shock waves, supersonic travel may expand beyond the transatlantic or transpacific routes. There are city pairs to make the model sustainable (i.e. JFK - LAX just to identify one).

    I’m an investor in multiple...

    The private jet segment of air transport is a strong candidate for supersonic travel. There is a significant portion of the population whose time is valuable enough that super sonic travel makes sense.

    With recent developments in aerodynamic design around softer shock waves, supersonic travel may expand beyond the transatlantic or transpacific routes. There are city pairs to make the model sustainable (i.e. JFK - LAX just to identify one).

    I’m an investor in multiple supersonic concepts and strongly believe that the future is bright for the return of this technology to commercial travel, albeit on select routes.

  17. Tim Dunn

    Who ever thought that calling an airplane Boom made the least bit of sense?

    1. Mattux

      Haha yes I can't imagine that scored well in the focus group

  18. TyL

    With a range of just 4,900 miles, there is little chance this will work out. Basically it can only be used on transatlantic routes, then I don't see much difference from Concorde from a profit perspective.

  19. eleanore nichols

    one thing i've only seen mentioned in one media outlet is the sonic boom issue. the same one that helped make the concorde go the the way of the 'dodo.'

    company officials have stated it will only create a sonic boom when flying over water. problem is they have said nothing whatsoever about that issue when flying over the lower 48.

    most americans have never been startled by a sonic boom because we...

    one thing i've only seen mentioned in one media outlet is the sonic boom issue. the same one that helped make the concorde go the the way of the 'dodo.'

    company officials have stated it will only create a sonic boom when flying over water. problem is they have said nothing whatsoever about that issue when flying over the lower 48.

    most americans have never been startled by a sonic boom because we stopped them in commercial aircraft decades back. that said every few years we get to hear sonic booms aka blasts due to the relatively nearby base in cheyenne. those rare booms are awful enough, but on a regular basis? absolutely not!

    they have to address the sonic boom/noise issue or this venture, it will not fly with most americans, pun intended.

    1. Gerard Tremeux

      Please refer to my comment below. The Boom aircraft addresses some of the issues around noise abatement by using new aerodynamic developments which distributes the shockwave across the aircraft reducing the intensity resulting in a softer disturbance and this a quieter boom. The instantaneous boom that we hear is actually a lesser an issue than the continuous shockwave emitted from the aircraft. This is what the “softer boom” design addresses. Regardless, except for one competitor,...

      Please refer to my comment below. The Boom aircraft addresses some of the issues around noise abatement by using new aerodynamic developments which distributes the shockwave across the aircraft reducing the intensity resulting in a softer disturbance and this a quieter boom. The instantaneous boom that we hear is actually a lesser an issue than the continuous shockwave emitted from the aircraft. This is what the “softer boom” design addresses. Regardless, except for one competitor, most players in the supersonic transportation industry will rely on changes in legislation to enable supersonic travel over land.

      We may be seeing the first truly exciting development in commercial air transport since the introduction of the 747!

  20. Alex

    @Lucky, If the range is 4900 miles, how is it flying SF to Tokyo?

    1. Bagoly

      Excellent point.
      Sonic Boom is a feature of physics so they can't get rid of that.
      That is what limited Concorde to over ocean flights only. But if the range won't get across the Pacific that leaves only TATL and NS routes like Los Angles to Lima?

  21. JJH

    Lucky speculates that “ I can’t imagine United is actually putting any cash down here (as would usually be the case with an aircraft order).”

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that this is incorrect. Their story says: “ A spokeswoman for Boom declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal, but said that the agreement includes a non-refundable industry-standard upfront payment from United.”

    Whether this plane will actually meet the performances specifications is...

    Lucky speculates that “ I can’t imagine United is actually putting any cash down here (as would usually be the case with an aircraft order).”

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that this is incorrect. Their story says: “ A spokeswoman for Boom declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal, but said that the agreement includes a non-refundable industry-standard upfront payment from United.”

    Whether this plane will actually meet the performances specifications is perhaps anyone’s guess, but if they’re plunking down a standard non-refundable deposit, I’d say they’re a lot more serious about this than Lucky gives them credit for.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/united-plans-to-buy-15-supersonic-planes-11622724910?st=xm2925qxulrxidf&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

    1. Al

      It seems to me that United gave Boom a bit of upfront non refundable money, good pr, and increased credibility in exchange for discounts on the plane down the line if the plane ever does get approved, and United does actually want it

      It seems like United is playing venture capitalist more than anything else. I doubt the deposit was a particularly large sum of money. In fact, they may have even asked united to...

      It seems to me that United gave Boom a bit of upfront non refundable money, good pr, and increased credibility in exchange for discounts on the plane down the line if the plane ever does get approved, and United does actually want it

      It seems like United is playing venture capitalist more than anything else. I doubt the deposit was a particularly large sum of money. In fact, they may have even asked united to make a small non refundable deposit so they could tell people that United made a non refundable deposit to project confidence.

  22. Al

    It seems to me that United gave Boom a bit of upfront non refundable money, good pr, and increased credibility in exchange for discounts on the plane down the line if the plane ever does get approved, and United does actually want it

    It seems like United is playing venture capitalist more than anything else.

  23. RF

    This is cool and I like the sign of investment into supersonic travel but it feels unlikely to happen. Let's see an actual flying prototype from Boom.

  24. Pierre

    Every single major US airline had, at the time, ordered Concorde and this was... over 50 years ago. 14 were built, flown by 2 airlines, Air France and British Airways, and that was it, period.

    I flew in it maybe 40 times over 25 years, and it was great while it lasted. JFK-CDG in 2 hours and 56 minutes, the 2nd fastest flight on record, and yes I miss it greatly.

    I realize that...

    Every single major US airline had, at the time, ordered Concorde and this was... over 50 years ago. 14 were built, flown by 2 airlines, Air France and British Airways, and that was it, period.

    I flew in it maybe 40 times over 25 years, and it was great while it lasted. JFK-CDG in 2 hours and 56 minutes, the 2nd fastest flight on record, and yes I miss it greatly.

    I realize that technology has evolved and maybe makes it more widely sustainable now, but at the same time it has not ALL changed in favor of supersonic travel. Zoom did not exist then.

    I wish it good luck but shall believe it when it is here.

  25. Steve

    0% chance this happens, this is just a ploy to increase the valuation of Boom which im sure there are plenty of United board members/execs that own a piece of Boom.

  26. abey

    @lucky where is the $5000 RT NYc-LHR airfare target you mentioned, from ?

  27. Gabriel c

    how many times a year do we read about new supersonic aircraft in the news? at least every other month there is has been a press release or something alike for the last 30 or may be more years

  28. That Guy

    Who knows how much they’ve improved the economics, but the market for transoceanic air travel is much bigger than it was in the Concorde era, particularly across the Pacific.

  29. Clem

    Like others I'd love to see this happen, and it's a step in the right direction for aviation to become more sustainable and use clean energy. We all know the Concorde was an absolute disaster on that front.
    There could be a limited market for it, perhaps between the major coastal cities in the US and London, Hong Kong, etc.
    I'm also not optimistic in seeing this coming to fruition (I mean 2029...

    Like others I'd love to see this happen, and it's a step in the right direction for aviation to become more sustainable and use clean energy. We all know the Concorde was an absolute disaster on that front.
    There could be a limited market for it, perhaps between the major coastal cities in the US and London, Hong Kong, etc.
    I'm also not optimistic in seeing this coming to fruition (I mean 2029 is only 7 years away, which is the time United needs to roll out a new lounge concept :D ), but it's encouraging to see that's the direction we're going towards.

  30. jeffk

    I guess it will all boil down to having a market for such travel. Clearly it will be way more expensive than cattle car transport. My guess is that there are always people with money enough that simply want speed and an all business configuration for comfort. I can see it working.

  31. stogieguy7

    I would absolutely love to see this happen, as it's almost as if we regressed technologically once Concorde was removed from service. A supersonic aircraft using todays innovative technologies is exciting and the idea that UA might actually embrace it is even more so. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that what Ben said in the article may end up being correct: this is likely too good to be true. Hope we're both wrong, because...

    I would absolutely love to see this happen, as it's almost as if we regressed technologically once Concorde was removed from service. A supersonic aircraft using todays innovative technologies is exciting and the idea that UA might actually embrace it is even more so. Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that what Ben said in the article may end up being correct: this is likely too good to be true. Hope we're both wrong, because a near-term supersonic air travel option would be fantastic. And really overdue.

  32. Mbillz

    This is a step in the right direction. Air travel hasn’t seen any real innovation (excluding better interiors/fuel economy) since the Concorde went out. It’d be great for the industry to get another manufacturer into the mix, even if it’s niche aircraft.

    The economics would be fascinating. EWR-LHR could be a “turn” for the crew, based on labor rules, whatever those might be in 2029.

  33. Quinn

    I'm excited but give this maybe a 20% chance of coming to fruition. How many million MileagePlus miles will a one way cost on this plane?

  34. Chris

    This might work for San Francisco to Shanghai since that market is largely driven by Apple in business class. Boston to London might also work as there is a lot of relatively inelastic pharmaceutical and mutual fund demand.

  35. Steven E

    I’m sure there will be a market once again for supersonic travel as long as it sustainable in the long term - hey why not

  36. knlprez

    Lucky, quick typo. The second bullet point spec for the Boom, you have the 777 speed as 'March' instead of Mach.

    Really cool to see the livery! I am skeptical as well, but fingers crossed it happens!

  37. Confun

    Plenty of rich folk wanting to move around the planet quickly. Whether they would be prepared to slum it with other passengers remains to be seen. That leaves business folk and of course cost/benefit equations- will an (anticipated) higher cost of travel vs demand make it economically viable? Clearly zoom thinks so and gives us plenty of time to collect miles

    1. Moodz

      I recall reading before that the plane could only house about 55 seats. How did they cram more than 65-88 seats?

    2. Pierre

      The same way they put 192 seats in an A320 which was designed as a 150 passenger plane.

  38. Lines_aviation

    Personally I'm not impressed by how this news has been announced, trying to justify it on an environmental front I think is a but rich when there's planes that can fly the same routes slower, but with less fuel burn feels a bit rich and shallow.

Featured Comments Load all 46 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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JJH

Lucky speculates that “ I can’t imagine United is actually putting any cash down here (as would usually be the case with an aircraft order).” The Wall Street Journal is reporting that this is incorrect. Their story says: “ A spokeswoman for Boom declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal, but said that the agreement includes a non-refundable industry-standard upfront payment from United.” Whether this plane will actually meet the performances specifications is perhaps anyone’s guess, but if they’re plunking down a standard non-refundable deposit, I’d say they’re a lot more serious about this than Lucky gives them credit for. https://www.wsj.com/articles/united-plans-to-buy-15-supersonic-planes-11622724910?st=xm2925qxulrxidf&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

Steve

0% chance this happens, this is just a ploy to increase the valuation of Boom which im sure there are plenty of United board members/execs that own a piece of Boom.

Andre

Meh

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