Commissioned in 1976, the Concorde supersonic airliner was developed by the South Aviation Group (Airbus Group and British Aircraft Corporation). By flying at a speed of Mach 2.02, the Concorde was one of two supersonic aircraft for passenger transport, the other being the Tupolev Tu-144. There were only 20 units produced, and they covered transatlantic routes. Due to its high fuel consumption, operation of the Concorde was not economical. In addition, the Air France flight 4590 accident on July 25, 2000 accelerated its withdrawal, effective in 2003. Despite this tragic accident, the Concorde left an impressive memory.
With the Concorde not having flown for 14 years, a new supersonic plane should reappear in the coming years. This is the project of the American start-up Boom Technology. Founded in 2014 in Denver, Colorado by Blake Scholl, Boom Technology wants to offer supersonic flights to a large audience. Blake Scholl worked at Amazon, and is the founder of Kima Labs. He is supported by Michael Reid (who initiated the Boeing 787 autopilot) and Andry Berryan (F-35 engines and F-22). The company currently employs 25 people and is expected to double by next year.
This new supersonic aircraft will offer a New York to London route that takes 3 hours and 15 minutes, instead of the current 7-hour flight, for $2500. A flight between Los Angeles and Sydney will take 6 hours and 45 minutes instead 15 hours. It will fly at a maximum speed of 2,335 km/h. The company has already justified the high price as it is equal to that of business class these days, and the prices will of course decline after some time.
The Boom aircraft would be a three-engine aircraft, with a wingspan of 18 meters, and 51 meters in length. It will have a capacity of 45 to 55 passengers, with maximum flight range of 8,300km. Its fuselage will consist of carbon fibers. Its wings will be finer than those of the Concorde, and placed closer to the front of the aircraft to reduce noise when passing the sound barrier. By using these materials, the aircraft will offer 30% more efficient fuel consumption compared to the Franco-British supersonic.
The start-up has already presented a model of the final aircraft at Denver’s Centennial Airport, calling itself the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator. Its nickname is the “Baby Boom.” It is 20 meters long, with a wing span of 5 meters. If the Concorde had post-combustion engines to increase its thrust to pass the sound barrier, the XB-1 has three General Electric’s J58-21 engines that are not equipped with this system. There will be a crew of two pilots. The first trials at the end of 2017 will take place from Edwards base in the Mojave Desert, California, which belongs to the American Air Force.
Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Galactic, is already interested in this bet: he reserved the first ten copies, which are estimated to cost 185 million euros. The first planes should appear in the 2020s.
The Boom project is not the only one on the supersonic aircraft market. Aerion is working with Airbus on the AS2 project, a 12-seat business jet capable of flying at Mach 1.5. NASA is preparing a silent supersonic aircraft. Lockheed Martin is working on the Jet N + H2, and Airbus on the Zehst.
As an airline broker, the proposal for a supersonic aircraft would be a real plus in terms of business. Traveling in this type of aircraft offers a prestigious commercial visibility. Moreover, it presents an aircraft that can cut flight times in half, and can be easily marketed by airlines because of its light weight and therefore low fuel consumption. This project offers an advantageous fare proposal for business class passengers since the travel time is shorter. But given the deadlines of the builders, will these projects actually see the light of day?
Sources : AirJournal / L’usinenouvelle