Is supersonic air travel the future of aviation?

This National Aviation Day, there’s a lot to think about in the commercial aviation space, from the mayhem of summer air travel to recent news about American Airlines’ new supersonic jet investment.

The new investment brings to the fore the question about the future of the aviation industry: Is supersonic air travel the next big thing? Or will it become the standard for international business travelers and leisure travelers with no spending limit, an elite method of air travel reserved only for those who can afford it?

And what about sustainability? Will supersonic air travel create more problems for industry’s carbon reduction efforts, or help solve them?

These are the questions I ask myself, so let’s answer them together!

First question: Is supersonic air travel becoming the next big thing?

We haven’t heard much about supersonic air travel in the news lately, until American Airlines chose to buy 20 planes from Boom Supersonic, a company that has been developing modern supersonic aircraft since 2014, with an expected date of commercial flight in 2029.

American Airlines isn’t the only airline investing in Boom Supersonic’s Overture aircraft. United Airlines was the first US carrier to invest, with a contract to buy a minimum of 15 of these planes when they become commercially viable in June 2021. Japan Airlines partnered with Boom in 2017, with an option to buy 20 planes.

United Airlines announced a new partnership with Boom Supersonic. (photo via United Airlines Media)

Other strategic partners include the US Air Force, which is seeking supersonic aircraft to fly dignitaries and world leaders around the world at a faster pace.

While this all points to a future where supersonic flight is a reality, these planes are not new technology, like reusable rockets or space balloons. They have been around since the 1970s, with British Airways and Air France last flying in 2003, almost twenty years ago.

What’s new is the technology inside them, which should help reduce the noise they create, increase the overall safety of people on board, reduce the carbon emissions they produce, and generally help them to fly faster.

Second question: Will supersonic travel become the main method of air travel?

But does that mean they’ll take off unlike their first debut in the 1970s, when they became a thirty-year trend?

Currently, the planes are designed to hold between 65 and 80 passengers, which is the airline equivalent of a boutique hotel. While this means that passengers on these planes can enjoy more space and a better flying experience, it also means that the commercial aspect of these planes could be lost in favor of passengers who traditionally sit in the business class and first class categories, which can be afforded. to save time by spending a little more on these flights.

Supersonic Boom
Interior cabin rendering of Boom Overture (photo via Boom Supersonic)

This could hamper their ability to completely replace traditional aircraft, which will likely be more affordable and therefore more attractive options for most travelers.

However, supersonic aircraft could change how traditional aircraft are traditionally operated, and not in a bad way.

Think about it: If many traditionally first-class and business-class passengers are choosing to take supersonic jets for international travel, that means traditional business and first-class seats could become more affordable and therefore more accessible to travelers taking traditional flights worldwide. as there will be less demand for seats from their regular customer base than before.

Third question: Are supersonic flights better for the environment?

With Boom Supersonic’s Overture plane, they will be.

The company is committed to using only sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) for all of its flights and to creating an end-to-end net zero carbon process. According to their statistics, flights with SAF will reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent compared to supersonic flights using traditional jet fuel.

Their production facility is also expected to be LEED certified, using clean energy and minimizing production waste.

Supersonic planes appear to be more sustainable than traditional planes, but their small passenger capacity and the question of whether they will replace traditional planes casts doubt on the impact their approach to sustainability will have on the entire aviation industry.

A prediction for the supersonic aviation industry

While I believe that supersonic travel will return and last longer than the thirty years it had in the 20th century (assuming a better form of travel doesn’t replace it in the near future, teleportation perhaps?), I find it difficult to believe that supersonic aviation will completely replace traditional aviation, simply because of the passenger capacity and higher ticket price.

After all, as the old adage goes, time is money. right?

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