United States airline United has announced plans to “return supersonic aircraft to aviation” by purchasing 15 new supersonic passenger aircraft in 2029.
Supersonic passenger flights ended in 2003, when Air France and British Airways retired from Concorde.
The new Overture aircraft will be manufactured by a Denver-based company called Boom, which has not yet tested flight of supersonic jets.
United’s contract requires that the new aircraft meet safety standards.
What is supersonic flight?
Supersonic flight is when an aircraft flies at a speed that exceeds the speed of sound.
At an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,300 m), you will fly faster than 660 mph (1,060 km / h).
A typical jet airliner cruises at about 560mph (900km / h), but Overture is expected to reach speeds of 1,122mph (1,805km / h) (also known as Mach 1.7).
At that speed, travel times on routes across the Atlantic, such as London to New York, can be cut in half.
According to Boom, Overture can fly in 3.5 hours, reducing flight time by 3 hours.
Concorde, which launched passenger service in 1976, was even faster, with a top speed of Mach 2.04-about 1,350mph (2180km / h).
What are the challenges?
There are two major concerns when traveling with supersonic passengers: noise and pollution.
Moving faster than the speed of sound can cause a sonic boom, which can be heard as loud thunder or explosions on the ground. The name of the company Boom was given here.
The boom limits where planes can fly. Usually, they have to slow down until they cross the ocean, away from the loud and potentially disturbing citizens.
Boom says he is confident that his plane will not be as noisy as other modern jet airliners when taking off, flying and landing. We also want to improve the design of the aircraft as Concorde helps mitigate and mitigate the sonic boom.
Another big issue is fuel economy.
“Flying at supersonic speeds requires more power and fuel,” Boom Chief Commercial Officer Kathy Savit told the BBC.
But she hopes Overture will operate as a “net-zero carbon aircraft.”
Is Supersonic Travel Really “Sustainable”?
At the heart of Boom’s plans is Overture running on fully sustainable aviation fuel (Saf).
It can take the form of “luxury biodiesel” made from everything from waste animal fats from the agricultural industry to specially cultivated high-energy crops, Cranfield University’s aviation and environmental associates. Professor Guy Gratton explains.
But one of the big problems, he says, is that “something like the capacity needed is far from the world” to produce enough biofuels to power the entire aviation industry.
Boom predicts that the “power-to-liquid” process of producing liquid fuels using renewable energies such as wind will make up for the shortfall.
Boom Raymond Russell said, “We expect it to be commercialized long before it is needed for our purposes.
“Across this sector, both airline commitments and investments amount to billions of dollars.”
However, it is an industry that still needs to expand.
“Can you suddenly find a large additional supply of sustainable electricity at an affordable price?” Dr. Gratton asks.
“I’m not saying it’s impossible. It may be possible, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Is there a demand for supersonic travel?
The development of Concorde over 50 years ago was very expensive, but it is believed that the last few years of operation have benefited British Airways.
Concorde was considered a luxury way to travel with tickets that were more expensive than regular jet first class seats.
Today, the wealthiest travelers may prefer private business jets, says Dr. Gratton.
Wealthy people can charter a compact private plane to and from the airport of their choice, if needed, rather than traveling in first class on a commercial jet with the general public. You can also save travel time by avoiding check-in desks and luggage carousels.
According to Savit, passengers are looking for speed, and the faster the plane, the more “connecting with people and improving business relationships,” according to a boom study.
Unlike Concorde, the company expects Overture to benefit airlines even if tickets are sold at the same price as “regular business class fares.”
Ultimately, it’s United’s responsibility to set the price, but we want to get the reward from an investment of $ 200 million (£ 140 million) per aircraft.