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American Airlines orders 20 Boom Supersonic passenger jets

A rendering of the Boom Supersonic Overture in flight above the clouds.
A rendering of the Boom Supersonic Overture in flight. (Image credit: Boom Supersonic)

American Airlines has agreed to buy 20 Boom Supersonic Overture passenger jets, which are expected to carry passengers at twice the speeds of conventional passenger aircraft.

The world's largest airline, American Airlines made a nonrefundable deposit of an undisclosed amount on 20 Overture aircraft from Denver-based aerospace manufacturer Boom Supersonic. The Overture is designed to fly at speeds of up to Mach 1.7, or around 1,227 mph (1,975 kph). (Mach 1 represents the speed of sound.) The jets are projected to have a range of over 4,890 miles (7,870 kilometers) and could carry between 65 and 80 passengers from Paris to Montreal in just 3 hours and 45 minutes, according to Boom Supersonic (opens in new tab).

Under the terms agreed to between American Airlines and Boom Supersonic, the supersonic jet manufacturer must prove that the Overture meets all industry-mandated safety, operation and performance standards before any aircraft are delivered. The airline has an option to buy an additional 40 airplanes in the future.

Related: Boom Supersonic and Northrop Grumman team up to build superfast US military aircraft

The Boom Supersonic Overture passenger jet features a tapered fuselage featuring a larger diameter at its front than at its rear. The company claims this design helps to minimize the drag experienced by the aircraft while also optimizing fuel efficiency. Four jet engines mounted under the wings will give the Overture maximum speeds of over Mach 1.7 when flying over water and slightly under Mach 1 when over land. (Current restrictions set by the Federal Aviation Administration prohibit flight speeds over Mach 1 (opens in new tab) above land in order to mitigate noise generated by sonic booms.) 

"We are proud to share our vision of a more connected and sustainable world with American Airlines," Boom CEO and founder Blake Scholl said in a statement (opens in new tab). "We believe Overture can help American deepen its competitive advantage on network, loyalty and overall airline preference through the paradigm-changing benefits of cutting travel times in half."

Derek Kerr, American Airlines' chief financial officer, added that the airline is "excited about how Boom will shape the future of travel both for our company and our customers."

The current agreement of 20 aircraft (with the option for an additional 40) builds on a previous commercial agreement the two companies signed in 2021 for an initial 15 Overture aircraft with an option to purchase an additional 35. 

Boom Supersonic also has a deal with Northrop Grumman to supply variants of the Overture aircraft for military and emergency response missions.

Despite these agreements, Boom Supersonic is still largely in preflight testing. The company hopes to begin production on Overture aircraft by 2024, and make its first flight by 2026. The company's other supersonic jet, the XB-1 technology demonstrator, is targeting a first flight in late 2022.

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Brett Tingley
Editor, Space.com

Brett is a science and technology journalist who is curious about emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems. Brett's work has appeared on The War Zone at TheDrive.com, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery, and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett is a working musician, a hobbyist electronics engineer and cosplayer, an avid LEGO fan, and enjoys hiking and camping throughout the Appalachian Mountains with his wife and two children.