United relies on the environmental and technical credibility of the supersonic bet

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The last time United Airlines ordered supersonic planes humans had yet to set foot on the moon. More than half a century later, United is once again focused on speed, bucking the most consistent trend in the airline industry over the past 50 years: a desire to fly cheaper, not faster.

United and Boom Supersonic have announced a commercial deal for the startup’s 88-passenger airliner, Overture, ready for 2029. The deal is the culmination of a year of talks between United and Boom and would put 15 planes in its fleet – assuming it achieves Federal Aviation Administration Certification – and gives the airline options for 35 more.

Related: Running Out of Money, Aerion’s Supersonic Pursuit Comes to an End

“This is a real plane that we are looking for,” said Mike Leskinen, United’s corporate development manager and architect of the deal. Leskinen informed Air current last week on why United wants a supersonic aircraft and why the airline wants to be the primary operator for the first time since the 777 launched with Boeing in October 1990.

“This is an order, but calling it a firm order is incorrect,” said Leskinen, who notes that the money has changed hands for deposits and that financial protections for United are built into the agreement. “They have to deliver. And we have a number of years to achieve this. We will work closely with them to help them. Boom wants to test the Overture fly in 2026.

Read: Electric and supersonic startups lay their industrial roots

Eight years from the start of service, United brings to Boom its great operational and technical expertise and its credibility. United is one of a group of less than 10 airlines on the planet with the technical and operational know-how to evaluate a new commercial aircraft. Its blue chip status carries enormous weight and has historically acted as a market validator for other airlines.

“This is also such a unique product that we have had the opportunity to review for mainline flights. And so that requires looking a little further, ”said Leskinen, who sees“ zero, zero, zero, absolutely zero ”risk in attaching United to early-stage aircraft manufacturers. “We’re going to make some good smart bets.”

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