Since the Concorde was taken out of service in 2003, there hasn't been commercial supersonic travel for almost 20 years. But that's about to change with the development of a new, eco-friendly airliner.
Overture is the world's fastest airliner. It was made by Boom Supersonic, which is based in Denver.
Overture took 26 million hours to design and test. It will fly at Mach 1.7 over the ocean and carry between 68 and 80 people for up to nearly 5,000 miles on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The new design has four engines that will keep the weight and temperature in balance. This will also make it possible to make the engines on the wings smaller.
Boom says that each engine will need less thrust if it has a smaller size.
And the less thrust they have, the more quietly they will run.
"With no afterburners and noise-free engines, Overture's takeoffs will blend in with existing long-haul fleets, making things quieter for passengers and airport communities," Boom said on its website.
When an airplane goes faster than the speed of sound, it makes a sonic boom that can shake nerves and windows. But unlike the Concorde, the sonic boom of the Overture would be heard over the ocean, so it wouldn't bother people on the ground.
Net zero carbon and SAF
As it flies at a speed of Mach 1.7, Overture's engines will only use fuel that comes from renewable sources.
Boom says that the effects of Overture on the environment were taken into account when designing the new airliner. This will help the company get to net zero carbon by 2025.
“Environmental performance is being considered in all aspects of Overture, from design and production to flight and end-of-life recycling,” Boom said on its website. “The engineering team prioritizes circularity by repurposing used tooling, recycling components on the shop floor and leveraging additive manufacturing techniques that result in less manufacturing waste and lighter, more fuel-efficient products.”
Most of Overture will be made of carbon composite materials, which are lighter, stronger, and more stable at high temperatures.
If the plane is lighter, it will use less fuel, which will be better for the environment.
The use of sustainable aviation fuel is another way in which Overture is good for the environment.
What is SAF?
SAF works just as well as regular jet fuel, but it leaves a much smaller amount of carbon behind.
The fuel is made up of different types of renewable materials, such as used cooking oil and waste animal fat, to name a few.
Fuselage and gull-wing design
Overture has been made as fast, safe, and long-lasting as possible.
Overture's fuselage has a larger diameter in the front and a smaller diameter in the back. This helps reduce drag and save fuel while the plane is flying at supersonic speeds.
Boom also says that the gull-wing design will make it easy for air to flow around and over the plane.
That will help the plane fly faster than the speed of sound while keeping it efficient at slower speeds.
Boom says that the wing's design and the fact that it can fly slower mean that the plane will take off and land at slower speeds, making it safer overall.
So far, Boom says two airlines and the United States Air Force have signed on to purchase Overture airlines.
United Airlines says it will buy 15 aircraft once safety, operating and safety requirements are met, with options to purchase 35 more.
Japan Airlines has also said it will buy the planes, and it has already put in an order for 20 of them.
Boom and the US Air Force are also working on making custom configurations of the Overture for government transportation.
So, how long will it take to get to well-known places around the world?
New York City to London:
- Current travel time: Approximately 7 hours
- Overture travel time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Los Angeles to Sydney:
- Current travel time: Approximately 15 hours
- Overture travel time: 8 hours
Tokyo to Seattle:
- Current travel time: Approximately 9 hours
- Overture travel time: 4 hours 30 minutes
The Concorde was the first passenger plane to fly faster than the speed of sound. Between 1976 and 2003, both British Airways and Air France used them for business.
The planes took people all over the world, but their service was limited by how loud they were and how much it cost to run them.
It went around the world twice as fast as sound at Mach 2.04, which was faster than Overture.
At that speed, it would take about 3 hours to fly from New York City to London.
But the Concorde wasn't good for the economy.
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 ruptured a fuel take.
The result was a catastrophic fire as the plane lifted off the runway.
A few miles from the airport, it crashed into a hotel and restaurant, killing all 109 people on board and four people on the ground.
After that, both Air France and British Airways said they were getting rid of their fleets of Concordes.
The last Concorde flight was in 2003, and since then, commercial flights that went faster than the speed of sound have been a thing of the past.