The good news for air travelers hungering for faster flights is that United just ordered 15 supersonic jets. The bad news is they won't be ready until 2029, and that's if nothing goes wrong along the way, reports CNBC. The airline placed the order with Denver startup Boom Supersonic, along with an option to buy 35 more. Boom has yet to build one of its Overture jets, but it plans to begin production in 2023, make its first flight in 2026, and introduce passenger service in 2029. The planes would fly at Mach 1.7, roughly twice the speed of today's jets, per USA Today. That would translate into a 3.5-hour flight from New Jersey to London, down from 6.5 hours; a 6-hour flight from San Francisco to Tokyo, down from 10 hours and change; and a 4-hour flight from New York to Germany, down from 7 hours.
The big hurdle in all this is whether Boom can convince the FAA and other safety regulators around the world that its planes, once built, are safe. If so, the age of supersonic travel, which ended with the last flight of the Concorde in 2003, might be back on. One of Boom's selling points is that its jets will run on sustainable fuel made from waste, plants, and other organic matter, notes the New York Times. "Experts say such fuel could reduce emissions, but its supply is limited, it is expensive and its use does not eliminate greenhouse gas emissions," per the Times. (This regular passenger jet nearly achieved supersonic speeds, unintentionally.)