United Airlines has surprised the aviation community today by announcing a firm order for fifteen Boom Supersonic Overture airliners , plus 35 options. The deal comes just weeks after Aerion pulled the plug on its SST business jet, which put some doubts over the market for supersonic aircraft.
United says the agreement is part of its strategy “to invest in innovative technologies that will build a more sustainable future of air travel.” In a press release, CEO Scott Kirby says: “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. (…) 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.”
While announced as a firm order, the Overture has some boxes to tick before it will join United in 2029. The airline will purchase the aircraft only “once Overture meets United’s demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements.” United will collaborate closely with Boom to develop the 50-seater, which should start flight testing in 2026 after a roll out in 2025. The airline and airframer will also work together to accelerate the production of sustainable aviation fuels, which are an important part of making the Overture a ‘green’ supersonic transport.
Boom expects the first flight of its XB-1 demonstrator later this year, the culmination of work that started back in 2016. “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 CEO and founder Blake Scholl.
The agreement with United is the first firm order for the Overture since the start of the program. Earlier, Virgin Atlantic and Japan Airlines (JAL) invested in the project, with Virgin announcing options for ten and JAL pre-orders for twenty. Boom says the orderbook stands at seventy aircraft, including firm orders and options.
United’s interest comes from the opportunities the Overture offers. Flying at Mach 1.7 reduces flying time by half to some 500 destinations, including New York to London in 3.5 hours. At Mach 2.0, Concorde used to do the trip slightly quicker in 3 hours 20 minutes.
Last month, Aerion Supersonic plans to develop a 12-seat business jet folded as the start-up was unable to complete its business case.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.