By Ezra Gollan
Boom Supersonic Reels in Orders, Delta Remains Hesitant
You’ve seen the marketing everywhere. For instance, the possibility of flying from New York to London in 3 and a half hours or flying from Los Angeles to Tokyo in 4 and a half hours. This thought has not seemed like a reality for quite some time, not since the Concorde last flew supersonic transatlantic flights at the speed of sound but eventually retired from service in 2003.
Boom Supersonic — the Denver-based aviation design startup — is looking to change the air travel industry, and airlines are buying. Perhaps, at least they are agreeing to buy. For an aircraft that to this date has no engine, it sure has wooed over executives from major carriers in the U.S., with the idea of transporting 60-80 passengers at Mach 1.7 — a cool 1300 miles per hour.
United Airlines was the first of the big 3 carriers in the U.S. to commit to buying 15 of Boom’s Overture, their first prototype. Then, a few months later, American Airlines expressed interest and announced that they’d bite and committed to 20 aircraft with an option to add up to 40 more, though pundits find the timetable Boom has laid out to be ambitious, given that without an engine, there is no aircraft.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines has watched from the sidelines. The carrier seems to be less interested in prototypes and more interested in watching its competition go through what will no doubt be an interesting 7 or so years leading up to 2029, the year when Boom says its Overture will enter service with airlines.
Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian told FOX Business in an interview on Tuesday, “I have a lot more questions than answers” adding that “until we’re confident that we could actually generate a reliable return from the aircraft on investment, that’s not where we’re investing.” Bastian’s remarks make it pretty clear where the airline stands at the moment.
Where Delta’s skepticism lies is unclear but it is safe to assume they are probably put off by the fact that Boom has no set plan for an engine. To make matters worse, Rolls Royce, the engine manufacturer which Boom had said they were in talks with, seemed to brush off any suggestions that progress had been made.
Rolls Royce CEO Warren East recently told the Air Current, “We’re not making anything speculative for anybody. We’re not spending our dollars on new engine development. Our new engine developments are around our business jet engines and our UltraFan. That’s it. East’s wording here is important. We’re not spending our dollars on new engine development.”
This is not to flat out say Rolls Royce is not willing to work with Boom or develop engines, it just doesn’t have interest in putting in its own funds at the moment. Additionally, this can’t give Ed Bastian or any other skeptical executives at Delta much confidence, though can it?
So, while the idea of getting to Paris from New York at the same time it would take you to get to, say, Denver, seems fantastic, obstacles are to be found in nearly every facet of Boom’s plan. Maybe Bastian becomes optimistic and Delta jumps in tomorrow, maybe Boom and Rolls Royce roll out an engine sooner than anyone expects, and maybe it all gets scrapped. A lot of maybes and “what ifs.” However, no one will complain if Boom does what it claims it can do, except for maybe a sailor not thrilled by a mid-afternoon sonic boom.