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Supersonic Jets Fly Again, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

A small number of well-funded entrepreneurs are attempting to launch supersonic aircraft.  American Airlines has indicated that it will purchase up to 20 supersonic “Overture” aircraft from Englewood, Colorado-based Boom Supersonic.  United Airlines has indicated that it will purchase up to 15 of the Overture and taken options on an additional 35.  Japan Airlines was an early investor in Boom.  The Overture is planned to travel at about 1,100 MPH, or about Mach 1.7, with a range of 4,250 nautical miles and a list price of about $200 million.  (See www.boomsupersonic.com/overture.)  It is also likely that we will see the use of supersonic business aircraft over the mid-term, by a handful of very wealthy individuals.  Other startups in the supersonic field include Hermeus, as well as Venus Aerospace.
The Overture isn’t the first aircraft to aim at commercial supersonic service.  The last flight of the Concord, the supersonic jet flown by British Airways and Air France starting in 1976, landed in Germany in 2003.  Despite its impressive speed (its fastest Atlantic crossing from New York to London took only two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds), the Concord was grounded due to problems including sonic booms, inefficient fuel consumption and excessive carbon emissions.  Only 14 of the aircraft entered commercial airline fleets.
Sonic booms are the noises created when an aircraft exceeds the threshold of the speed of sound (Mach 1.0 or 767 mph).  The booms are quite loud and sound like thunder.  They can also be felt and can cause cracks in plaster or glass on the ground.  The FAA banned overland supersonic flight in 1973.  The Concord only operated supersonically when flying over oceans.  As for fuel efficiency, or the lack thereof, the jet consumed 25,629 liters per hour, compared to 14,400 liters per hour for a Boeing 747, which carries a vastly larger passenger load.
The Boom Overture’s fuselage is shaped for optimal sonic boom reduction, while the aircraft is designed for fuel efficiency.  The company is also committed to environmental sustainability, pledging to use sustainable aviation fuel made from waste material such as cooking oil or animal fats used in restaurants (the fuel cuts CO2 emissions by up to 80%).  In August 2022, American Airlines placed a non-refundable deposit on 20 Overture aircraft with an option to purchase an additional 40 planes.  United Airlines also has an agreement to buy 15 Overture jets.  The planes are hoped to be ready for commercial use as early as 2029.


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