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United sees supersonic jet cutting Tokyo-West Coast flights to 6 hours

Order for US startup Boom's plane, due in 2029, ushers in carbon-neutral service

A conceptual rendering of Boom's planned jet: The planes will be able to fly twice as fast as conventional airliners, United says. (Image courtesy of United)

NEW YORK -- United Airlines looks to bring supersonic service back to commercial aviation with jets that can fly from San Francisco to Tokyo in just six hours while shrinking the carrier's carbon footprint.

United announced an agreement Thursday to buy 15 planes from Colorado-based startup Boom Supersonic. The aircraft will be "net-zero carbon from day one," running on sustainable aviation fuel, said the U.S. airline, which aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Boom's planned jets would fly at 1.7 times the speed of sound, twice as fast as current airliners, United said. These speeds could cut travel time between London and Newark, near New York, to three and a half hours from seven. The jets, which are expected to have a capacity of 65 to 88 passengers, are anticipated to enter commercial service in 2029.

United is set to take the planes once they meet the carrier's safety standards, and the airline has an option to buy 35 more. Other terms, including the price, were not disclosed.

Japan Airlines invested $10 million in Boom in 2017 as part of a strategic tie-up, and has the option to purchase 20 aircraft. The startup also has partnerships with the U.S. Air Force and Rolls-Royce.

The planes are seen as a potential successor to the Concorde jets that ferried passengers at Mach 2 starting in the 1970s. Noise and fuel efficiency problems contributed to the decision to retire the Concorde, which made its last flight in 2003.

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