Boom Supersonic has a second vote of confidence for its Overture jet from a US airline. American Airlines today announced an agreement to buy 20 of the Mach 1.7 airliners, with options for another 20 planes. Boom's press release notes that American put down an unspecified nonrefundable deposit for the first 20 airframes; delivery of them depends on Boom meeting “industry-standard operating, performance and safety requirements as well as American’s other customary conditions.”It’s the second order for Overture jets from a US carrier, following the June 2021 announcement from United Airlines of an order for 15 of these supersonic planes, with options for 35 more. Back in 2017, Japan Airlines placed options, a commitment short of actual orders, for 20 Overtures.Boom says Overture will seat from 65 to 80 people and cut overwater flying times by as much as 50%, with a range of 4,890 miles. For example, American’s release quotes flight times of five hours from Miami to London, a trip that has taken roughly 8.5 to 9 hours over the past two days. Commercial supersonic travel hasn’t been possible anywhere in the world since the 2003 retirement of the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde by Air France and British Airways. In July, Overture unveiled what it called a “refined” design of Overture that swapped out the previous configuration’s three engines—one under each wing, plus one in the tail—for a layout of four engines, two in separate pods under each carbon-composite wing. The plane will fly without needing noisy, fuel-guzzling afterburners but will continue to generate a sufficiently loud sonic boom to limit flights above land to just below Mach 1. Boom also says Overture will be able to operate on 100% sustainable aviation fuel. Boom, however, has yet to identify the make and model of those engines. In 2020, it inked a deal with Rolls-Royce to explore adapting one of that firm’s existing designs for Overture. But at the start of this month, The Air Current’s Jon Ostrower, one of the best-sourced journalists in the aviation industry, quoted Rolls CEO Warren East as saying that London manufacturer did not have a design team working on any Boom engines. In a June appearance at the Collision tech conference in Toronto, Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl said, “We have multiple design options for Overture that will work." On Tuesday, Boom spokeswoman Aubrey Scanlan emailed that Rolls had “completed its most recent work deliverable,” adding that “Boom is now evaluating the results of Rolls-Royce’s work, as well as assessing market requirements and design alternatives.”Development times for jet engines can run long. Rolls’ Trent 1000 turbofan, one of two engines available for the Boeing 787, was announced with that widebody jet’s first order in 2004, secured government certification in 2007, and entered revenue service with ANA in 2011. Pratt & Whitney started work on the PW1500G geared turbofan in 2007, secured its first government certification of it in 2013, and ushered this fuel-efficient engine into commercial service on the Airbus A220 regional jet with Swiss Air Lines in 2016. That suggests Boom’s engine development will have to race down a metaphorical runway for the company to meet its self-assigned goals of having the first Overture roll out of its planned Greensboro, N.C. factory by 2025, with the jet carrying its first paying passengers in 2029.
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