Aerospace startup Boom’s XB-1 will fly in 2017 as the world’s fastest civil aircraft.
There has only ever been one successful supersonic airliner; technical complexities, politics and noise put paid to the competition. Only the Anglo-French team behind Concorde managed to produce a viable aircraft, and as passenger numbers ultimately trumped speed in the race to fill the airline order books, the only orders coming from flag carriers of the nations that participated in the project. The concept that proved so difficult to realise technically in the ’60s was ultimately undone by post 9/11 economics and a single accident.
Now aerospace startup Boom want to fill the post-Mach void with their interpretation of how supersonic travel ought to look. According to them it has three engines, 45 seats and will do London to New York in three and a half hours.
The company has just announced that they intend to fly their technology demonstrator, the XB-1 “Baby Boom”, in 2017. This will be used as a test bed to develop and validate technology that will feature on the full-sized aircraft.
How successful another attempt at supersonic passenger flying is likely to be is anyone’s guess. Boom say that only a 30% increase in efficiency is required over Concorde to make it financially viable; a figure they aim to achieve using a far more modern approach to design and manufacture than was available in the 1960s. Moreover, they are designing the machine specifically to meet challenges that Concorde identified only after it entered service. The Boom will have 45 seats because that’s the average number filled on a Concorde flight; minimising the empty seats means maximising revenue potential and Boom aim to bring seat prices into line with Business Class travel on conventional jets.
So given the lack of anything like this on drawing boards anywhere else, do the Boom team know something that nobody else does? Well… probably. Their team has expertise ranging from F-35 to SpaceX and come from companies including Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, Boeing and Amazon to name a few. High flyers in the most literal sense.
A lot will rest on what their XB-1 delivers when it flies next year. If the team at Boom are successful, a select few could once again see the sun rise in the West.