The aircraft is called Overture, is scheduled to conduct its maiden flight in 2026 and will offer space for up to 80 passengers. So far, the shape of the future supersonic aircraft is
only displayed in animations but has received global attraction seen by the avalanche of comments in social media. Meanwhile, three renown carriers - American Airlines, United and Japan Airlines
- have placed orders and announced options for upping figures. Virgin Atlantic and others might follow suit.
If the plans go ahead, U.S. manufacturer Boom Technology Inc. of Dove Valley, Colorado, would usher in a new era of supersonic flights, 26 years after the last Concorde retired. It is still a long time to go until 2026, but already today many contemporaries, and not only aviation enthusiasts, seem to be electrified by the project.
However, a sober look at the project leads to more questions than answers.
The engine issue
Boom names Rolls Royce as its potential turbine supplier. However, according to people close to the case, Rolls Royce has not yet begun to develop a new generation of turbines that would enable the future Overture to fly at up to Mach 1.7 (roughly 2,080 kms per hour) over water. Even if work were to start today on a new generation of turbines that would meet the performance Boom is asking for, it is hard to imagine that these motors will be operational by 2026.
The noise problem
No turbine manufacturer has yet presented a technical solution on how to prevent the deafening bang when breaking the sound barrier. For future operators of the Overture like United, full thrust of the aircraft can only be achieved when crossing the Atlantic. This reduces the time advantages standing on paper. However, besides Chicago O’Hare, United also operates a big hub at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, located very close to the coastline.
Even though three well-known carriers have now placed orders and signed additional options for the Overture, the question remains as to the economics of the aircraft. A frightening example is the Concorde, of which only 12 units were produced and neither Air France nor British Airways managed to earn money with the plane. Against this background, the Overture appears to be primarily a prestige project for an elite clientele that operators can boast about. The supersonic jetliner is likely to attract only a very limited and solvent public. According to Boom Technologies, the Overture needs 3:30h to fly from London to and New York, whereas today A Boeing Triple Seven or Airbus A350 links both cities in about 7 hours. Said this, it remains to be seen if there will be sufficient demand for a one-way tix costing US$5,000 or even more for landing in JFK or Newark Liberty 3:30h earlier.
Not suitable for cargo
Due to its narrow, tube-like shape, the aircraft is extremely cargo unfriendly. Containers, pallets or larger pieces don’t fit. Cargo, however, contributes - statistically - between 10 and 15 percent of the revenue generated by passenger airlines that use their underfloor compartments to carry shipments. The lack of this cash flow must presumably be compensated through higher tix prices.
And what do Boeing and Airbus say about Boom's plans?
Nothing, at least no official reaction is known. Instead, Boeing concentrates on expanding and optimizing its own product range. A demanding task, keeping them extremely busy. Over in Europe, Airbus is focusing – among other aircraft projects – on developing a family of hydrogen-powered short- and medium-haul jetliners. These are scheduled to be airborne by 2035, confirms the manufacturer.
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