United Airlines has announced a commercial agreement with Denver-based aerospace company Boom Supersonic to add aircraft to its global fleet as well as a cooperative sustainability initiative – a move that Boom describes as facilitating a “leap forward in returning supersonic speeds to aviation”.
Under the terms of the agreement, United will purchase 15 of Boom’s ‘Overture’ airliners, once Overture meets United’s demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements, with an option for an additional 35 aircraft. The companies will work together on meeting those requirements before delivery.
Once operational, Overture is expected to be the first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one, optimized to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). It is slated to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026 and expected to carry passengers by 2029. United and Boom will also work together to accelerate production of greater supplies of SAF.
“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,” United CEO Scott Kirby said. “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.”
Capable of flying at speeds of Mach 1.7 – twice the speed of today’s fastest aircraft – Boom claims that Overture can connect more than 500 destinations in nearly half the time. Future potential routes for United are Newark to London in three and a half hours, Newark to Frankfurt in four hours and San Francisco to Tokyo in six hours. Overture will also be designed with features such as in-seat entertainment screens, ample personal space, and contactless technology. Working with Boom is another component of United’s strategy to invest in innovative technologies that will build a more sustainable future of air travel.
“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,” said Blake Scholl, Boom Supersonic founder and CEO. “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 move is surprising since following the closure of Aerion – the supersonic business jet developer – in May 2021 when it failed to raise enough capital to develop its AS2 programme, many industry observers were postulating over the death of the dream to revive supersonic air travel. United’s support for Boom’s Overture aircraft appears to have resurrected that dream, despite the deep challenges faced by the industry today, and also taps into the need for air travel to become greener with the focus on SAF.