American Airlines has agreed to buy 20 supersonic jets and put a non-refundable deposit on those planes that are still on the drawing board and years away from flying.
On Tuesday, neither American nor manufacturer Boom Supersonic would provide financial details, including the size of the US deposit.
American, which also opted for 40 more Boom Overture aircraft, became the second US customer for Boom, following a similar announcement for 15 jets from United Airlines last year.
It has been nearly 20 years since the last supersonic passenger flight by the British-French aircraft Concorde, which failed to catch on due to high costs for both passengers and airlines.
Boom CEO Blake Sholl stressed that his company’s plane will be different when it debuts in 2029, with tickets costing $4,000 to $5,000 to fly from New York to London in about three-and-a-half hours.
“There are millions of passengers flying business class every year on routes where Overture will provide a great speedup,” Sholl said in an interview, “and airlines will be able to do this profitably.”
Boom says its aircraft will have a speed of 1.7 times the speed of sound, or about 1,300 mph, and carry between 65 and 80 passengers.
Skeptics have questioned Boom’s ambitious timetable, especially in light of the many years that have led Boeing, an established manufacturer, to acquire aircraft or even retrofit for aircraft approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. have taken.
Notably, Boom doesn’t have an engine manufacturer in line yet. It is talking with Rolls Royce and others.
“With a supersonic jet, you don’t design an aircraft, you design an engine first,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Consultant Aerodynamic Advisory. “It’s just a collection of freehand pictures until the engine is there.”
BOOM says the plane will fly entirely on sustainable aviation fuel, often made from plant material, which is currently in short supply and very expensive.
Boom, which is based in Denver and plans to build Overture in North Carolina, says the program will cost between $6 billion and $8 billion. The list price of the aircraft is $200 million, although other manufacturers regularly give deep discounts to the airlines.
Last month, BOOM announced changes to the aircraft’s design to make it easier and less expensive to build and maintain. The most significant change was going from three engines, including a different type at the tail, to four identical engines under the delta-shaped wings.
The market for four-engine aircraft is shrinking. The Boeing 747 is now mostly used to haul cargo, and Airbus ceased production of the A380 in 2021. Most of the passenger jets that fly today have two engines.
Four-engine aircraft are “very bad from every point of view, from economics to emissions,” Aboulafia said. “No one wants more engines, the answer is less engines.”
American Airlines said supersonic aircraft will transform travel.
“Looking into the future, supersonic travel will be an important part of our ability to deliver for our customers,” said the airline’s chief financial officer, Derek Kerr.
The union representing American pilots questioned the timing of the airline’s investment in aircraft that would not be available at best for many years. American has struggled this summer, canceling more than 9,300 flights since June 1 — according to FlightAware — more than doubling cancellations at United, Delta or Southwest.
“Investing in today’s operations should be management’s sole focus,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union. “If management doesn’t make any changes to the way we schedule this airline and its pilots, it will just be supersonic cancellations.”