American Airlines makes deposit on 20 supersonic planes

DALLAS — American Airlines has agreed to buy up to 20 supersonic jets and make a non-refundable deposit on the planes that are still on the drawing board and unable to fly for years.

Neither American nor the manufacturer Boom Supersonic would provide financial details on Tuesday, including the size of the US down payment. American will be Boom’s second U.S. customer after a similar announcement last year from United Airlines for 15 of its aircraft, called the Overture.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the last supersonic passenger flight of the Concorde, the Anglo-French plane that failed due to 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 three and a half hours.

“There are tens of millions of business class passengers flying every year on routes where Overture will give a big acceleration,” Scholl said in an interview, “and airlines will be able to do this profitably.”

Skeptics have questioned Boom’s ambitious timetable, especially in light of the many years it took Boeing, an established manufacturer, to get planes or even aircraft retrofits approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Boom says the Overture program will cost between $6 billion and $8 billion. The aircraft has a list price of $200 million, although other manufacturers regularly give big discounts to airlines.

Last month, Boom announced changes to the aircraft’s design to make it easier and cheaper to build and maintain. The most notable change was the move from three engines, including a different type on the tail, to four identical engines under the delta-shaped wings.

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Boom, however, has no engine manufacturer in line yet. It is in talks with Rolls Royce and others.

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