American Airlines is betting on a future where supersonic jets can return to the skies, carrying passengers on some routes at speeds approximately twice as fast as current commercial aircraft.
How big this gamble is, however, remains unclear. The company, which said it had deposited up to 20 supersonic jets with an option to buy up to 20 more, declined to share the financial terms of the deal announced Tuesday.
It all depends, however, on whether the company slated to build the jets, Boom Supersonic, can deliver on its promises. Experts question whether supersonic jets will come to fruition.
Boom is developing a jet called the Overture that the company says will be able to carry 65 to 80 passengers at nearly twice the speed of sound.
But the jet is still in the early stages of development.
The company recently unveiled a “refined” version of the aircraft, which it says has completed some wind tunnel tests. However, it has yet to conduct a test flight and the first production vehicles are not expected to roll off the line until 2025 according to a press release.
The Overture is reminiscent of the Concorde, the ultra-fast – and extremely expensive – jet that transported people across the Atlantic Ocean for up to $10,000 per seat.
The aircraft was withdrawn from service in 2003 because the savings did not pay off. The jet was too noisy to fly over land because its high speeds would generate deafening sonic booms, relegating it to ocean travel such as its popular London to New York route.
Experts said jets like the Concorde are unlikely to return, in part because those jets would need to find enough customers willing to pay the premium price.
But that hasn’t stopped Boom, American and United Airlines — which announced plans to buy up to 15 Boom jets last year — from putting money and marketing power behind plans to revive supersonic air travel.
Boom says its jets could enter service by 2029, and while they can’t reach top speeds on land, they can still travel up to 20% faster than current commercial jets, the company claims.
“Flying from Miami to London in just under five hours and Los Angeles to Honolulu in three hours are among the many possibilities,” he says.
But foreign regulators and the US Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates commercial airlines, will have to approve the jets first. And it’s unclear when or if that will happen.
After the Concorde’s economic failure, both airlines and aircraft manufacturers began to focus on greater efficiency, not speed.
Boeing, for example, abandoned its plans for a near-supersonic jet, the Sonic Cruiser, in the early 2000s and shifted its focus to developing a light, economical jumbo jet, the 787 Dreamliner.
The US government, however, has shown interest in reviving supersonic jets. The FAA states on its website that it is currently working to establish new traffic rules for these aircraft, including permitted noise levels on the ground.
And NASA has invested money in the development of a “quiet” supersonic jet, called the X-59, in hopes of passing this technology on to the commercial sector. But even the first prototype has yet to take off, with the first test slated for later this year.
Chris Isidore of CNN contributed to this report
Source: CNN Brasil