A sustainable supersonic aircraft?

Today, anyone who starts a business tries to “sell” it as something sustainable. And one of the latest crazy things I’ve read concerns a future sustainable supersonic aircraft. I explain myself.

A supersonic plane flies faster than the speed of sound, and it does this with very powerful engines that consume a lot of fuel. In other words, any passenger flying on a supersonic flight consumes much more fuel than another passenger flying on a conventional plane, around 5 times more. That is an indisputable fact.

If flying by plane on many occasions is a highly debatable necessity, flying very fast and consuming more, in my opinion, is totally stupid in these times of climate emergency, because it is not at all necessary.

The world of aeronautics has to find a way to do it in a non-polluting way, and it is not easy at all, because putting a large plane in the air requires a lot of energy. And the more powerful the engine, the more it pollutes.

The possible new supersonic plane from the company Boom, is being sold as “sustainable”, following the fashion of “green-washing” that is so topical today. It is a way of trying to deceive people who do not think much about the truth of what they are told.

This new supersonic plane from the company Boom is yet to be designed, and they intend to fly it in about 10 years. The company has obtained order commitments from two North American airlines (American Airlines 20 planes and United Airlines 15 planes) with the promise that it will be sustainable using SAF fuels.

For those who do not know, SAF fuels are obtained from oil residues or vegetable crops, such as soybeans. And these fuels also pollute, what happens is that they come from organic remains that have absorbed part of the CO2, and therefore the “global” pollution is less.

From what I have read, at an estimated level a supersonic plane would spend about 24 million gallons per year. Then the 15 United Airlines planes alone would consume 360 million gallons a year, and this would require 6% of all annual US soybean production. Imagine what would happen with more planes.

The resources that our planet offers us are to be used sensibly and yes, with sustainability. And that means, not consuming more than the planet is capable of producing.

Today around 20,000 million gallons of kerosene are consumed in the world, and possible SAF fuels are still dozens of years away, since they are needed in quantities of many millions of tons.

I think we have to be a little serious and not allow ourselves to be deceived, and especially with the “green-washing” that is so fashionable now.

We have to say that supersonic flights are not sustainable, they are not necessary at all (that’s my opinion), and it only serves to satisfy the ego of a few with a lot of money to spend. And I just hope this new supersonic plane never gets to fly.

When will we see politicians and leaders who give clear messages to society, and who do not allow us to be deceived?



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Amador Palacios

I am an electronic engineer with more than 40 years working in industry. I like to reflect on Technological and Social issues