Boom Lands Japan Air Lines as Major Investor, Customer

Dec 5, 2017 - 5:32 PM

Boom Technologies has landed Japan Airlines (JAL) as a strategic investor in its supersonic passenger airliner program, boosting announced funding to more than $50 million and securing a partner that operates in the heart of its target market.

The agreement, announced December 5, will see the Tokyo-based carrier invest $10 million and “collaborate with [Boom] to refine the aircraft design and help define the passenger experience.” The deal includes an option for JAL to purchase up to 20 Boom airliners.

“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,” said Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO, adding that the airline's executives are providing input on everything from the cabin to technical operations.

The JAL deal continues a frantic year for the aspiring aircraft manufacturer. At the recent Dubai Air Show, Boom said it had accelerated its site-selection process for production of full-scale aircraft. Its criteria includes a site with “previous aerospace influence” and room to grow.

In June, the company said it had taken deposits for 76 aircraft from five airlines, including an undisclosed number from Virgin Atlantic. With Tuesday’s announcement, JAL becomes the second identified airline customer. 

Boom previously disclosed it had secured $41 million in funding, including a $33 million round of investment announced in March.

The company sees the airplane transporting primarily intercontinental business-class passengers. It has unveiled two cabin concepts, one with 45 seats, including 10 in first class, and a 55-passenger layout with a seat pitch of about 75 inches. The three-engined airliner’s fuselage would measure 170 feet long and its wingspan 60 feet.

Scholl has said Boom has established a $200 million target list price for the aircraft. The company said the airplane will derive cost efficiencies with it ability to fly more cycles in less time than current subsonic long-range aircraft, making it possible to turn a profit selling 45 to 55 tickets on intercontinental routes.

The company has also expressed confidence that technology advances will help lower operating costs even further, making cheaper tickets possible. 

It also expects international rules banning supersonic flight over land will change as technology diminishes the effects of sonic booms that limited Concorde to subsonic speeds over land. Honeywell and NASA recently completed tests that integrated predictive software and display technology into cockpits to show pilots how sonic booms would affect populations en route. Adopting such strategies could minimize the disruption cause by an overland supersonic flight.

Boom expects to reach its next major milestone with completion of a one-third-scale demonstrator, the XB-1. Earlier this year the company completed preliminary design review General Electric J85-21-powered aircraft and expects to begin flight tests late in 2018. Its cruise speed target of Mach 2.2 matches the specification for the full-scale aircraft.