American Airlines announced that it is going to buy 20 “Overture” supersonic aircraft, planes that can fly from New York to London in about 3.5 hours, or about half of what a traditional flight would take. And while you shouldn’t be packing your bags quite yet to see the Eiffel Tower this afternoon, the first passengers could be experiencing it by the end of the decade.
Supersonic Travel – Not New, but Maybe Improved
Supersonic has been used for commercial use, but not in the past 20 years, when the last Concorde plane flew its final journey. Airline technology has obviously improved since then, but Overture is well beyond anything we’ve seen recently.
The plane would fly at 1,300 miles per hour, almost twice the speed of sound, and have a range of over 4,000 nautical miles, making it an option over the Atlantic, as well as on the west coast, from Los Angeles to Hawaii. That opens up some pretty cool options, including the elimination of the red-eye on flights heading east.
American Airlines has committed to buying 20 planes with an option for 40 more and put down a non-refundable deposit on the first 20. ABC says the planes list for $200 million each, although the launch airlines will likely receive a significant discount. American joins JAL and United, who also placed orders. The jet can carry 65-80 passengers.
A New Supersonic Jet Could Change Travel Forever
A supersonic jet would absolutely revolutionize business travel — again.
Assuming cost is not an issue, a passenger could have a breakfast meeting in London and, theoretically, make it to New York for a lunch meeting. Want to see folks in Tokyo? No problem. The trip would take five hours and if you time it right, you could be home by dinner.
We’re probably not quite there yet with leisure travel, since a flight with so few passengers would surely lose money, but there’s no reason not to dream. And hey, as a one off “bucket list” item, many may find any price worth the splurge.
Don’t Pack Your Bags Yet, Though
Sorry, you won’t be first in line for take-off anytime soon. The Boom supersonic jet is scheduled to roll out in 2025 but not carry passengers until 2029, assuming no regulatory delays.
One other problem: We don’t know much about the engine.
Overture plans to operate with 100% sustainable fuel, but hasn’t given us any details on production, although Rolls Royce does show up in its list of partners. According to the CEO, they’re going to make a “significant announcement” in the next few months.
If it’s about the engine business model, as opposed to the engine itself, Boom Supersonic may be looking to offset some of the $6-8 bn that it is spending on the Overture project.
American Airlines Ups The Ante
New aviation technology never goes the way we think it will, and it’s truly unknown if Overture will be able to hit its targets.
Best guesses are that it’s an extremely well run and solidly capitalized business, with smart people doing their very best.
Thus, it’s safe for American (as well as United and JAL) to put down non-refundable deposits, since the contracts likely account for delays and/or cancellations.
There’s no such thing as a free option, but the airlines are providing working capital to Boom for first crack at the next generation of travel.
Here’s to hoping that Boom is able to get the plane in the air on time, and that we’ll soon be able to fly globally in a matter of hours, rather than days.