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A conceptual render of Boom Supersonic's commercial supersonic jet with United Airlines livery. Photo: Boom Supersonic

United Airlines announced Thursday it will purchase 15 supersonic jets from aviation startup Boom Supersonic, and will have the option to purchase 35 more in the future, in an attempt to revitalize supersonic air travel.

Why it matters: Supersonic commercial flights haven't been available since the Concorde, operated by British Airways, completed its last trip between New York and London in 2003, according to the New York Times.

Context: Boom Supersonic's commercial supersonic jet, the Overture, has not yet been built and still has to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies around the world before it can fly.

  • The company hopes the aircraft will have its first flight in 2026 and will begin carrying passengers by 2029.
  • The Concorde stopped flying largely because of high costs, safety concerns, flagging demand and noise concerns, according to the Times.

Thought bubble, from Axios Transportation Correspondent Joann Muller: The return of supersonic flight still faces enormous challenges, as evidenced by the recent collapse of one of the sector's leading companies, Aerion Supersonic.

  • But United seems intent on investing in cleaner forms of aviation, including Archer Aviation, an electric air taxi startup.

What they're saying: "Boom's vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry's most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience," United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement.

  • "At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations," Boom Supersonic CEO Blake Scholl said.

The big picture: Boom Supersonic believes it can develop a more efficient and quieter engine than those used in the past. It will run on sustainable aviation fuel derived from organic matter.

  • The company said the aircraft will be capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 1.7, twice that of today's fastest airliners, while carrying between 65 to 88 passengers at 60,000 feet and will have a range of 4,888 miles.

Go deeper: Supersonic travel is about to make a comeback

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - Science

NTSB probes deadly Alabama crash as storms lash Southeast and Midwest

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's sent a team to Alabama to help investigate a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash that killed 10 people, including nine children.

The big picture: Saturday's crash, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes" in the Southeast over the weekend, per AP. Parts of the Midwest, including Indiana and Chicago, where a tornado struck late Sunday.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."