Breaking the sound and travel barriers

United hopes supersonic jets will bring back the boom times

It’s been 25 years since the last Concorde flight, when the supersonic airliner was retired in 2003. Since then, only military jets have been breaking the sound barrier on training and combat missions. That’s all about to change, as the Overture plane from Boom Supersonic rolls out in United Airlines livery. After a decade of development, testing and certification, the supersonic passenger jet is ready for a travel boom.

With modern engines and the latest aerospace technology, Overture is 75% less costly than Concorde, and can carry 85 passengers in plush comfort at over 2,000km per hour. While getting from San Francisco to Shanghai in under five hours is appealing, the economics are important, as in-person meetings have largely been replaced by Zoom calls and Holodesk encounters.

When it comes to unavoidable long-distance travel, people will pay a premium for the shortest route and the best connections; cutting the flight time in half easily doubles that premium. By keeping fares in line with normal business class tickets, United is hoping the new supersonic service will really take off.

Eight years after the Covid pandemic killed the travel industry overnight, airlines are still battling to reinvent their business models. Only the strongest survived, and those with the boldest vision. Embracing change and being the disruptor are key to flourishing in the new paradigm, and United is determined to be in the lead.

But there’s another competitor for ultra-fast aviation waiting in the wings. Following the successful launch of its Starlifter airfreight service, SpaceX is working on the passenger version of its Starship rocket, capable of carrying 90 people from New York to Tokyo in under an hour. Assuming they all pass the pre-launch fitness test, that is!

Will United’s supersonic gamble pay off, or will SpaceX be the ultimate aviation disruptor?

Image credit: Boom Supersonic

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