Motoring / Jets

Boom Supersonic Jet promises Paris to New York in 3.5 hours

With 76 deposits for its US$200 million 55-seat supersonic jetliners, Boom is about to launch us into the age of supersonic travel promised by Concorde

Oct 16, 2017 | By Jonathan Ho

When the Concorde supersonic jet first entered service in 1976, it was a glimpse of our high technology future – a shy 7 years after landing on the moon, regular earthlings could now travel over twice the speed of sound in the British-French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet airliner. Ignominously, it was not to be, a scant 27 years later, the economics didn’t quite pan out and British Airways and Air France ended the Concorde’s service in 2003. But all is not gloomy, Boom Technology, maker of the world’s first commercially viable supersonic aircraft is going to make supersonic travel a routine. A Denver based startup, Boom’s airliner enables fares 75% lower than Concorde, about the same price as today’s business class tickets (in 1997, a round-trip ticket from New York to London would have set you back US$8,000, more than 30 times the cost of the cheapest option for the same route).

Boom Supersonic Jet promises Paris to New York in 3.5 hours

The Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Sud Aviation (later Aérospatiale) and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty, at the time, 20 aircraft were built, including six prototypes and development aircraft. and supersonic travel was used mainly by wealthy passengers who could afford to pay a high price in exchange for Concorde’s speed and luxury service.

 

But news has been surfacing from the Paris Air Show, that Boom Technology has discovered a heretofore undiscovered efficiency made possible by a breakthrough aerodynamic design, state-of-the-art engines, and advanced composites, which will make supersonic travel about as routine as how we fly commercial (budget flights notwithstanding). Compared to the Concorde supersonic jet’s Mach 2.0, Regular airliners currently fly at Mach 0.8 but Boom’s Mach 2.2 is 1,451 MPH — 2.6x faster than other airliners; and the company has already received 76 orders (each backed by non-refundable down-payments) for its US$200 million 55-seat supersonic passenger jet. There are 5 backers and Virgin Airlines is the only known customer of the concept supersonic passenger airliner.

According to CNBC, the full plane comes with two configurations of either 55 business class seats or 15 business with 30 first class seats or longer flights. Boom Founder and CEO Blake Scholl said that a business class ticket from London to New York is estimated at US$5,000 while a Concorde trip would be priced approximately US$15,000 for the same route.

Business of Luxury: Why Concorde failed and why Boom will likely succeed

For close to 30 years, the Concorde had attracted extreme maintenance costs and though British Airways and Air France were able to operate Concorde at a profit, steep government subsidies were the only things keeping it profitable – Design and development of a supersonic transport (SST) was a source of national pride for the French and with the United Kingdom hoping to be accepted into the European Common Market, the trade and economic treaty to work jointly on supersonic travel was signed on the basis of a nationalistic pride than as a viable commercial deal between two business entities. Furthermore, when research and development of the Concorde began, oil was plentiful and cheap, thus, oil prices were never quite factored into the technology until the 1970s Oil crisis, started to cause would-be operators of supersonic passenger flights to re-consider the economic viability and demand for such pricey flights.

The supply side of commercial supersonic travel was also problematic. Typically, high prices can be mitigated with volumes. In a feat of great irony, the ability for the passenger jet to go supersonic, turned out to be its ultimate undoing – tests were starting to show that sonic booms from supersonic passenger jets could reach the ground, and while the physical effects of these booms were largely theoretical, lobbies for environmental concerns grew and forced governments to ban overflights of the Concorde’s flights – this meant that airlines could only operate transatlantic and transpacific flights; of the 16 supersonic routes planned, only 4 were approved and that became a slow cancer for the Concorde.

By 2000, over two decades of operation had also meant that technologies within the Concorde were outdated by far. Most passenger airlines of the era already had modern avionics and flight computers, the Concorde still operated on analogue controls with a Flight engineer. By the time it suffered its first aviation disaster through an event of happenstance rather than design flaw in 2000, the resulting year long safety tests culminated with the tragic events of September 11th 2001. Plummeting air travel and rising maintenance costs from replacing obsolete parts ultimately rendered operation of the Concorde, unfeasible.

Boom’s supersonic proposition

According to Conde Nast Travel, Boom’s supersonic jet intends to employ technology that makes it quieter, cheaper, faster, and safer than the Concorde. The Denver firm is currently developing a small-scale version of the jet: The 2-seater XB-1, or “Baby Boom,” will travel at Mach 2.2 like its big brother and flight tests would begin next year. Once testing is complete, Boom Technology will begin manufacture and testing of the Boom supersonic passenger jetliner. Branson, one of the early adopters has also offered  the facilities and expertise of Virgin Galactic to aid in research, development. and ground testing.

So far, Boom’s XB-1 aka Baby Boom theoretically demonstrates the key technologies for efficient supersonic flight: advanced aerodynamic design, light-weight materials that can withstand supersonic flight, and an efficient super-cruise propulsion system. Furthermore, it is backed by a development team of engineers and physicists who have made key contributions to 40 new aircraft and conducted test flights to Mach 3, taken passenger jets from the drawing board through FAA certification and working with NASA and Space-X, landed rockets and designed supersonic engines for trans-continental and orbital flight.

Editor’s Note: Tellingly, Boom’s logo is the Starfleet Delta leaned sideways.

 

 
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