Boeing Says Supersonic Flights Are Coming Back

We’re three days into the Paris Air Show, and the annual aviation conference that’s 10 percent public spectacle and 90 percent billion-dollar meet-and-greet for the aviation industry. News from airlines will keep coming until the show’s close on Sunday — but for now, the announcement we most anticipate is this: New York to Shanghai in two hours. Boeing says it’s a coming reality: “I think in the next decade or two you’re going to see them become a reality,” the company’s Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg told the press. 

There wasn’t unanimous consent around this position, with other aviation companies saying that market realities would limit plans for such flights. After all, the problem isn’t so much that supersonic flights are technically challenging but that they’re economically unsustainable. Air France and British Air flew supersonic transatlantic flights until 2003, when various factors conspired against the service, including a Concorde crash in July 2000, killing all aboard; its first post-crash flight was on September 11, 2001. Replacement parts were hard to find for routes that were by nature limited: Due to concerns about air pollution, supersonic flights can’t travel over the continental U.S. Presumably Boeing has in mind a way to circumvent all these problems — aided, perhaps, by the rise of a global one-percent willing to shell out the cash to trim 13 hours off a 15-hour flight.