MIAMI – BOOM Supersonic considered a variety of factors when designing and painting its XB-1 supersonic jet, from weight to color and material.
In essence, the XB-1’s paint job is more than just maquillage. The outer coat offers a number of safety advantages, including physical damage protection, UV rays, and epoxy breakdown, and a visual tool for leak detection.
Beginning with design, teams worked closely to ensure the final balanced shape, function, and safety of the XB-1 exterior. In an elucidating blog post titled Behind the Scenes: Painting Boom’s XB-1, the company lets us in on the details behind its supersonic jet paint job, from paint weight and surface temperature of colors as applied to surfaces such as titanium versus carbon composite.
Color: Designed to Fly over the Desert
An aircraft exterior can reach temperatures upwards of 200°F at supersonic speed. Add a black coat of paint and it may increase the heat by about 100°F more. Because the test flight program of XB-1 is set in the Mojave desert, the paint colors of XB-1 have been optimized both in-flight and on the ground for temperature control.
BOOM says in the blog post that its teams chose white to prioritize the comfort and well-being of the test Pilot. While a jet black exterior might have been spectacular, a white color makes it easier to identify potential leaks or damage occurring during testing.
While XB-1 featured an all-white black wrapped aft fuselage during its first unveiling at rollout, BOOM says this black wrap will ultimately be removed during flight testing as a matter of safety and utility.
Weight: Pounds per Paint Coats
The exterior surface area of XB-1 covers about 1,500 gross square feet. Long before painting could begin, Boom’s engineers, using a projection model, incorporated a paint weight estimate into the aircraft design.
As the earliest sections were painted prior to installation, the team tracked and configured the projection model. By simply measuring the parts before and after painting, they maintained a constant pulse on the accuracy of the complete aircraft weight model and ensured that the center of gravity of the plane remained within the required limits.
To complete the paint job, an estimated 20-25 gallons of high gloss thunderbird white PPG Aerospace CA9800 was used, meeting weight specifications and model prediction of approximately 125 pounds.
Material: Offsetting the Heat
A variety of materials, including carbon composites, titanium and aluminum, are used in XB-1. Each of these materials was carefully selected by Boom Supersonic to balance the strength, weight, and performance of the aircraft, not a seamless paint application.
As a consequence, to work around material limitations, the team had to choose the best paint style and design. They defined specifications for each material, which impacted the preparation process, optimal type and amount of primer and surface cleaner used.
However, some XB-1 pieces remain paint-free. The titanium aft fuselage, which hosts the three J85 engines of the XB-1, is an example. Because of its capacity to withstand temperatures exceeding 800 ° F, the material was carefully chosen. Under the intense in-flight heat, a coat of paint would have risked discoloration and flaking.
In summary, just as those of its supersonic aircraft predecessors, XB-1’s paint job serves a range of purposes beyond aesthetics, including the safety and comfort of the Pilot, airframe protection, and the reliability of the exterior material at supersonic level.
MT BOOM Supersonic rolled out its XB-1 aircraft from its facilities in Denver, Colorado in a virtual live stream in October. This marked a huge milestone for BOOM, the first private independent aerospace company to build a supersonic commercial airliner, nearing the company just one step closer towards commercial service of its Overture aircraft.
Back in August of this year, 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. Regarding its XB-1 and Overture programs, Boom’s proposed plans will cut flight times substantially with a few examples being:
- Los Angeles to Sydney – Eight hours and thirty minutes instead of fourteen hours and thirty minutes.
- New York to London – Three hours and thirty minutes instead of six hours and thirty minutes.
- San Francisco to Tokyo – Six hours instead of ten hours and fifteen minutes.
Featured image: The XB-1. Photo: Boom Supersonic.