The world hasn’t seen commercial supersonic travel in nearly 20 years since the Concorde retired in 2003, but all that is about to change with the development of a new eco-friendly aircraft.
Meet Overture – the world’s fastest airplane 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 over the ocean at Mach 1.7, carrying between 68-80 passengers to nearly 5,000 miles.
The updated design has four engines that balance weight and temperature, which will also reduce the size of the wing-mounted engines.
Boom says smaller engines will lower thrust requirements for each engine.
And the lower the thrust, the quieter they will run.
“Without afterburners and hum-free engines, Overture’s takeoffs will blend into existing long-haul fleets, resulting in a quieter experience for both passengers and airport communities,” Boom said on its website.
The signature sonic boom people hear when an airplane goes supersonic can rattle nerves and windows. But unlike the Concorde, Overture’s sonic boom would be heard over the ocean so as not to disturb people on the ground.
Net Zero Carbon and SAF
The Overture’s engines will run on 100% renewable jet fuel while flying at Mach 1.7.
Boom says Overture’s environmental impacts were considered when designing the new aircraft, and that it will help the company in its journey to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2025.
“Environmental performance is taken into account in all aspects of Overture, from design and manufacturing to flight and end-of-life recycling,” Boom said on its website. “The engineering team is prioritizing circularity by reusing used tools, recycling components on the shop floor and using 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 aircraft more fuel efficient, making it more sustainable for the environment.
Another environmentally friendly aspect of Overture is the use of sustainable jet fuel.
What is SAF?
SAF delivers the same performance as conventional jet fuel, but with a significantly smaller carbon footprint.
The fuel consists of different types of sustainable sources, such as used cooking fat and waste animal fat, to name a few.
Fuselage and wing wing design
Overture is optimized for speed, safety and durability.
The Overture’s fuselage has a larger diameter at the front of the aircraft and a smaller diameter at the rear, minimizing drag and maximizing fuel efficiency while cruising at supersonic speeds.
In addition, Boom says the wing’s design allows air to flow smoothly around and over the aircraft.
That will improve the plane’s supersonic flying ability, while remaining efficient at lower speeds.
Boom says the advantage of the wing’s design and its ability to fly more slowly means higher overall safety because it takes off and lands at slower speeds.
So far, two airlines and the US Air Force have signed up to buy Overture airlines, Boom says.
United Airlines says it will buy 15 aircraft once safety, operating and safety requirements are met, with options to buy 35 more.
Japan Airlines has also said it will buy the planes and has reserved 20 of them.
In addition, Boom and the United States Air Force are currently developing custom Overture configurations for government transportation.
So, how long does 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 o’clock
Tokyo to Seattle:
- Current travel time: About 9 o’clock
- Overture travel time: 4 hours 30 minutess
The Concorde was the world’s first supersonic passenger aircraft. Both British Airways and Air France used them commercially between 1976 and 2003.
The planes carried passengers all over the world, but the extremely loud operation of the plane and operating costs 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 took about 3 hours.
However, the 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 kicked into the plane’s fuselage and ruptured a fuel supply.
The result was a catastrophic fire as the plane lifted off the runway.
It crashed into a hotel and restaurant a few miles 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 discontinue their Concorde fleets.
Concorde flights stopped in 2003 and commercial supersonic flights have been a memory ever since.