The US airline United has announced plans to buy 15 new supersonic airliners and "return supersonic speeds to aviation" in the year 2029.
The Airline has agreed to purchase the Overture aircraft from Boom Supersonic (a Denver-based start-up), with the planes able to fly at Mach 1.7 faster than the speed of sound.
The new supersonic “Overture” aircraft will become the world’s fastest commercial airliner, reducing travel time by about half of today’s planes.
Q What is a Supersonic Plane ? A
Supersonic aircraft are planes that can fly faster than the speed of sound.
Usually, supersonic planes can travel at the speed of around 900 kmph, twice the speed of normal aircraft.
The technology for supersonic flights is actually over 70 years old, but only recently has been used for commercial flying.
Before 1976, when the first commercial supersonic flight took off, the planes were used entirely for military purposes.
Concorde, the British-French turbojet-powered commercial airliner, was the first aircraft to carry passengers at supersonic speed. Supersonic planes flew passengers from 1976 until 2003.
But eventually had to discontinue, due to cost and other concerns.
Q What are some key details about Overture Supersonic Aircraft ? A
The Overture aircraft would travel at the speed of Mach 1.7 or 1,805 kmph with a range of 4,250 nautical miles.
In a single flight, it could carry 65 to 88 passengers and reach an altitude of 60,000 ft.
Trial flights are scheduled to begin in 2026, with commercial use coming three year later.
It will build upon Concorde’s legacy through faster, more efficient and sustainable technology.
The company has claimed to produce an eco-friendly aircraft with “net-zero carbon emissions'', set to fly with 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Sustainable aviation fuels include biofuels and synthetic kerosine that are manufactured using renewable and sustainable materials.
It aims for “zero overland noise.”
This essentially means that it will cruise at supersonic speeds only over water, ensuring that no sonic boom or excessive noise reaches the surfaces where people live.
It will be equipped with advanced aerodynamics and carbon composite materials.
This will be able to cut significant development and maintenance costs in ways which the Concorde planes could not.
Q What are some challenges with Supersonic Planes ? A
Challenges with Supersonic Planes:
High Manufacturing Cost: The costs of making “sustainable” supersonic planes are extremely high.
Environmental Cost: The very nature of its flying using excessive amounts of fuel and energy is likely to have high environmental costs.
Despite the use of sustainable fuels, the greenhouse gas emissions are not nullified.
The plane consumes high amounts of fuel in order to take off, that too in a market where sustainable fuels aren’t readily available.
Excessive Noise Pollution: The speed of the planes result in producing excessive amounts of noise pollution in the environment.
The “Sonic Boom” created by these planes feels like an explosion to the human ear.
This, thus, limits where and when the supersonic planes can fly. They can only reach their actual speed until they are far enough from people and completely over the ocean.
Regulatory Approvals: To fly such planes can be unsuccessful, especially for transatlantic flights. Getting clearance from regulators around the world would be a challenging task, since the supersonic planes in the past have already been flagged for these hurdles.
Too Costly: It would not be economically feasible for everyone. Only the very rich can afford supersonic planes, as a ticket is likely to be way more costlier than a first class ticket of a regular plane.