Aspiring supersonic airliner manufacturer Boom, fresh off unveiling the completed design of its sub-scale prototype, now has 76 purchase commitments from five airlines for the full-scale version that it aims to have in service by 2024.
“The airlines that are placing reservations are putting real money against them,” said Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO. “These aren’t letters of intent.”
In an update during the Paris Air Show, Scholl confirmed that the one-third scale demonstrator unveiled in November, dubbed the XB-1 or “Baby Boom,” has completed its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and is on track for a first flight next year. The most recent design changes include the addition of a third engine intake, which analysis shows brings "greater stability and efficiency,” Scholl said.
Scholl confirmed to AIN that Boom is exchanging information with the FAA about certification. So far, there are no show-stoppers. “There are challenges, but no blockers,” Scholl told AIN. "The feedback from regulators is, there are some things that will be special [conditions] on the airplane, but no blockers. We’re deliberately choosing technologies that have a certification roadmap."
Boom also used the Le Bourget backdrop to unveil a second cabin configuration featuring 45 seats, including 10 in first-class. This, Scholl said, would appeal longer-range flights such as transpacific routes, where a lie-flat seat might be desirable. The standard Boom configuration of 55 business-class seats with about 75 inches of pitch are ideal for transatlantic routes that take three to four hours, because those trips don’t need the lie-flat seats found in today’s premium cabins, he said.
The addition of the second cabin configuration suggests that Boom is attracting interest—and possibly undisclosed orders—from operators in the Middle East and Asia, which operate many lucrative, ultra-long-haul, overwater routes. Scholl would not disclose any additional customers, noting only that the Boom “is more than a transatlatic aircraft.” The lone identified customer is Virgin Group.
List price is $200 million. Scholl said that the ability to fly more cycles in less time than current subsonic long-range aircraft means operators will make money selling 45 to 55 tickets on intercontinental routes. The initial target round-trip ticket prices are comparable to today’s business-class seats, or about $5,000 for a trip from London to New York. Scholl believes technology will help lower operating costs even further, making cheaper tickets possible.
Seeking to pick up—and go beyond—where Concorde left off, Boom believes technological advancements in the past 50 years make the company's vision not just possible, but achievable, even with current supersonic over-land restrictions (see sidebar). Composite materials mean the highly complex fuselage shape, featuring a chine and a refined delta wing with swept trailing edge, can be built without bending any metal. Using composites also eliminates several other technical challenges that supersonic flight brings, such as selecting a metal with enough heat resistance to withstand speeds above Mach 2, Concorde’s long-range cruise speed. Boom will be designed for Mach 2.2 cruise and a range of about 4,400 nm.
The broadly one-third scale Baby Boom will be powered by three non-afterburning General Electric J85-21s with variable-geometry intake and exhaust. An engine choice for the full-production version has not been made. The demonstrator will fly with Honeywell avionics, Tencate carbon fiber prepreg, and 3D-printed components from Stratasys.
Boom has $41 million in funding, which Scholl says should be enough to take the company through Baby Boom’s first flight “with some margin.” The 76 orders are enough to launch the aircraft today, he added.
Scholl reiterated that Boom’s focus is on the passenger-transport market, noting that he believes there is plenty of room for a supersonic business jet—several of which are in development.
"We look at those folks as fellow travelers on the road to a faster future,” Scholl said. "Our focus is on something that’s a wider audience.”