At a global technology conference that required many attendees to fly for hours, the CEO of an unlikely aviation startup presented the prospect of supersonic commercial air travel.
“One thing hasn’t changed in over six decades and that’s speed,” said Blake Scholl, CEO of Boom Supersonic.(Opens in a new window). It was part of a talk he gave on Wednesday at the Collision conference.(Opens in a new window) in Toronto says that a modern Boeing 787 has a maximum cruising speed about the same as a 1962 Boeing 707.
Years after the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde supersonic transport aircraft completed its last Mach 2 transatlantic flight in 2003, Denver-based Boom is committed to making supersonic travel environmentally friendly and cost-effective with its Overture aircraft. This new aircraft with 65 business class seats will fly at Mach 1.7 on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), reducing New York-London flight time to 3.5 hours.
Scholl has set an ambitious schedule for Overture: a groundbreaking one this year for its plant in Greensboro, North Carolina.(Opens in a new window)construction of the first airframe will begin in 2024, production of the first aircraft in 2025, test flights will begin in 2026, and the commercial debut will take place in 2029.
“We look forward to welcoming our first passengers in seven years,” Scholl said.
If current plans go ahead, the aircraft will feature the blue and white livery of United Airlines, which last June announced an agreement to buy 15 Overture “once Overture meets United Airlines’ stringent safety, operational and sustainability requirements,” as well as options to buy another 35 aircraft. . United CEO Scott Kirby came out with a video at Scholl’s speech to say the airline remains “on track” with this purchase.
United has also invested in sustainable fuel startups.(Opens in a new window) to which Boom expects to supply SAF at a lower cost and in greater quantity than is available today.
Japan Airlines also placed options to buy 20 Overture aircraft.(Opens in a new window) back in 2017, while the US Air Force provided two rounds of R&D funding(Opens in a new window) explore government options such as the transport version of Overture.
United’s order alone represents a bigger vote of confidence than Concorde received, Scholl told a press conference after his speech. Air France and British Airways bought 14 delta-wing SSTs together, while US carriers such as Pan Am and TWA only placed options they later canceled as Concorde development costs skyrocketed.
Scholl acknowledged the challenge that Boom had taken on—first, his smaller XB-1 prototype.(Opens in a new window) will not begin flight testing before the end of this year. But he said advances in technology, such as computer-aided design and carbon-fiber airframe construction, meant that Overture would not follow the Concorde script.
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