This Company Plans to Fly Anywhere in the World in Four Hours—for Only $100

Boom Supersonic will fly carbon-neutral planes at 2.2 times the speed of sound

Boom Supersonic

Courtesy of Boom

Most people cringe at the thought of spending 18 hours on a plane, which is currently the duration of the longest flight in the world (Singapore to New York, for those wondering). But imagine a future where you could make that journey in just four hours—and for the low, low cost of $100. Travel would be changed forever.

That's the long-term ambitious goal of Boom Supersonic, an aerospace company developing the next generation of supersonic commercial aircraft. Supersonic planes, however, are not new technology.

From 1976 to 2003, the Concorde, flown by Air France and British Airways, shuttled passengers across the Atlantic in about three hours, flying at 1,300 mph—or just shy of twice the speed of sound. But the aircraft was retired for two reasons: one, it was a costly machine to operate (flights cost passengers about $20,000 per seat, adjusted for inflation), and two, it was limited to transatlantic routes (it couldn't fly over populated areas due to the sonic boom it created). So since 2003, we've been stuck traveling at the snail's pace of roughly 600 mph.

Boom Supersonic aims at leveraging new technology to fix those two problems that plagued Concorde in its new aircraft, Overture, which would carry 65 to 88 passengers on more than 500 routes around the world. (How exactly it will do that, only time will tell.) The plane would also be carbon neutral, using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to achieve that goal.

Of course, a supersonic future is still a ways off. Boom Supersonic just revealed its test plane, the XB-1, late last year—it's scheduled to fly for the first time in 2021. But if everything goes according to plan, the company expects to build and fly Overture in just a few years, with the aircraft entering service as early as 2029. And that's a bet United Airlines is willing to make.

United has become the first airline to place a deposit with Boom Supersonic, signing a deal for 15 Overture aircraft with a clause that allows the addition of up to 35 more.

"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," United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement. "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."

But there's some pretty significant fine print involved. Boom Supersonic has to achieve a number of milestones, such as federal certification, for the deal to go through. Considering the test plane hasn't even flown yet, there are some massive hurdles the aerospace company needs to clear—starting with just building the aircraft.

When Overture finally does take off with passengers, Boom Supersonic expects flights to cost roughly the same as a long-haul business-class flight today. To lower the fares to $100, as the company hopes to do, it'll take some innovations in material science, which will probably take a few more decades, Boom Supersonic told CNN.

Even with the backing of United, a lot needs to go perfectly right for Boom Supersonic to succeed, and it's certainly going to be an uphill battle. For instance, the company's main competitor, Aerion, shuttered last month due to a lack of funding. But that doesn't mean we're not hopeful for a return to supersonic flights someday! We just won't be holding our breath while we wait for that exciting future to arrive.

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  1. Britannica. "Concorde." Retrieved June 1, 2021