June 4, 2021, © Leeham News: “Overture can connect more than 500 destinations.”
That’s what United Airlines said in its press release this week about its “commercial agreement” with Boom Supersonic. UAL “ordered” 15 Overture airplanes with an option for 35 more.
“More than 500 destinations” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. LNA understands this to mean 500 cities. If UAL and Boom meant “city pairs,” then this commonly used term should have been used.
The common dictionary definition is “the place where someone is going or where something is being sent or taken.”
Examples used in the definition are, “The Virgin Islands are a popular tourist destination,” or a “holiday destination.” More on point, one example used is quite common in airline lingo: the term “final destination.”
So, this lends to the interpretation “500 destinations” means 500 “cities.”
Top 500 Cities
The world’s Top 500 cities are basically those with populations of one million or more. A list may be found here.
As you can imagine, many of these are in China’s interior. Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, is a Top 500. So are Mexicali, Mexico, Da Nang, Vietnam, Tripoli, Libya, Mendoza, Argentina, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Qom, Iran, and Onitsha, Nigeria.
Some of these may well be nice (and not so nice) destinations, but potential Overture markets? Maybe not.
So, what, instead, are the Top 500 airports in the world?
We couldn’t find a comprehensive list. The largest list ended at 100. Basically, these are airports serving more than 23m passengers annually, pre-COVID impact. Wikipedia data tops out at 50. This site lists 2020 and older Top 50 airports.
Many are inland US airports, for which supersonic flight won’t be possible under current regulations.
Expanding the list to the Top 100, for which we could find 2017 numbers, there are many inland airports that must come off the list.
OAG 2019 data
The Official Airline Guide provided LNA its data run for the Top 100 airports in 2019, the last full year before the COVID pandemic decimated traffic. These figures are departure passengers only. The data comes via Global Distribution Systems, which means in-house reservations systems for many low-cost carriers aren’t included, distorting the list somewhat.
But a perusal of the list shows a lot of cities that would not be Overture candidates.
|Departure Total Est. Pax Airport|
So, either United misspoke with the claim Overture will serve 500 “destination” or it and Boom are sniffing their own canola oil fuel.
As they are buying an aircraft that has not been built let alone tested let alone certified, I think we can forgive them for to imaginary 500 as well!
The environmental implications are pretty impressive as well, it of course will lower the cost to transport a passenger into the area of Diesel Aircraft engines.
Santa Clause, The Toothy Fairy and the Easter Bunny all are on board.
All well said, TW.
What do they say in Missouri: “Show me”, or something like that?
Adding: this announcement strikes me as so non-reality based
it gives me that “look over there!” feeling.
If I were the United PR office, I would try and list 500 airports that don’t waste your hard-earned (and expensive) SST time gain on ground traffic into the city/ies served. (Not to mention overloaded ATC in some cases). Now that would be interesting.
Its ‘addressable market ‘, or some other such blather United is talking about. Before Covid their international cities were only something like 110 or so.
But for Boom its commercial gold they are getting alongside photoshop images of their project in ‘Air Force One’ livery
They don’t need to fly supersonic to get pax, I think the LAX-LAS-SFO-LAS-LAX
will sell out even flying at M0.9352 becoming the fastest civil aircraft in service. (until someone pulls out a RR Conway Canadian built DC-8-43 and overtakes it in a shallow dive…)
Except nobody needs a supersonic plane – with all the additional complexities, fuel consumption and cost – to fly less than M0.1 faster than a regular A350/787/etc today. Even at a covered distance of 7200km, that amounts to ~8hrs today vs 7:15hrs on Overture, and that’s being friendly to Overture because of course you don’t fly at top cruise speed the whole time. That saving is hardly worth the effort. That slim advantage gets even slimmer when you talk about eg LAX-JFK, which is a mere 3900km.
It’s been decades since I took combinatorics in college, but if we figured out how many cities would be served in a criss-cross network of 500 flights, it’s hard to imagine how 50, much less 15, airframes could serve such a network of city pairs. Even flying portions of the trips at M1.7!
The whole thing seems like a pipe dream meant to make United look adventurous and forward-looking (though the environmental risks of a new supersonic effort feel very last-century to me).
@RaflW: I call it good PR/marketing.
I am of the opinion that when a technology/business case doesn’t stand on its own merits, the item an ‘entrapenuer’/fraudster could tackle to improve the outlook is the market size estimate itself. Bloating the market size (or market share capture) is very powerful and can make the bleakest business cases look bright green. It also conveniently blocks the contrarian views: i.e. “prove the market size will NOT be there in the future” which is a harder thing to do because it is a logical fallacy. You see the same mechanics at work on the NMA’s “5000 airplane” market size claim. The number in practice is less than 1000. You see it with the electric or hybrid-electric airplane market size, as well as the eVTOL/UAM market size, and the Segway product sales projections. Even broader, you see it in the business cases made for WeWork and Theranos. It is a classic lever that is pulled every time a venture is started without doing sufficient robust groundwork upfront before launching into design studies and collecting investor money. Pulling this lever also signifies the moment when the naive entrepreneur unwittingly transitions into being a fraudster, engaging in a fake-it-’till-you-make-it scheme. It is often accompanied by secrecy about the details (trade secrets) and charming and brilliant promo graphics. Natural order always prevails in the end, no matter how pretty the renderings are or how big the corporate logo on the building is (e.g. like Aerion).
Thanks for this comment. It’s the timing of this vaporware announcement that makes it especially curious, to me.
It’s showtime, just a distraction
Fraudster is an uncalled for term for the Directors of the Company. They have put their studies out there for scrutiny by investors who will no doubt call in experts. Theranos is a case of one woman who was the darling of the media who escaped scrutiny because she could be turned into a feminist icon to sell articles and clicks.
Re: “Fraudster is an uncalled for term for the Directors of the Company.”
I have seen their studies, and in my opinion, their treatment of business case risk assessment and market size estimation is insufficient, non-robust/incorrect, and ultimately highly exaggerated.
I said: “Pulling this lever also signifies the moment when the naive entrepreneur unwittingly transitions into being a fraudster, engaging in a fake-it-’till-you-make-it scheme,”.
I believe this is an accurate description. knowingly ‘faking it’ when you have investors and have a fiduciary responsibility of honesty implies fraud, plain and simple. There is a lot of that going on at the moment even at larger publically traded companies – nothing new or unique.
“Look at us! Look at Us! We’re relevant! We’re cutting edge and going supersonic! (But don’t look at those 238 aircraft we still have parked and are not flying…)”
I remember when Triumph motorcycles had a huge PR blitz
about their vaporware ‘Trident’ series; this feels like that.
I assume they meant 500 city pairs. If you include a hub or say two, then with 40 apart from the hubs you are there. 20*20 via the 2 hubs = 400. 20 one way to two hubs from one side = 40 and from the other side another 40. Totals 480. A bit how Icelandair has with say 7 destinations in Europe and 7 in the US has 49+14=63 connections.
Seth Miller posted on Twitter a Boom presentation that said 500 cities….
Is that the same as 500 imaginary friends?
Que the Easter Bunny. Or maybe Alice down the rabbit hole.
Fully agree Scott, like most of us here I agree they put out a marketing story that has no credibility. How do you serve 500 cities with 50 planes unless you serve them with 1 flight a week (very interesting for the premium passengers you must catch to make things work, not?). Another way to look at it is how many destinations the biggest carriers serve directly – some 200 max for say American or Air France. Of which at least half national/short haul..this supersonic spin-off would in one go claim to be the airline with 5 times the number of long-haul destinations of the current biggest carriers with a (much) smaller long-haul fleet! Your planes must fly Mach 10 or so to spent so little time in the air that this is mathematically possible. Star Trek with Warp Speed and ‘beam me up Scotty’ technology to transfer people come to mind….
But maybe there is another way how they later may explain their spin. If you start with 31 destinations, and organise direct flights between all of them, you end up with around 500 routes (for city 1: 30 routes; for city 2: 29 left since one already covered from city 1, for city 3, 28, and so on; this gives 496 to be precise). You’d need say 3-4 destinations in Australia/NZ and 5-6 destinations on other continents for this. And if you count inbound and outbound as different routes, you need only 22 cities! But of course supersonic within a continent (say Melbourne-Sydney or London-Paris) will not work, so you may need a few more cities, but still end up with small numbers. Doable with 50 planes. And of course good luck with overland supersonic flying which without doubt cannot be avoided for routes between Europe, Asia and Africa.
There is a market and a need for this. Certain precious cargoes that may perish (organs for instance) and certain kinds of military, diplomatic and business trips. 500 aircraft isn’t going to have much of an environmental impact, what would it be? Perhaps 1% of air traffic.
Funny how if there is such a big market for this kind of service, Concorde never saw more than 14 planes in service at one time, and was always effectively restricted to the transatlantic service between Europe and NYC.
Concord, despite being a technical masterpiece (including FBW) had a number of problems:
1 It was just to large to fill with passengers that had the means to pay the equivalent business to first class fares needed. Boom is less than half the size of Concord.
2 Concord had the issue of having to turn reheat on (afterburners) to get of the ground which created huge noise and soot problems. Boom can meet noise requirements.
3 Concord didn’t have access to composites that allow optimal area ruling.
4 Concord did have access to super cruising turbofans.
5 The world is wealthier now and more people can afford SST travel, the kind now travelling 1st class or business class on the Gulf State super airlines.
So the boom folks have looked at some of the issues.
The other SST is the purely hypothetical eVOL transcontinental jet Elon Musk prosed. It seems to be a supersonic version of Lilium Jet.
Point 5 is particularly valid.
The world is a more opulent place than it was 25 years ago, and more people have significant disposable income. Just compare today’s first class and business class suites with the relatively primitive offering from only 15 years ago. Moreover, Gen Z / millennials tend to prefer to spend money on experiences rather than possessions.
The downside for United — it simply is not a premium brand. Emirates, Qatar or SIA (for example) would have a better chance of making a success of this.
I certainly agree that the high ended branded airlines are positioned to d do well with an SST. They have the knowledge of how to treat HNW individuals and have the lounges and quick check in resources. (i.e. check in on the pick up limousine). The wealthy could have an opulent and pleasant suite on the Blue Ribbon Transatlantic liners of the 1950s but they were the first to move to Constellations, DC-7 and B707 as soon as it was safe.
“1 It was just to large to fill with passengers that had the means to pay the equivalent business to first class fares needed. Boom is less than half the size of Concord.”
Except it isn’t.
Boom themselves now state Overture is going to be 205ft long (50ft longer than originally envisioned), with a capacity of 65-88 pax. That makes Overture actually a tiny bit *longer* than Concorde, and I would assume the difference in seats is down to seat pitch, as Boom appear to work with a 75in pitch, while Concorde had less than 40in.
Source for length and capacity: https://boomsupersonic.com/overture
Their scaling upward ties in nicely with my view, as it happens, which is that 100 was actually too small for Concorde to make money on, and 55 is even worse because your operational *baseline* cost is so much worse than subsonic. That is is quite the tricky bit is illustrated by the fact that Boom itself went through multiple iterations – they started at 40 seats, then 50, then 55, now 65-88.
“2 Concord had the issue of having to turn reheat on (afterburners) to get of the ground which created huge noise and soot problems. Boom can meet noise requirements.”
Meeting noise/polution requirements on take-off was not a problem unique to Concorde and definitely wasn’t the worst of its problems. Pretty much none of the 1960s subsonic engines (and planes they’re attached to) would still be allowed to conduct regular take-offs at airports nowadays.
“3 Concord didn’t have access to composites that allow optimal area ruling.”
Certainly helpful, but again, not one of Concorde’s major issues.
“4 Concord did have access to super cruising turbofans.”
I assume you mean “did NOT”. Well… of course engines will have to be much better than Concorde’s, given that regular (i.e. sub-sonic) engines have improved *significantly*. And yet – fuel consumption at supersonic speeds is still going to be in or around 3-4x the consumption at sub-sonic. That maybe closes the gap a little if Concorde was at ~5-6x. but it’s still very significant.
“5 The world is wealthier now and more people can afford SST travel, the kind now travelling 1st class or business class on the Gulf State super airlines.”
So despite the previous attempts at arguing that Overture is *so* much more efficient, the business case is still the same as Concorde’s, but the hope is that more people will be able and willing to part with their money.
And that this works well enough to justify a whole plane type whose business case is built around a 100% business class layout.
1) Despite the fact that this is not really a runaway success in the real world of scheduled commercial passenger services. There was Concorde, SQ’s A340-500 to Newark (which they switched to a mix of premium economy and business once a more economical airplane was available), and BA’s A318 from LCY to SNN to JFK, which ceased last year and even bore a flight number previously “owned” by Concorde. Beyond that… not much. There is a single all-business class airline operating today, with a second trying to get off the ground. But we’re talking A321 and A220 here – i.e. very much standard, low operating cost frames with an exclusive cabin.
2) Despite Zoom/MS Teams and the heightened environmental awareness regarding flights. And despite the fact that *even richer* also means more dedicated business jets, which get rid of the cumbersome need to fly trunk routes, stick with scheduled flights, etc.
3) I would also point out that travelling 1st class in a SQ A380 suite or EK A380 cabin is a *vastly* different proposition from an SST, which chiefly offers speed.
Nothing has changed in that regard, either – Concorde was fast. That was the selling point. Well, yes, it was exclusive, thanks to the price. But again: The operating cost put Concorce tickets into that price bracket, not the inherent desire to have a whole plane with nothing but first/business class seats. Yes, you were made to feel extra-special with all the attention you received around the flight, the champagne etc. But that was also a way of compensating for the fact that the actual product on board, while charged at first class prices and above, was a better business class – certainly NOT on par with e.g. a BA 747 first class experience at the time.
And no, it simply isn’t conceivable that business class on an SST – with its higher operating cost and the “well, it’s bloody fast” USP – will be offered at the same price as business class on, say, an A350, if we assume the level of comfort/space/etc. to be comparable.
“So the boom folks have looked at some of the issues.”
Cool, but “some” won’t be enough. See my post below: I still don’t see how they’ve cracked the major issues here, i.e. the significantly higher operating cost and fuel consumption compared to subsonic, getting engine technology right, business case (including: sufficient number of routes on which the plane can be profitably deployed). Add to that of course the few billion quid they still lack in funding and their less than stellar track record in producing – and meeting – a reasonable roadmap.
The MTOW of “Overture” is 170,000lbs, the MTOW of “Concord” is 403,000lbs. You could have given me that “half the size” in this context meant operating weight not length.
I would argue that the per seat fuel consumption of an Overture business class seat is likely the same or less than the per seat 1st class fuel consumption of a 1st class suite seat in a subsonic jet.
The purpose is to get the person on the Jet to his or her destination fresh and free of jet lag or fatigue. It literally also adds a whole day of destination time to a journey (4 hours each direction) for a business or diplomatic traveler. These kinds of people think nothing of a 2 day trip to Australia or the US to finalize a deal. They’re going to jump at the ideal of leaving at 8am and being at their destination 4 hours latter.
According to Boom, Overture has a range of 4,250 kn (4,888 mi)
Seattle to Tokyo 4 h 30 m
Los Angeles to Seoul 6 h 45 m
Los Angeles to Sydney 8 h 30 m
“The MTOW of “Overture” is 170,000lbs, the MTOW of “Concord” is 403,000lbs. You could have given me that “half the size” in this context meant operating weight not length.”
Given the context was quite manifestly pax numbers (“[Concorce] was just to [sic!] large to fill with passengers that had the means to pay the equivalent business to first class fares needed. Boom is less than half the size of Concord.”) I think it was and still is fair to assume that you were not talking about size in terms of MTOW but size in terms of carrying capacity, which for passengers tends to be a function that depends quite heavily on the physical size of the plane. Note also that the 170k lbs number for Overture pre-dates the previously mentioned increase in size (in terms of length and pax capacity). I would definitely expect that number to go up (if Boom actually sticks with the latest size specs), as a 50ft/30pax increase in size usually doesn’t go without a corresponding increase in MTOW, unless they want to sacrifice range.
Question on the side – why do you insist on the spelling “Concord”?
“I would argue that the per seat fuel consumption of an Overture business class seat is likely the same or less than the per seat 1st class fuel consumption of a 1st class suite seat in a subsonic jet.”
I’d actually like to see those numbers, but even assuming this is more or less right, it proves exactly my point regarding the business case and cost – you get a business class product at the cost of a subsonic first class product. Very much like you did on Concorde.
“The purpose is to get the person on the Jet to his or her destination fresh and free of jet lag or fatigue. It literally also adds a whole day of destination time to a journey (4 hours each direction) for a business or diplomatic traveler. These kinds of people think nothing of a 2 day trip to Australia or the US to finalize a deal. They’re going to jump at the< ideal of leaving at 8am and being at their destination 4 hours latter."
That's the underlying assumption, anyway, and it's still the same assumption underlying Concorde's business case. While the same restrictions apply… business class roughly at the cost of first in exchange for speed, with a limited set of routes where that speed can actually be achieved, both in terms of regulations (no overland sonic boom) and range, as Overture's range is currently stated as 4250nm, i.e. slightly below Concorde's range.
That should be borne in mind when Boom talks about the travel times Seattle to Tokyo, Los Angeles to Seoul, Los Angeles to Sydney or similar. Overture can only cover those distances with even fewer seats installed, i.e. at an even higher premium over subsonic business or first class product.
@pedro – seattle-tokyo great circle distance is 4144nm.
given winds, margins and the inability to actually fly a true great circle route, seattle to tokyo is at the extreme end of this thing’s supposed capabilities (and so, unlikely to actually be a viable route)
the other city pairs you mention are well beyond the capabilities of this plane, so the need to land, refuel, take off again etc almost entirely negates any potential time savings over a subsonic nonstop.
It’s extracted from Boom’s web page for info purpose.
RT =/= endorsement 😉
Boom apparently rolled out a supersonic capable sub-scale demonstrator in October of 2020.
In December of 2020, the FAA established a commercial supersonic testing corridor over Kansas, the state east of Colorado
This “order” from United would serve the purpose of giving Boom more credibility with potential investors, and it associates the United name with a story not related with the Covid-19 slowdown.
And who knows, it is not impossible that this project might amount to something.
Yes, after the XB-1 Baby Boom flies its test program they will get a round figure of what needs to be done and how much the Overture design+test+cert will cost.
Aerion already made that number on paper. In “normal” times they would need to team up with an experienced aircraft builder with global support like Gulfstream, Lockheed or Dassault. The XB-1 looks pretty aerodynamically symmetric and sound. The Overture might need a reversed tail with an all moving horizontal stabliser and moving the center RR engine a bit forward. A 3 engine RR powered fast commercial aircraft sounds like Lockheed should puts its extra cash in and work with RR again and call it the L-1012
If UAL succeeds pandemics will spread at supersonic speeds
Diversifying into fantasy comes naturally to those who think virally
Unless you live right next to Heathrow or are flying very long range there is almost as much time to be saved flying point to point as supersonic, especially if you have special rich person customs clearance.
So if there is a genuine demand for a supersonic passenger plane,then logically there ought to be a much bigger demand for A220 100 in business class only configuration flying out of smaller local airports.
Boom will also inevitably be much less reliable because of the extra complexity and even more so lack of production volume.
If we are going to go down this route we may as well stop paying even lip service to CO2 reduction.
However, remember that BA’s success with Concorde hinged upon “me too” yups who liked to be part of the luxurious “Mach 2 club”. Etihad experienced a similar phenomenon with its Residence first class suite ($60,000 for a transatlantic crossing), which was booked solid for months in advance. People with wealth often like to project that wealth, and many of them will be attracted to an exclusive offering like the Boom concept…which they can then brag about on Instagram.
There’s a map in the following article which shows the huge extra fuel consumption of supersonic versus subsonic transport. Even if it is SAF that’s being used, it will be difficult to justify the extra consumption at a time when there isn’t enough SAF to cover all needs.
there is no viable business case for this aircraft without a large government buy and a repeal of the “no supersonic over land” rules.
seems the government is about to throw a bunch of money at them despite the fact that there is no conceivable government utility in the age of Zoom meetings.
I wonder which congresscritters/DoD alumni are in position to profit from this?
I don’t think it is viable with flights over land.
And it took two governments to get the last one built.
Very interesting: “Asean and EU seal historic pact to liberalise flight services”
“SINGAPORE — Airlines from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the European Union (EU) will be able to fly any number of services between both regions, following the conclusion of negotiations on a historic aviation agreement on Wednesday (2 June).
The Asean-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (AE CATA), the world’s first bloc-to-bloc air transport agreement, was sealed at the virtual Extraordinary Asean-EU Senior Transport Officials Meeting, Asean said in a statement on Friday.
Under the agreement, airlines of Asean and the EU will have greater opportunities to operate passenger and cargo services between and beyond both regions. These include allowing airlines to fly up to 14 weekly passenger services, and any number of cargo services via and beyond to any third country.
The agreement will help rebuild air connectivity between Asean and Europe which has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and open up new growth opportunities for the aviation industry in both regions.”
And a side interest. KC-390 gets the cold shoulder and Brazil needs more Gen 4 fighters? Says a lot about what its about.
Pretty amazing. Brazil has been invaded so many time just in the last year.
And a side note on the responsibly of the KC-46 boom (no vision) issue.
Buyer supervision is a “second line” defense in project management path.
“first line” is the manufacturer!
i.e. the proper way to say it is “Boeing and the Air Force” mismanaged ..
Gloomy analysis of the 737MAX order backlog:
“Can Southwest Airlines and Ryanair Save the Boeing 737 MAX?”
“If Southwest and Ryanair together take 120 737s annually, that would fill 10 delivery slots per month. Between the roughly 2,700 outstanding 737 orders from other customers, Boeing should be able to find takers for the other 32 monthly slots that would be available based on the 42-per-month production rate that it hopes to achieve by late 2022.
On the other hand, Boeing probably couldn’t sustain a faster 737 production rate without a big uptick in orders from customers other than Southwest and Ryanair. The current backlog is propped up by speculative orders from aircraft leasing companies and huge orders from a handful of Asian airlines that have clearly over-ordered. Moreover, Boeing’s recent order activity has been dominated by just a few customers; most airlines are still retrenching.
In effect, this means that Boeing needs additional orders from Southwest Airlines and Ryanair just to sustain a 737 production rate of 42 per month. Boeing would need a flood of orders from other airlines to justify a return to the higher production rates it achieved a few years ago. Without a broader revival of demand for the 737 MAX, Boeing will continue to struggle for the foreseeable future.”
“Boeing should be able to find takers for the other 32 monthly slots that would be available based on the 42-per-month production rate that it hopes to achieve by late 2022.”
Calhoun said he is not going to raise production of the MAX above 31 per month unless he has “real clarity on China”.
Calhoun in discussion with Bernstein analyst:
China, 777XF, A321XLR, NMA:
“Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun warned that a prolonged trade deadlock between the US and China threatens the comeback of its 737 Max and, ultimately, the company’s longstanding role as a US industrial champion.
China will be one of the world’s hottest aviation markets as the coronavirus pandemic recedes, accounting for about a quarter of expected growth in jet sales over the next decade, Calhoun said Thursday. But without an agreement in place to restart purchases and deliveries, Boeing can’t be sure when to raise output of the Max, the company’s main source of revenue and cash.
“If I’m not allowed to serve, I cede global leadership,” Calhoun said of the Chinese market, speaking at a virtual Bernstein conference. “I’ll never give up on that. But it’s going to create real issues for us in the next couple of years if we can’t thaw out some of the trade structure.”
Unlocking China looms as a critical challenge for Boeing now that the Max has returned to service in most of the Americas and Europe, and rising vaccination rates spur a rebound in air travel. China, the first country to ground the Max more than two years ago after two deadly crashes, has yet to lift its ban on flying the plane. The country’s airlines last announced orders for the single-aisle workhorse when Barack Obama was in the White House.”
Further souring the current relationship, the US announced today that it will be “donating” 750,000 surplus vaccines to Taiwan…
Count me firmly in the “not gonna happen” corner. That’s one block on from the “believe it when I see it but I’m definitely not holding my breath” corner.
And mind you – that’s not mainly because of the overblown “500 cities/city pairs” marketing BS, it’s because I don’t see this project being reality-based at all.
Reminds me vaguely of the regular “let’s get one Concorde flying again” initiatives, which tend to be great on initial PR… and then quietly fold.
There’s just too much wishful thinking there IMHO. They seem to follow the idea of producing what in German is called “eierlegende Wollmilchsau” (egg-laying wool-milk-pig). It’s faster, but also cheaper, and more sustainable than any other airliner etc.
In that context, they seem to fall into the popular trap of thinking that as long as you’re using renewable fuel, fuel consumption doesn’t matter – which is of course as wrong as thinking that in an electric car, energy consumption doesn’t matter. Ignoring the fact that you still have to pay by the unit, and that your energy/fuel source may be renewable, but that does not equal infinite supply and production capacity.
I see the following challenges for them, each of which alone would make me doubt the project. Also, these isues are still very much along the same lines as those Concorde and Tu-144 faced (even developent cost, despite the massive state funding both received) – in other words, I see no groundbreaking breakthrough on the technological/economical fronts that would overcome the reasons why Concorde and its Soviet counterpart were technological marvels but economical failures,
* Development cost
So far, they have raised $151m according to the figures I could find. Development of the very-good-but-ultimately-just-another-regular-plane CSeries/A220 cost ~$7bn if the estimates being thrown around are correct. Even with a pretty good market outlook, that was enough to effectively sink Bomardier as a maker of commercial airplanes, despite the fact they had decades of experience as an OEM and a solid customer base. I don’t see a supersonic jet development costing less that $10bn and even that seems overly optimistic.
But let’s stick with 10bn: Boom has so far raised less that 2% of that sum. And remember that Aerion, despite a self-proclaimed order book worth $11bn, recently had to fold precisely because they could not raise the money required for development.
Needless to say, >$10bn is quite the baggage to recover on unit cost/MX contracts for a 55 pax plane.
* Operating cost
Supersonic consumes more fuel than subsonic. Significantly so, by a factor of 3-4. We still haven’t found a way around that.
MX is also going to be significantly more expensive, especially for the engines, but also on the frame, fuel tank systems, etc.
Add to this any attempt to offload unit cost into long-running all inclusive care MX contracts
* Business case
55 business pax, higher unit cost, higher operating cost, limited amount of routes where the saved flight time (which is the whole point of supersonic commercial aircraft) is a) sufficient to warrant the extra cost, and b) feasible due to no-sonic-boom-overland restrictions and c) feasible due to the plane’s range. Not exactly a recipe to sell even 300 planes.
* Design and build expertise
They have none. And – contrary to Aerion – they have no partner that does.
Look at how long it has taken China to even get a fairly simple evolutionary design like the ARJ-21 flying. Or how royally Airbus and Boeing screwed up the introduction of the A380 and 787, respectively. It’s decidely not easy to design, certify and then ramp up production of an all-new airplane, let alone a supersonic one. As Boom themselves have found with their demonstrator, which was priginally supposed to fly in late 2017. Now projected for late 2021.
Or early 2022.
* Support expertise
They have none. And – contrary to Aerion – they have no partner that does.
Look at how support network and ability to deliver was a big challenge for the CSeries under Bombardier’s umbrella, or continues to be for the SSJ. Boom would need either Boeing or Airbus as partners to stem this issue, I believe.
They have none. With about 8 years to EIS, they have not signed up an engine OEM, nor is there a suitable, readily-usable engine in any OEM’s portfolio.
Björn explained in-depth back in 2016 how important the engine is to the whole endeavour (https://leehamnews.com/2016/11/28/boom-sst-engine-problem/)
* Wildly overoptimistic roadmaps
They envisioned first flight of their demonstrator in late 2017, just a year after the design was first revealed. It eventually rolled out (!) in late 2020, and first flight might now happen in… 2021? 2022?
In 2017, they expected the finished article to enter service (!) in 2023. That was redacted to 2025 in 2018.
They now intend to start building their assembly line in 2022, roll out the first Overture in 2025 and complete certification in 2029. Did I mention they don’t have two prerequisites to meeting that deadline yet? Namely: They have no engine, nor the necessary funding.
None of this doesn exactly instil confidence in their ability to deliver.
Sorry – correction on one point: They do have RR lined up for engine technology since 2020. There’s no actual engine, though, just the indication that RR wants to base the Overture’s engine on an existing architecture.
Good that you picked on the particulars, anfromme; but this thing is never getting off the ground (in any sense).
In a time when 95+ % of the world’s polity are being told to radically reduce their living expectations and energy use, how would that large group respond to a very, very small group of the well-to-do zipping above them at sonic-boom speeds to groovy™ destinations? Use your imagination..
Actually, I pretty much agree with your point 🙂
Public Relations in the age of environmental angst and sanctimony is likely the biggest hurdle Boom faces. Concord suffered from the issue already and Overture will be conspicuous.
With rare exception “Elites” won’t be reducing their expectations because they have developed ways of virtue signalling that hides their consumption. They need inconspicuous. They can access expensive leading edge technology that has the illusion of sustainability for the strident to comsume.
The problem is that Booms Overture is a hard sell as ‘sustainable’ because it’s hard to hide and create an illusion. You can hide a 1st class suite on an A380 and even have the economy class passenger think the 1st class passengers is subsidising him but that is harder to do with Booms Overture SST.
I have faith that sustainable aviation fuels will be mass produced (PtL ie carbon neutral synthetic fuels) and be in mass production by the time Overture is ready. Boom’s website has a ‘sustainability’ section and its certainly touts SAF and Prometheus fuel’s direct air capture power to liquids fuel.
Boom claims to be able to deliver its seats at accessible business class flights, that might diffuse the charges that it is an elite product.
“Public Relations in the age of environmental angst and sanctimony is likely the biggest hurdle Boom faces.”
No. Just another really big hurdle in addition to those listed above.
“Concord suffered from the issue already and Overture will be conspicuous.”
It’s spelled Concorde, by the way.
“With rare exception “Elites” won’t be reducing their expectations because they have developed ways of virtue signalling that hides their consumption. They need inconspicuous. They can access expensive leading edge technology that has the illusion of sustainability for the strident to comsume.
“The problem is that Booms Overture is a hard sell as ‘sustainable’ because it’s hard to hide and create an illusion. You can hide a 1st class suite on an A380 and even have the economy class passenger think the 1st class passengers is subsidising him but that is harder to do with Booms Overture SST.”
No, Boom Overture is a hard sell as “sustainable” because, being an SST, it inherently consumes so much more fuel/resources than subsonic planes that otherwise fulfil the same mission (albeit more slowly). That would be the case even if it had an all-economy cabin with ~160 seats and was as such compared with the fuel economy overall or per seat of an A319neo/737-7/A220-300.
Overture being exclusively aimed at rich people and carrying an all-business cabin, which makes things even worse in terms of consumption/emissions per seat, is just the cream on top.
That said, you are of course right that one’s environmental footprint in 1st/business class is worse than that in economy.
But that’s the case for *any* given airplane.
“I have faith that sustainable aviation fuels will be mass produced (PtL ie carbon neutral synthetic fuels) and be in mass production by the time Overture is ready. Boom’s website has a ‘sustainability’ section and its certainly touts SAF and Prometheus fuel’s direct air capture power to liquids fuel.”
Three things here.
Firstly: As you say yourself, you gotta have faith to believe this, because current projections don’t see the necessary quantities of SAF being available by the end of this decade.
I know what they’re touting and promoting – but they only really commit to this: “Overture’s fleet will be able to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuels”. That’s not a particularly high standard, really.
Secondly: “sustainable” does not equal “available in infinite quantities at any given time”. I know, it’s a common fallacy – also seen in electric cars where suddenly weight and energy consumption don’t matter any more because “Hey, zero CO2 emissions”. Which is of course nonsense if your electricity is produced by burning coal. It’s also of course nonsense because more energy consumption still equals more cost. It’s also stupid because even renewable energy has to be produced somehow, which still consumes resources (e.g. areas to plant wind turbines/solar panels on, lakes/rivers/dams to install water turbines in, etc., and we’re not even talking about biofuels where bio fuel source plants compete for growing area with plants that actually feed people).
Thirdly: Even assuming 100% carbon-neutral, non-problematic fuel is available for all planes in the world by the end of this decade (which I certainly hope, don’t get me wrong), triple the consumption is still triple the cost.
I hope they build the Boom Supersonic. Lots of great aerospace jobs and new research that will help other futuristic programs. I wonder if they will access the data from the Concord and other Mach jets.
Surely it depends how you think United plan to operate these. Given that this must be about journeys that are quicker and reliably so and the Overture appears to be fairly low capacity then wouldn’t it likely be ops using a substantial number of biz jet fields and avoiding any constrained airports?
So, what catchment area is needed for one of these services? To/from a NYC, SF, Seattle etc. paired with wealthier countries (eg Western Europe), maybe it would be 500k wihin 30 mins of the field for a twice weekly service. I’m just hazarding a guess.
Now look at eg Europe for destinations. Just the big 5 countries (UK, FR, ES, DE, IT) that should be in range have a combined population of 300m-ish. So 600 x 500k. Knock out quite a few of these as they’d breach the 30 mins rule. Knock out more for duplication. More for the large cities. Plus, of course, there need to be suitabe fields (field length, local regulations etc). But still it isn’t a stretch to imagine target number of destination fields in the low 3 figures from NYC.
Then look at definition of “city”. If it s the US defintion it could be tiny. If it is the more widely accepted international idea that it is a substantial place. Look at Germany (no particular reason) and you’ll find eg Ingolstadt or Wurzburg being 120k-130k population. So intelligent choice of smaller field serving a 500k catchemnt may get 2-4 of these cities.
Add in destinations that aren’t across the Pond and it seems at least plausible to me to claim the ability to serve 500 cities.
Looked at this way it seems to me certainly plausible that United has the potential to serve 500 cities, using well into 3 figure number of destination fields.
Well, of course it does – why is there a question?
‘Routes’ may cover ‘city pairs’, but note that routes do not always consist of ‘pairs’ as itineraries may be used, some out and back but many others circuitous. Depends on service demands, curfews, and preferred stations to do more servicing at.
Milkruns like Pacific Western 737s few in western Canada may or may not have adjacent ‘pairs as stops may be different in different directions of an itinerary. Smitherss for example was probably served on only one direction of the route (Prince Rupert and Terrace too). Similarly Cambridge Bay and Resolute Bay would be on one itinerary each day. Dawson Creek was served by two airplanes each day, one headed northerly from Vancouver BC making a milkrun loop back through Edmonton, Calgary, SW BC, to Vancouver. A different airplane may have looped north in Alberta then around to Vancouver BC. OTOH the 767 went Vancouver-Calgary-Toronto and back.
SST flights will be limited by range I expect, and of course market demand, we’ll see how scheduling works out.
Customers think destination (yes, they usually want to get home eventually, some may go on their own itinerary for several days or weeks).
BTW, ‘top’ airports are not a good criteria, we won’t likely see SEA-LAX supersonic flights even if the airplane goes out over water, nor JFK-MIA.
Whereas Miami-Rio would be nice to save time on (747 JFK-Rio was over nine hours, Miami less I expect, LAX-Rio not feasible when overland flying not allowed – JAL flew that routinely with 747.