The world hasn’t seen commercial supersonic travel in almost 20 years since Concorde was retired in 2003, but all that is about to change with the development of a new, environmentally friendly aircraft.
Meet the Overture – the world’s fastest passenger plane developed by Denver-based Boom Supersonic.
With 26 million hours of design and testing, Overture will run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as it flies at Mach 1.7 over the ocean, carrying between 68-80 passengers up to nearly 5,000 miles.
The updated design has four engines that will keep weight and temperature balanced, which will also lower the size requirements of the wing-mounted engines.
Boom says smaller engines will lower thrust requirements for each.
And the lower the thrust ̵[ads1]1; the quieter they will run.
“Without afterburners and buzz-free engines, Overture’s takeoff will blend in with existing long-haul fleets, resulting in a quieter experience for both passengers and the airport community,” Boom said on its website.
The characteristic sonic boom people hear when a plane goes supersonic can rattle nerves and windows. But unlike the Concorde, the Overture’s sonic boom would be heard over the ocean so as not to disturb people on the ground.
Net zero carbon and SAF
Overture’s engines will run on 100% sustainable jet fuel when flying at Mach 1.7.
Boom says the environmental impact of the Overture was taken into account when designing the new airliner, and it will help the company on its journey to achieving net zero carbon by 2025.
“Environmental performance is considered in every aspect of Overture, from design and manufacturing to flight and end-of-life recycling,” Boom said on its website. “The engineering team prioritizes circularity by reusing used tooling, recycling components on the shop floor, and utilizing additive manufacturing techniques that result in less manufacturing waste and lighter, more fuel-efficient products.”
In its design, Overture will incorporate lighter, stronger and thermally stable carbon composite materials into most of its construction.
A lighter aircraft will make the airliner more fuel efficient, making it more sustainable for the environment.
Another environmentally friendly aspect of Overture is the use of sustainable aviation fuel.
What is SAF?
SAF delivers the same performance as regular jet fuel, but with a significantly smaller carbon footprint.
The fuel consists of various types of sustainable resources, such as used cooking oil and animal fat waste, to name a few.
Fuselage and gull wing design
Overture is optimized for speed, safety and sustainability.
Overture’s fuselage has a larger diameter at the front of the aircraft and a smaller diameter towards the rear, which minimizes drag and maximizes fuel efficiency when cruising at supersonic speeds.
In addition, Boom says the gullwing design will allow air to flow evenly around and over the aircraft.
It will improve the aircraft’s supersonic flight capability while remaining efficient at lower speeds.
Boom says the advantage of the design of the wing and its ability to fly more slowly means higher overall safety as it will take off and land at lower speeds.
So far, Boom says, two airlines and the United States Air Force have signed on to buy Overture airlines.
United Airlines says it will buy 15 planes once safety, operational and security requirements are met, with options to buy 35 more.
Japan Airlines has also said it will buy the planes and has pre-ordered 20.
In addition, Boom and the United States Air Force are currently developing custom Overture configurations for public transportation.
So how long will it take to get to popular international destinations?
New York City to London:
- Current travel time: About 7 hours
- Overture travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Los Angeles to Sydney:
- Current travel time: About 15 hours
- Overture travel time: 8 hours
Tokyo to Seattle:
- Current travel time: About 9 hours
- Overture travel time: 4 hours 30 minutespp
Concorde was the world’s first supersonic passenger plane. Both British Airways and Air France used them commercially between 1976 and 2003.
The planes carried passengers all over the world, but the plane’s extremely loud operation and the cost of operating limited the service.
Its cruising speed was faster than the Overture, zooming around the world at twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04.
At that speed, a flight between New York City and London was about 3 hours.
However, Concorde was not financially profitable.
And in 2000, a Concorde flight from Paris to New York City crashed shortly after takeoff when debris on the runway was kicked up into the plane’s fuselage and breached a fuel cap.
The result was a catastrophic fire as the plane took off from the runway.
It crashed into a hotel and restaurant a few kilometers from the airport, killing all 109 people on board and four people on the ground.
After that, both Air France and British Airways announced that they would retire their Concorde fleets.
Concorde flights stopped in 2003, and commercial supersonic flights have been a thing of the past since then.