Back in March of 2016, Boom Supersonic emerged as one of the contenders for affordable and efficient supersonic travel.
Blake Scholl, an ambitious software engineer, and entrepreneur from Silicon Valley moved his family to Denver, Colorado to begin the journey to viable Mach 2.2 passenger flight. Founded in his basement, Blake Scholl harnessed together the aerospace industry’s finest engineers, creating a world-class team of innovators.
Boom isn’t the first startup to have entered the race for Concorde’s successor, however. Reno-based Aerion Corporation has been working on a Mach 1.2 business jet since 2002, and Boston-based Spike Aerospace is working on a low-boom business jet.
Last February, NASA announced its partnership with Lockheed Martin in an effort to create a fleet of half-scale low-boom demonstrators for a future aircraft.
What makes Boom stand out from its competitors? Boom is a commercial aircraft that will carry between 45-55 passengers at Business Class fare and is not a business jet. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin brand, placed 10 of 25 current orders on the aircraft. This comes as no surprise, given Richard Branson’s interest in supersonic travel for the masses.
“Supersonic travel for both, cargo and humans, will result in many exciting and efficient benefits,” said Branson in his YouTube message to Boom.
Additionally, The Spaceship Company confirmed that they would provide manufacturing, engineering, and flight test support and guidance. As Boom CEO, Blake Scholl, mentioned in a March 2016 on a DailyMail.uk article, “It’s hard to to imagine a better partner for bringing Supersonics to market.”
In September 2016, Boom revealed the design updates to their airliner, which are not uncommon during the development phase of any aircraft. The most recent changes to the airframe consist of an updated wing-plan, an additional third engine, and some very minor changes to the cross-section and vertical stabilizer. The third engine allows quieter takeoff noise and longer missions.
With 50 years of matured technology since Concorde, the Boom aircraft hopes to make its maiden flight in the early 2020’s. Currently, the aircraft’s design has achieved peak efficiency but may endure minor changes as the design process progresses.
The Boom aircraft is expected to cruise at 60,000ft, the same altitude that its Anglo-French Concorde predecessor cruised at. Unlike Concorde, the Boom aircraft will be manufactured from carbon-composites, which will make the aircraft lighter and greener inflight. It is also more resilient to heat and can be molded to any shape, unlike aluminum.
Boom’s supersonic airliner will also be non-afterburning and lacks Concorde’s trademark “droop-snoop.” On November 15th, 2016, the airline publicly revealed its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator to its aerospace partners, friends, and investors for the very first time. Moreover, Boom announced its partnerships with Blue Force for
Moreover, Boom announced its partnerships with Blue Force for composites and Honeywell for aircraft components. Boyd Group International, an aviation consultant projects a market for 1,300 aircraft.
Boom also revealed that XB-1 and the Boom aircraft will be the world’s first privately developed commercial supersonic airplanes. The sleek demonstrator will achieve Mach 2.2 with three non-afterburning General Electric J85-21 engines. XB-1 is projected to fly in early 2018.
Former British Airways Concorde engineer, Ricky Bastin -who has personally been involved with Concorde for over four decades, has shared his thoughts on the ambitious project: “Finally a Supersonic airliner concept that is viable and has a very good chance of success.”
Tony Yule, who was a Concorde pilot from 1987 to 1993 has high hopes for Boom. “Fabulous shape for a very fast jet,” said Yule.
After a successful 2016 for Boom Supersonic, a small team of Boom’s engineers traveled to the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University to conduct a subsonic wind tunnel test of the XB-1 demonstrator. Despite the speed and accuracy of computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations that are used at Boom, they are not a substitute for physical wind tunnel testing.
This test validated the CFD data and confirmed the performance, stability, and control aspects of XB-1 in the speed range of Mach 0.3. The eight-percent scale model is fabricated from steel, aluminum, and non-structural 3D-printed parts.
Test preparation includes the installation of interchangeable control surfaces, surface cleaning, gap sealing, and the application of turbulence trip-dots. Air flow patterns over the surface are visualized using a mixture of china clay, kerosene, and paint. When the wind is turned on at a specific model orientation, the kerosene evaporates, leaving the surface flow patterns visible on the model.
Kicking off 2017, Boom Supersonic successfully rounded up $33M for the XB-1 supersonic demonstrator’s development. “This funds our first airplane, all the way through flight tests,” said Boom CEO Blake Scholl in an interview with TechCrunch.
“This funds our first airplane, all the way through flight tests,” said Scholl in an interview with TechCrunch. “Now we have all the pieces we need– technology, suppliers, and capital– to go out and make some history and set some speed records.”
Shortly after, Boom conducted its first structural tests on early wing components. When a carbon composite component is cured in an oven, it must undergo necessary trials to assess its structural integrity.
Boom Supersonic still has a long road ahead before it can achieve viable supersonic passenger flight by the early 2020’s, but the ambitious startup has already achieved many milestones since its founding in 2014. The company has already had discussions with other airlines according to a TechCrunch article and has made a PR tour around the Middle East.
With the future looking bright for Boom, the future of Supersonic passenger flight appears more likely. Although Concorde pioneered in the Supersonic passenger flight, it did not make Supersonic travel a mainstream or affordable form of transport. Boom hopes to change that by disrupting the aviation industry with its Supersonic aircraft within the next few years.
Written by: Emma Rasmusen
Emma Rasmussen is a high school student, Boom Supersonic intern, and has over two years of experience with social media management and aviation journalism. Emma runs http://speedbirdconcorde.wixsite.com/speedbirdconcorde (soon to be www.speedbirdconcorde.com) and is the original founder of the @aviation.nation Instagram.
You can follow her current Instagram @speedbird.concorde or visit her website.