It is seventeen and a half years since the last ever Concorde flight touched down at Heathrow airport, bringing an end to a twenty-seven-year period when commercial passengers could fly at the edge of space, at more than twice the speed of sound. The story of supersonic flight is one of the very few cases where technology has taken a backward step. The fastest commercial aircraft today flies at less than half the speed of an aircraft that took its first flight 52 years ago.
My career at British Airways overlapped with the last ten years of Concorde’s life. During the second half of this, I was in charge of Network Planning, the department that decides which routes get operated and the schedules that are flown. I was intimately involved in the decision to bring Concorde back into operation after the fatal Air France crash on 25 July 2000, as well as the decision to bring the era of supersonic travel to an end in 2003.
That story deserves more space than I can give it here, and I intend to tell it in a follow-up post. But this post is all about whether the time has finally come for a successor to Concorde, in the shape of Overture from Boom. The reason everyone is talking about it at the moment is because United Airlines has just announced a $3 billion order for 15 supersonic jets from the company, with options for 35 more.