At a time when the aviation industry has taken a hit due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, a Colorado-based startup has delivered some good news with the launch of Boom Supersonic XB-1 test aircraft making it “history’s first independently developed supersonic jet”.
The Supersonic XB-1 is a testbed for Boom’s larger supersonic aircraft project called the Boom Overture.
While supersonic flight has existed for 50 years, Overture aims at making it more advanced and mainstream. It guarantees to fly “twice as fast”. The website claims that while the average time to fly from Los Angeles to Sydney is about 14.5 hrs, Boom Overture reduces the time to 8.5 hrs.
Congrats to @boomaero on the rollout of its prototype for supersonic travel! The Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate is proud to be a part of this venture and looks forward to continued exploration of ways to leverage supersonic aircraft for AF executive transport. pic.twitter.com/Tt45eWvoAc
— Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (@AFLCMCofficial) October 7, 2020
Called “Baby Boom”, the XB-1 features a sleek fuselage of 71 feet in length, which is 1/3 the scale of Overture. The needle-nosed aircraft was unveiled in a virtual event.
The three supersonic engines provide more than 12,000 pounds of thrust and is expected to have a top speed of around Mach 2.2. Boom claims that the aircraft has “one of the highest-efficiency civil supersonic engine intakes ever tested.”
According to Tyler Rogoway of The Drive, engines are variants of the same engine used in the U.S. Air Force’s T-38 Talon jet trainer, among other aircraft. He added that Baby Boom will have an advanced x-ray like remote vision system that will allow the pilot to “see” through the nose, a concept that Lockheed Martin is also employing on its X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) testbed that it is building for NASA.
Blake Scholl, Boom Supersonic founder and CEO, told reporters – “Boom continues to make progress towards our founding mission—making the world dramatically more accessible”. Scholl told media that the “XB-1 is an important milestone towards the development of our commercial airliner, Overture, making sustainable supersonic flight mainstream and fostering human connection,” reported The Aviationist.
400+ parts. 550+ drill blocks. 180+ prototypes. All produced with 3D printing.
Boom tapped into the advantages of 3D printing throughout XB-1's design and build. Here's a look inside our @Stratasys F900 as it prints flight hardware, which is already installed on XB-1. pic.twitter.com/gp4gjgniy2
— Boom Supersonic (@boomaero) October 3, 2020
In an interview with CNN, Scholl was optimistic about the project even though the timing isn’t ideal for the aviation industry with flights being grounded or retiring due to a halt in travelling.
“What’s happening right now is we’ve had a lull in travel due to the pandemic,” he told CNN. “But airlines have really cleared the cobwebs out of their fleets, they’ve retired aircraft much sooner than otherwise would have happened.”
“Travel is going to bounce back. It might take a year. It might take a couple of years. But when that happens, airlines are going to be looking for opportunities for growth and for differentiation,” he added.
Acing the aviation tech industry, Boom was recently awarded a US Air Force contract. The contract will fund explorations of an Overture configuration designed for Air Force executive transport.
Lauding Boom for its innovation, Brigadier General Ryan Britton, Program Executive Officer for Presidential & Executive Airlift Directorate said that Boom is an example of the American ingenuity that drives the economy forward through technological advances.
“In addition to its potential for executive transport, Overture could be adapted to satisfy other Air Force and broader Department of Defense mission requirements. The overture could also become part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), enabling humanitarian and other critical airlifts in half the time,” he said in a press release.