Supersonic Deal: United Airlines shows interest in the Boom Jets

A few days ago, United Airlines expressed its interest in purchasing 15 supersonic jets from Boom Supersonic — A Denver-based company founded in 2014 by Blake Scholl, Joe Wilding, and Joshua Krall.

This isn’t the first time a company has thought of the idea of a supersonic jet, and currently, Boom isn’t the only company trying to get us from point A to B at an incredible speed. Aerion Supersonic, Hermeus, and Virgin Galactic are other companies trying to revolutionize how we fly.

If you’re unsure of the meaning of an aircraft being referred to as supersonic, well, it’s a term used to describe an aircraft that has the capability to travel faster than the speed of sound. Concorde — British/French supersonic passenger airliner — and Tupolev Tu-144 —Soviet-built — were the only two supersonic aircraft to have operated commercially in the 1970s. However, in 2003, Concorde was retired.

According to United Airlines, it plans to purchase a fleet of 15 supersonic Overture jets from Boom in a deal worth about $3Billion (approx. $200m per jet). The first flight is scheduled for 2026, and it’s expected to be fully operational for commercial purpose by 2029. At the speed of this aircraft being built by Boom, you could fly from Madrid to Boston in 3:30 hours instead of 7:30 hours, New York to London in 3:30 hours instead of 6:30 hours, Paris to Montreal in 3:45 hours instead of 7:15 hours, and Tokyo to Seattle in 4:30 hours instead of 8:30 hours. In each of the scenarios, the flight duration/length is reduced by less than half or a bit more than half the average standard required time.

Image Source: BOOM

This is great news for those that aren’t a fan of spending much time whilst on an aircraft. Over the years, many airlines have added inflight entertainment (movies, music, etc.) to prevent boredom, however, this hasn’t solved the problem of cramps and tiredness often associated with sitting continuously in the same position for a long time. But increased speed would definitely reduce the time spent on the aircraft.

Based on this partnership between United Airlines and Boom, I strongly believe that business travellers will be the most excited out of all air passengers since they wouldn't need to always be in a hurry at all times. Again, if Boom decides to venture into making supersonic private jets for the rich, this will surely boost the company’s revenue.

However, despite all the praises being heaped on Boom, critics are concerned about the environmental impact of the company’s decision. Supersonic aircraft are known to produce a loud noise and burns a lot of fuel. At the moment, it’s almost impossible to hide from the eyes of Activists — e.g. Greta Thunberg, Mark Lynas, Naomi A. Klein, etc. — that fight to protect the environment.

As we already know, the process of obtaining crude oil could sometimes lead to water pollution and the distribution of the by-products could lead to soil contamination. Aviation fuel which powers an aircraft is a by-product of crude oil and environmental/ecological activists including some politicians have been on the necks of airlines to reduce their carbon footprint — the race towards carbon neutrality seems to be the new buzzword. Apart from air pollution, Boom is likely to add noise pollution to its list of possible crime against the environment if fully operational as a commercial jet.

Some airlines have taken bolder steps to address this challenge posed by emission by supporting/setting up carbon offset programs — e.g. protecting trees and the forest, carbon capture technology (direct air capture), efficient routing, and purchasing fuel-efficient aircraft. A few of the companies that have made tremendous efforts to reduce our carbon footprint in partnerships with airlines whilst travelling on an aeroplane includes CarbonFund.org, South Pole, EcoAct.

In the modern aviation business, speed alone is enough for Boom to gain a larger market share in the aviation industry. We now have a growing population of eco-conscious travellers who wouldn’t mind forgoing flights for rail. The pandemic in 2020 resulted in the global shutdown of economies, the travel and tourism industry wasn’t spared as countries had to restrict travel into and out of their countries.

This has led people to believe that if a pandemic can result in a staycation, then we should be more responsible in the way we treat the environment. If you’re interested in knowing the level of emission of a given flight, you can simply use the carbon footprint calculator provided by Sustainable Travel International.

Although, Boom’s aircraft is expected to be fueled using sustainable aviation fuel, and according to the company, the loud noise associated with supersonic aircraft wouldn’t be experienced. But, as long as the technology isn’t currently available for commercial testing, it’s going to be hard to convince people that this would be the newest and most reliable eco-friendly way of travelling.

Also, a few people aren’t impressed with the claims of Boom as regards the use of sustainable aviation fuel, and the reason is that they feel traditional aircraft that are more fuel-efficient will only require a lesser amount of sustainable fuel compared to a supersonic jet. So, these set of people think Boom will only waste sustainable fuel.

Flygskam (meaning: Flyg — flight, skam — shaming) — Swedish anti flying movement that started in 2019 — isn’t a word the wealthy will love since their private jet is often on the tarmac waiting for them to fly around the globe. Whenever a private jet is used to travel, the carbon emission per passenger is often higher than the carbon emission per passenger on a commercial flight. Tagskryt (train brag) seems to be the new normal for people that are trying to avoid flying to reduce their carbon footprint.

A combination of investment in electric aircraft technology and sustainable aviation fuels could make it easier for any salesman to sell the idea of the Boom’s supersonic Overture jets. I think this is the future of travel, and this could make eco-conscious travellers reconsider patronizing airlines.

Based on the information on Crunchbase, Boom Supersonic has joined the growing list of Unicorns, the company has raised $241.1 million so far in over 9 rounds. Some of its investors include but not limited to; American Express Ventures, Prime Movers Lab, Y Combinator, Japan Airlines, etc.

Boom’s latest funding was raised on Apr 15, 2021, and I believe there will be subsequent rounds of funding in the future. This isn’t a cheap project and investors need to get a sizeable return on their investments. As a result, I do not think this flight will be cheap but it shouldn’t deter people from patronizing airlines that will add the Overture to their fleets.

The features of the Boom supersonic Overture jets are; Speed — Mach 1.7, Cruising Altitude — 60,000 feet, Carbon — Net-Zero, Passenger Capacity — 65 to 88, Length — 205 feet, and Range — 4,250 NM (4,880 Miles).

I hope you’re ready for the future of flying.

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