Boom Supersonic’s CEO explains how his jet could avoid the pitfalls that doomed the Concorde — and someday bring faster-than-sound flight to the masses

Boom Supersonic

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Aerospace startup Boom Supersonic unveiled its first plane this week, the XB-1. The reveal marked a major milestone for the company, which aims to have a supersonic passenger jet — a plane capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound — to market in the next decade.

The XB-1 is a single-seat demonstrator jet, meant to test and prove the efficacy of the design and technology Boom will use for its first passenger jet, the Overture.

Boom plans to begin flight testing an Overture prototype in 2025, with the hope of getting the plane certified around 2029. Japan Airlines, which has invested $10 million in Boom, is expected to be the launch customer, and the US Department of Defense has awarded Boom a contract to develop a version that could serve as Air Force One.

Supersonic travel (ie, for non-military purposes) has been around since 1976, when the famed Concorde made its first passenger flight. That jet could fly between New York and London in as few as three hours, but was plagued by design challenges, maintenance issues, and extremely high operating costs. It was retired in 2003.

Although several high-profile accidents ultimately doomed the jet, its real killer was the impractical economics, said Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl. 

“The primary limitation on Concorde was economic. Because of the plane’s fuel inefficiency, tickets were $20,000 a pop,” Scholl said. “And you just can’t fill 100 seats at $20,000. It made some money from here to London, but you can’t build a business around that.”

Scholl intends to sell rides at prices comparable to what business class fliers pay today (about four to fives times what a coach seat costs). Boom will lean on the decades of technological advances that separate the design of the Concorde from that of the Overture, which has produced tools like composite fuselage materials and newly efficient turbofan engines. 

Moreover, Boom has the advantage of working with modern design tools, such as advanced computer design software, instead of “pencil and paper” like the Concorde developers, Greg Krauland, chief engineer of the XB-1 program, said at an unveiling event.

The startup also expects to solve some of Concorde’s operational challenges. For instance, the Overture will use cameras to allow pilots to see around the supersonic jet’s unusual elongated nose, rather than having to develop a drop-nose mechanism like on the Concorde.

“Concorde had after-burning turbojet engines, like military-converted engines — perfect technology at the time,” Scholl said, “But today we’ve got turbofans, which are going to meet the latest noise standards,” avoiding a complaint that dogged the Concorde.

Like the Concorde, the Overture won’t be able to travel above Mach 1 — the speed of sound — without generating a sonic boom. Regulations will bar it from flying at supersonic speeds above many countries, including the US, so a two-hour New York-Los Angeles flight won’t happen anytime soon.

Little matter: Boom has identified 500 different routes on which supersonic flight is viable, Scholl said, and even though fares akin to today’s business class tickets …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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