by J Paul Webber
Supersonic air travel could be back in a little more than five years from now, if an envisioned aeroplane that aims to replace the now retired British Air & Air France branded Concorde Supersonic Jets; takes to the skies.
Boom Supersonic expects a prototype of its “quiet Concord” passenger plane to make its first test flight by the end of 2018. Subsonic and supersonic tests will take place in the USA. If the full size 55-seat aeroplane is then approved, the first passengers could be travelling at supersonic speeds across the Atlantic by 2023. In comparison, the latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner aeroplane currently flies at subsonic speeds of 593 mph, while the Concord’s average supersonic flight speed averaged about 1300 mph – take note that down here on land supersonic refers to speeds faster than Mach One or 767 mph.
Blake Scholl, the founder and chief executive of Boom Supersonic, said at last years 2017 Paris Air Show that the design of the XB-1 demonstration aeroplane had passed a performance and safety review ahead of manufacturing.
“Fifty years after the Concorde, it is time to have a faster aeroplane,” says Blake Scholl. Boom Supersonic said five unnamed airlines had placed 76 orders for its passenger jets, which resembles Concorde but has a delta wing that sweeps almost to the tip of the nose. It will also ditch the afterburner engine used by the British-French supersonic pioneer that was not only extremely sonic boom loud – thereby not allowed to fly over land masses and only over the water; but also very fuel thirsty. “By using a modern turbofan engine like Boeing and Airbus, you can make the aircraft both quieter and significantly more fuel efficient,” Mr Scholl said.
The company claims that airlines flying Boom’s planes will be able to charge similar prices to a business class fare on the lucrative London-New York route of about approximately US$5,000 round trip. Tickets on the Concord used to cost easily up to about three times that amount.
The picture above is of the aeroplane that Boom Supersonic wishes to build, with the proposed XB-1 demonstration plane in the background. Time crunched travellers will, most definitely, jump at the chance of getting to or from those two cities in about half the time a subsonic plane takes, according to Boom.
“Airlines are excited for something new and different to offer their passengers,” Mr Scholl said.
Although the Concorde supersonic jet had the backing of both the British and French governments, it was not economical because the imperative then was to beat the Soviet Union into the supersonic age, rather than build a practical or affordable aeroplane.
“Being a private company that has to raise investment means that we have to have a business case that is profitable for airlines and affordable for customers,” Mr Scholl said.
Although many remain sceptical that Boom Supersonic can deliver its promises, the company said in March that it had raised the $33m that would allow it to build and fly the XB-1 demonstration plane.
An initial believer in this project is Virgin Atlantic Airways founder Sir Richard Branson, who announced last year that he planned to buy the first 10 passenger jets made by Boom. His Virgin Galactic space travel venture meanwhile will provide Boom with manufacturing and engineering services, as well as flight test support.
Late last year Japan Airlines decided to invest US$10 million in Boom – in the hopes to shorten the current travel time from Japan to the USA. They hope that supersonic travel from Japan to San Francisco, currently about eleven hours on subsonic planes, will be halved to about five and a half hours. Japan Airlines has also signed options to purchase as many as 20 passenger jets if Boom Supersonic jets come to fruition.
“Do not go where the path leads, travel instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” @wbbrjp