A question for all you busy business owners, deal decision makers, and time-pressed travelers. He found that even if a supersonic jet could cut the flight time from London to New York by three hours, the trip would emit between two and eight times more carbon dioxide than flying in a conventional aircraft. Do you want to run it?
Two weeks ago, American Airlines paid an undisclosed bond for 20 supersonic aircraft being developed by Colorado startup Boom. Boom founder Blake Scholl believes there are enough people out there to fill “hundreds, if not thousands, of these planes.” I’m confused.
Twenty years ago, when Concorde was consuming twice as much fuel as a 747 Jumbo to carry a quarter of its passengers, companies didn’t have to measure their carbon footprint. Today, they are under pressure from investors, regulators and customers to reduce the climate impact of doing business.
Even if Boom overcomes the noise problem, supersonic travel will remain one of the greenest and most expensive options for air passengers.
Dan Rutherford, aviation program director for the International Council on Clean Transportation, says that flying in a boom-like supersonic jet powered by conventional jet fuel can carry eight times, or twice as many, passengers in economy class on a subsonic aircraft. of carbon emissions. attributed to someone in business class.
Boom says its Overture will fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), but has no engines yet. A study by ICCT and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that ultra-clean SAFs can produce up to 24% less carbon dioxide emissions per kilometer of seat than aircraft flying on conventional fuels. But the study also concludes that the high altitudes at which these aircraft fly could significantly exacerbate supersonic non-carbon climate impacts from substances such as nitrogen oxides and water vapor. .
Moreover, if the Overture can fly in SAF, so can other aircraft. All conventional jet engines can be flown on 100% sustainable fuel with only minor adjustments. It is the regulators who have limited his use to 50%.
Boom’s claim to sustainability also assumes there is enough affordable, green fuel around to power the planes it plans to fly in 2029. But it is not certain. Aviation industry trade body Iata estimates that aviation uses about 450 billion liters of fuel annually. Current investment plans suggest he will only produce 5 billion of his SAFs by 2025, Iata said. With effective government incentives, this could reach 30 billion a year by 2030, he notes, but is still far from the needs of the industry. This shortfall means that SAF will likely be more expensive than jet fuel for some time.
Conventional fuel accounts for about 30% of an airline’s operating costs. So why would airlines go with the more expensive option for supersonic planes, which consume far more fuel than modern subsonic planes? My guess is not. Even if carriers went that route, tickets would have to be so exorbitantly priced that only a limited number of people could afford them.
According to John Strickland, an aviation consultant involved in British Airways Concorde’s network planning, high fuel costs and a very small niche market led to the Concorde’s grounding in 2003. “Premium Traffic” We were able to make it work on the London to New York route only by gaining access to it,” he said. A few people.”
The economics of supersonic travel have apparently not changed since then, but much else has changed. First of all, the rise of post-corona video conferencing has changed the outlook for business travel from what it was when Boom launched in 2014. And passengers who once valued time savings over costs now need to consider the environmental impact of travel.
“Clients will say, ‘I don’t want you to use it’ . “You can see the major investment banks simply say their bankers don’t use the aircraft.”
Flying faster than the speed of sound is a thrilling concept. But business travelers need to consider whether saving a few hours of travel time is really worth the damage it can do to their reputation and the environment.
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