MIAMI – Yesterday at 10:30 am, MT BOOM Supersonic rolled out its XB-1 aircraft from its facilities in Denver, Colorado in a virtual live stream. This marks a huge milestone for BOOM, the first private independent aerospace company to build a supersonic commercial airliner, and this is just one step towards commercial service of its Overture aircraft.
Airways got a chance to ask BOOM Founder and CEO Blake Scholl some questions about this milestone and the future of the company in post-rollout media Q&A. First, let’s dive into the rollout.
Wednesday’s rollout began with some words from Scholl, as he talked about his children not being able to see their relatives in Hong Kong because it was so far away, and how time is the barrier keeping families apart.
Then, under flashing lights and music, we finally saw N990XB, the only XB-1, for the first time. Over the course of the live stream, we heard from many BOOM team members including Chief Engineer Greg Krauland, who explained the difficulties of structurally designing a supersonic aircraft and the aerodynamics of the XB-1. Krauland also spoke about the engines propelling the aircraft, three General Electric J85-15s.
Also getting chances to speak were the Flight Crew, Chief Test Pilot Bill “Doc” Shoemaker, Test Pilot Chris “Duff” Guarente, and Chief Flight Test Engineer Jeff “Legs” Mabry. They spoke about the process of getting ready for flight, and how their simulator prepares them for that, on top of their experience flying high-performance military aircraft.
Regarding the cockpit, Scholl voiced that he wanted to make the transition for Pilots from other aircraft as easy as possible, putting a relatively traditionally-styled cockpit into the airframe.
What is XB-1?
The XB-1 is a small 71-foot test aircraft that will be used in the development of the Overture aircraft, BOOM’s supersonic commercial aircraft concept. As BOOM defines it “XB-1 will prove the key technologies for safe, efficient, and sustainable travel at supersonic speeds.”
The aircraft is a one-third scale demonstrator for Overture and will begin flight testing in 2021 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California, home of Virgin Orbit, Stratolaunch, and best known as an aircraft retirement airport.
Overture in a Carbon-neutral World
Overture is BOOM’s aircraft concept for supersonic commercial flight, which according to BOOM can operate over 500 transoceanic flights at supersonic speeds, and is the world’s fastest airliner. BOOM is committed to a carbon neutral Overture program, and promises the aircraft will run on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
According to BOOM, one Overture will cost US$200m, but Blake Scholl says that is a steal in the long term with lower fuel and other operating costs. Flight testing is expected to start mid-decade, with revenue service planned by 2030. The current plan for the Overture sets its capacity at 65. When asked, Scholl said the test location for Overture had not yet been decided.
Overture’s Competitive Edge and Ease of Entry
Currently, there are 30 orders for the new aircraft, 20 coming from close business partner Japan Airlines, and 10 from the Virgin Group. When asked by Airways which other airlines showed interest in the aircraft in the post-rollout media Q&A, Scholl responded, “The answer rounds to all of them. If you are an international airline and you have a significant portion of your business that comes from front cabin customers, Overture is going important to your future success.”
“Think of it this way, with our launch customer in Japan, Japan Airlines [JL], they’re going to have a big advantage when they have the highest speed flights across the Pacific, and that’s going to create a world in which others are going to need that capability too in order to stay competitive, so Overture is for international airlines with significant premium cabin businesses.
Airways also asked Scholl if airports may need to accommodate in some ways to host the new, unique aircraft, much like the A380 but in different ways. Scholl went to the point. “No. We wanted to build in Overture an aircraft that is easy for airlines to adopt, and that means it’s compatible with current gates, it’s compatible with current taxiways, it’s compatible with the runways that we already have, and you don’t have to do anything special.”
Different from the Concorde
Krauland went into great detail about how BOOM is making the Overture and XB-1 different from other supersonic jets like the SR-71 and of course the famous Concorde.
His explanations were simple; the first being the use of stronger composite materials “less susceptible to the expansion and contraction associated with the temperature change of supersonic flight.” Krauland highlighted the new J85-15 engines as a huge part of the efficiency improvements.
Lastly, 21st-century technology not available in the Concorde era allowed BOOM to evaluate analytics from computer models.
The Future for Overture
When asked many times about the future for BOOM and especially the Overture program, Scholl liked to keep the conversation to the present but did hint to what was on the horizon for his company.
A question came asking about other possible Overture variants, like a cargo variant. Scholl offered that as for now humans are the most important cargo, and that was BOOM’s focus now. However, he definitely saw demand for certain time-sensitive cargo that would benefit getting to its destination in half the time, like human organs or flowers.
Scholl also stated that as supersonic travel becomes more regular as is easier and quicker to travel, demand for these flights will increase astronomically. At a certain point, larger aircraft will be necessary, so it would not be difficult for one to argue there could be a larger variant off in the distance.
It seems the future is bright and limitless for an optimistic Scholl and BOOM, and aviation enthusiasts and travelers worldwide undoubtedly can’t wait for the new, modern supersonic era.
Featured image: Overture-Sunset. Photo: BOOM