American Airlines has agreed to buy up to 20 supersonic jets and put down a non-refundable deposit on the planes, which are still on the drawing board and years away from flying. Neither American nor the manufacturer Boom Supersonic would provide financial details Tuesday, including the size of American's deposit. American becomes the second US customer for Boom after a similar announcement last year from United Airlines for 15 of the planes, called the Overture. The plane carries a list price of $200 million, although other manufacturers routinely give airlines deep discounts, reports the AP.
It has been nearly 20 years since the last supersonic passenger flight by Concorde, the British-French plane that failed to catch on because of the high cost of flights. Boom CEO Blake Scholl insists his company's plane will be different when it debuts in 2029, with tickets costing about $4,000 to $5,000 to fly from New York to London in about 3.5 hours. The Wall Street Journal notes that only 14 Concordes took to the skies; Boom on Tuesday says it has 130 orders for Overture planes thus far (Japan Airlines is also among those who have ordered).
The planes are expected to carry up to 80 passengers at speeds that can hit Mach 1.7 (that's 1.7 times the speed of sound) over water. That's about twice what commercial planes can manage. Still, skeptics have questioned Boom's ambitious timetable, especially in light of the many years it has taken Boeing, an established manufacturer, to get planes or even retrofits to planes approved by the FAA. Last month, Boom announced changes to the plane's design to make it simpler and less expensive to build and maintain. The most striking change was going from three engines, including a different type on the tail, to four identical engines under the delta-shaped wings. However, Boom does not yet have an engine manufacturer lined up. It is talking with Rolls Royce and others. (Read more supersonic jet stories.)