Could supersonic flights really be back by 2030? Yes, it would seem so. Development of supersonic aircraft has been continuing for years and it seems poised to become reality once again. Soon it may be possible to cut one's flight time down by around half.

There have not been any supersonic passenger flights since the iconic Concorde (operated by Air France and British Airways) retired in 2003. But now a number of airlines are investing in supersonic flights as the jets of the future.

United Is Betting On Supersonic Flights by 2029

The BBC recently reported (June 2021) that the American airline, United, has announced plans to buy 15 new supersonic airliners and to "return supersonic speeds to aviation" in the year 2029. The aircraft they are planning to procure are to be produced by Boom - a Denver-based company.

  • Cost: Boom's Overture Costs $200m-per-plane

Still, there is plenty to go wrong between now and then so the date may yet get pushed back or canceled. For one thing, Boom has yet to flight-test a supersonic jet.

On its website, Boom suggests these overseas routes with dramatically reduced flight times.

  • New York To London: In 3.5 Hours Instead of 6.5 Hours
  • San Francisco To Tokyo: In 6 Hours Instead of 10.25 Hours
  • Madrid To Boston: In 3.5 Hours Instead of 7.5 Hours
  • Tokyo To Seattle: In 4.5 Hours Instead of 8.5 Hours
  • Paris To Montreal: In 3.75 Hours Instead of 7.25 Hours
  • Los Angeles To Sydney: In 8.5 Hours Instead of 14.5 Hours

Related: 20 Surprising Things That Happen To Us When We’re Flying In A Plane

What is Supersonic And Planned Speeds

To be a supersonic flight, the aircraft needs to travel faster than the speed of sound. So at an altitude of 18,300 meters or 60,000 feet, it needs to fly faster than 660 mph or 1,060 kilometers per hour. The new aircraft Boom is planning to build (called Overture) is expected to get up to speeds of 1,122 mph (1,805km/h)

  • Supersonic: Normally Faster Than 660 mph or 1,060 KM/H
  • Typical Passenger Jet Cruise Speeds: 560 mph or 900 KM/H
  • Planned Supersonic Speeds: 1,122 mph (1,805km/h) (Mach 1.7)

It may come as a surprise but 1,122 mph (1,805km/h) is actually slower than the maximum speed that the Concorde was capable of - Mach 2.04 - about 1,350mph (2180km/h).

  • Concorde: Came Into Service In 1976

Related: How To Be More Comfortable When Flying Alone For The Very First Time

Challenges Of the Boom

The two biggest challenges that face supersonic flights today are noise and pollution. Because of the sonic boom, the Concorde was always limited to routes over the sea and was forbidden to fly over land. That is also why Boom is advertising sea-based routes. It is also hoped that improvements made over the Concorde will also help mitigate the boom.

They need to fly at lower speed over land and then only accelerate when they are out to sea.

  • Biggest Challenges: Noise and Pollution

Boom is planning to design their aircraft to not be any noisier than conventional passenger jets when landing, flying over land, and taking off.

In the 1960s, the tests showed that the sonic booms reportedly "broke windows, cracked plaster, and knocked knickknacks from shelves," according to the New York Times. After that, civilian supersonic aircraft were forbidden from flying over land.

The New York Times goes on to say that, NASA has been working on ways to reduce the noise and has designed a new aircraft that should reduce the boom into a “sonic thump” that is no louder than a car door that is being slammed 20 feet away.

Perhaps this will lead the F.A.A. to lift the ban overland (that would mean it would only be a 2-hour flight from coast to coast). But for now, it would seem Boom is not betting on it and is suggesting sea routes.

Other Issues That Plagued the Concorde

Another problem is that supersonic jets and thirty fuel consumers. So the idea is to be run solely on sustainable aviation fuel including fuel made from stuff like waste animal fat to high-energy crops. But currently, there isn't the capacity to produce enough of this fuel yet.

In its day, tickets on the Concorde cost more than first-class tickets on a regular jet. If and when supersonic flights become reality, one can also expect them to be pricey. Boom expects that its Overture aircraft will be profitable if the tickets are sold for around the same price as "regular business-class fare".

While the Concorde was fast, it wasn't comfortable. The three-and-a-half-hour trans-Atlantic flight was in a cramped and noisy cabin. And yet people of the day thought of its as luxurious.

With 27 years of only intermittent profitability, the coup de grâce came for the Concorde when a crash in 2000 killed 113 people. Less than three years later they were all retired and not replaced. Safety concerns were always an issue that plagued the Concorde.

Next: Flying Was Once A Luxury Afforded To The Elite, This Is How Much Things Have Changed