Boom Flies XB-1 Demonstrator

Could this mark return the of mainstream supersonic travel?

Boom Supersonic recently announced that it flew its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator for the first time. Operating from the Mojave Air & Space Port, the aircraft reached an altitude of 7,120 feet and a speed of 238 knots.

Like the company’s Overture supersonic airliner due for first flight in 2027, the XB-1 uses carbon fiber composites, advanced avionics, digitally optimized aerodynamics, and an advanced supersonic propulsion system.

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The company claims it can overcome concerns about noise, environmental impact, and costs, and pick up where Concorde left off.

The propulsion system became a subject of some controversy after Rolls-Royce signed an “engagement agreement” to explore the technical requirements for powering the Overture and told BJT sister publication AIN that it reached a decision not to further participate in the program.

“We’ve completed our contract with Boom and delivered various engineering studies for their Overture supersonic program,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement. “After careful consideration, Rolls-Royce has determined that the commercial aviation supersonic market is not currently a priority for us and, therefore, will not pursue further work on the program at this time. It has been a pleasure to work with the Boom team and we wish them every success in the future.”

Undeterred, Boom announced in late 2022 that it had formed a team of engine designers, an additive manufacturer, and a turbine engine maintenance specialist to help develop a home-grown engine called the Symphony, four of which would power the Overture.

Two decades after the Concorde’s retirement, the first flight of XB-1 marks the return of a civil supersonic aircraft to the skies and, according to Boom, paves the way for the revival of mainstream supersonic travel. The XB-1 program provides the foundation for the design and development of the Overture, the proposed 64- to 80-seat supersonic airliner capable of speeds of Mach 1.7. Boom’s schedule calls for a rollout of the Overture in 2026 and first flight in 2027. The company now estimates that it can win certification by the end of the decade.

“Today, XB-1 took flight in the same hallowed airspace where the Bell X-1 first broke the sound barrier in 1947,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic. “I’ve been looking forward to this flight since founding Boom in 2014, and it marks the most significant milestone yet on our path to bring supersonic travel to passengers worldwide.”

The company said it will leverage 50 years of advances in aerodynamics, materials, and propulsion since the development of the Concorde to address the cost challenges the famously loss-making supersonic transport (SST) could never overcome. According to critics, the introduction of a fuel-thirsty supersonic airplane at a time when established aerospace companies have turned their research and development efforts squarely toward environmental sustainability amounts to a fundamental miscalculation.

Boom promotes the design’s digitally optimized computational fluid dynamics simulations to explore thousands of possible designs for the XB-1. Its carbon fiber composites allow for strength and light weight. Finally, XB-1's supersonic intakes slow supersonic air to subsonic speeds, converting kinetic energy into pressure energy and allowing conventional jet engines to power the aircraft from takeoff through supersonic flight.

The inaugural flight of the XB-1 demonstrator took place as the Overture continues to advance toward production, with a growing global network of Tier 1 suppliers and an order book consisting of 130 aircraft from American Airlines, United Airlines, and Japan Airlines.