I was taken by surprise at the announcement that United Airlines had placed an order for 15 new supersonic planes that travel at twice the speed of sound, with the possibility for ordering 35 more from a Denver-based company named Boom. The first passenger-carrying flights are scheduled for 2029. What was even more surprising was the claim that these new jets would be free of some of the problems associated with the Concorde that flew from 1976 until 2003, such as excessive noise production and fuel consumption, and would also be “net-zero carbon from day one” and only use sustainable aviation fuels that are derived from waste or organic sources.
There’s also growing work on solving the sonic boom, the startling sound supersonic aircraft produce when they break the sound barrier. NASA is working with Lockheed Martin on a supersonic research aircraft, and the agency told Vox back in 2016 that a “quiet supersonic airplane” could be possible, potentially resolving a major hurdle for these high-speed flights. In January, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced final rules for testing supersonic aircraft, creating a framework for these startups to move forward with flight testing.
To reduce environmental impact, United says Boom planes will use sustainable aviation fuels, but the limited supply of that might be better used on other planes. Research suggests that supersonic planes would require multiple times more fuel per passenger than a typical plane trip, according to Dan Rutherford, director of the International Council on Clean Transportation’s aviation program.
The price of tickets is likely to remain extremely high.
I recall back in those days that there were rumors that the US deliberately made the commercial success of Concorde harder to achieve because the plane was built by the European Airbus company after its US rival Boeing company gave up on the project. By using environmental and noise concerns to ban it flying over the mainland US, this severely limited the number of lucrative routes that the Concorde could make.
Here is a short video history of supersonic flight.