Concorde-like supersonic passenger aircraft poised for a comeback

At #12 on IE's 22 best innovations of 2022, we look at what the future of air travel could be.
Ameya Paleja

Ibrahim Can/Interesting Engineering

Colorado-based Boom Technology wants to bring supersonic travel back to the passenger segment. To do so, it has been working on its Overture aircraft, which looks much like the Concorde jets but much smaller in size. In 2022, the company unveiled the first design of an aircraft that can reduce the flying time between New York and London to only 3.5 hours.

What will the supersonic aircraft be like?

The Overture aircraft has a wingspan of 106 feet (32.3 m) and is 201 feet (61 m) long. The design unveiled at the Farnborough International Airshow in July this year shows the aircraft with gull wings and four smaller engines. This has been done to ensure a quieter and more efficient operation. The aircraft is large enough to carry not more than 80 passengers and aims to reach speeds of 1.7 Mach (1,300 miles an hour).

Boom's design shows engines without any afterburners and the company claims it will use the world's first automated noise reduction system to ensure that during take-off, Overture will be no louder than a conventional airplane. It is unlikely that Boom's aircraft will be allowed to travel beyond Mach 1 over populated areas though.

The aircraft, which is expected to go into production in 2024, boasts a net-zero carbon design and will use 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for its operations. The promise of supersonic passenger travel has attracted many airlines to this technology and American Airlines, the world's largest airline, has plans to buy 20 Overture aircraft in the future while Japan Airlines and United Airlines have also expressed interest in the aircraft.

Boom to develop its own engines

Boom Technology failed to impress engine manufacturers who currently have fuel efficiency rather than speed as their priority. Days after the announcement of its Overture aircraft, engine partner Rolls Royce ended its contract with Boom while others publicly expressed their disinterest in developing the engine.

Boom recently declared that it would develop the engine on its own and has partnered with three organizations that will help it during this critical phase. The development is significant since Boom will be traveling solo on a journey that bigwigs like Honeywell, Safran, and GE Aviation are not willing to go on.

As per the company's original plans, the first flight is scheduled for 2027 and we can't wait for supersonic travel to make a comeback.

This is number 12 in Interesting Engineering's series showcasing the best innovations of 2022. Check back to discover more about groundbreaking AI, unique solar panels, new 3D printing methods and much more.

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