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Boom Supersonic: Rekindling the Dream of Faster-Than-Sound Travel

The allure of supersonic flight has captivated the human imagination for decades. The idea of jetting across the globe faster than the speed of sound promises to dramatically shrink distances and make the world a more accessible place. However, since the retirement of the Concorde in 2003, supersonic passenger travel has remained an elusive dream.

Now, a new crop of aviation startups is vying to bring back supersonic flight, and at the forefront is Boom Supersonic. With cutting-edge technologies, a world-class team, and major industry partners, Boom is on a mission to revolutionize air travel with its Mach-2.2 Overture jetliner. Let‘s take a deep dive into how this ambitious company plans to succeed where others have failed and usher in a new supersonic age.

A Brief History of Supersonic Passenger Flight

The quest for supersonic passenger flight began in the 1950s as a technological race between the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union. In 1962, the British and French governments signed a treaty to jointly develop the world‘s first supersonic transport (SST). The result was the Concorde, a sleek, delta-winged jet that first took flight in 1969 and entered commercial service in 1976.

For the next 27 years, the Concorde ferried passengers across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound, cutting the flight time between London and New York to just 3.5 hours. However, the Concorde faced numerous challenges that ultimately led to its downfall:

  • High operating costs due to low fuel efficiency and frequent maintenance
  • Limited routes due to noisy sonic booms that restricted overland flights
  • Declining demand after a deadly crash in 2000 and 9/11‘s impact on aviation
  • Competition from more efficient subsonic jets

Faced with mounting losses, British Airways and Air France jointly decided to retire the Concorde in 2003. In the following years, several attempts were made to revive supersonic travel, most notably by Aerion Supersonic and Spike Aerospace. However, these ventures struggled to secure enough funding and partnerships to bring their designs to fruition.

The Rise of Boom Supersonic

It was against this backdrop that Boom Supersonic was founded in 2014 by Blake Scholl, an aviation enthusiast and tech entrepreneur. Scholl believed that advances in aerodynamics, materials, and propulsion could enable a new generation of efficient and sustainable supersonic airliners.

As he told CNN Business, "We‘re not using any fundamental technology that Concorde didn‘t have. But the world has moved forward. Since Concorde was designed, we‘ve seen tremendous advances in aerodynamics, materials, and propulsion technology. So we can use carbon fiber composites and advanced alloys to get the weight out of the airplane. We can use software simulation tools to optimize the aerodynamics in a fundamentally new way."

After assembling a team of engineers from the likes of NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing, Boom got to work designing its flagship Mach-2.2 airliner Overture. To guide the development process, the company also built the XB-1, a one-third scale demonstrator aircraft to prove out key technologies.

Since its founding, Boom has grown to over 300 employees and raised over $270 million in funding from investors such as Emerson Collective, Prime Movers Lab, and American Express Ventures. The company has also secured pre-orders for 130 Overture aircraft from United Airlines, American Airlines, and Japan Airlines, representing over $26 billion in potential revenue.

The Technology Behind Overture

At the heart of Boom‘s mission is the belief that supersonic flight can be done in a safe, affordable, and environmentally sustainable way. To achieve this vision, the company is pioneering several advanced technologies:

Aerodynamics and Materials

Overture‘s airframe is being designed using advanced computational fluid dynamics software and wind tunnel testing to optimize its aerodynamic performance. By utilizing a carbon fiber composite fuselage and wings, Boom aims to significantly reduce weight while maintaining strength and stiffness.

The aircraft will feature a gull wing design that provides enhanced stability and control in supersonic flight. According to Boom‘s simulations, Overture will have twice the lift-to-drag ratio of Concorde, allowing it to fly more efficiently at both subsonic and supersonic speeds.

Symphony Propulsion System

Overture will be powered by four medium-bypass turbofan engines developed jointly by Boom and Florida Turbine Technologies (FTT). Dubbed Symphony, these custom engines are being optimized for supersonic cruising while meeting the latest noise and emissions regulations.

Unlike Concorde‘s Olympus 593 engines, Symphony will not require noisy and inefficient afterburners to reach supersonic speeds. The engines are targeting a 10% improvement in fuel efficiency over derivative subsonic engines and are being designed for 100% compatibility with sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

Symphony engine specs

Noise Reduction

One of the biggest challenges facing supersonic flight over land is the loud sonic boom produced when an object travels faster than sound. Boom is taking a multi-pronged approach to make Overture as quiet as possible both supersonically and around airports.

Using high-fidelity computational simulations, Boom has modeled Overture‘s sonic boom signature and optimized the aircraft‘s shape to minimize its intensity. The company is targeting a sonic boom at least 30 times quieter than Concorde‘s thanks to its aerodynamically smooth design.

To meet the same take-off and landing noise requirements as the latest subsonic jets, Overture will utilize an automated noise abatement system. By optimizing engine settings and flight profiles, Boom believes its airliner will be no louder than existing aircraft during its airport operations.

Sustainable Fuels

While supersonic flight is often associated with high emissions and environmental impact, Boom is committed to making Overture a sustainable means of transportation. The company has set a goal of net zero carbon operations through the use of 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

SAF is produced from renewable feedstocks such as industrial waste, animal fats, non-food crops, or even atmospheric CO2. Compared to conventional jet fuel, SAF can reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by upwards of 80%. Boom has already signed agreements with Prometheus Fuels and Dimensional Energy to supply over 200 million gallons of SAF per year.

By using carbon-neutral fuels and optimizing its flight routing, Boom projects that Overture will have lower carbon emissions per passenger than subsonic business class. As Scholl explained to The Guardian, "At twice the speed, you have half as many aircraft movements, which means less noise, less taxi time, less time in the air, and lower fuel burn."

The Business Case for Supersonic

Despite the technological hurdles, Boom is bullish on the market demand for supersonic travel. The company projects that Overture could fill a need for rapid transportation among the world‘s burgeoning population of high net-worth individuals and business travelers.

According to Credit Suisse‘s Global Wealth Report, there are now over 56 million millionaires worldwide, a figure that has more than doubled since 2000. Many of these affluent individuals are willing to pay a premium to save time on long-distance travel. A 2019 study by the market research firm L.E.K. Consulting found that 20-30% of business class passengers and 10-15% of first class passengers would be willing to pay more to fly supersonically.

Boom estimates that at Mach 2.2 speeds, Overture could slash current travel times in half, enabling new city pairs such as Seattle to Tokyo in 4.5 hours or New York to London in 3.5 hours. This would effectively double the number of same-day business trips possible and enable executives to attend meetings across the globe without losing precious work or family time.

Overture route times

The company also sees potential for Overture to serve the special missions market, including emergency response, head-of-state transport, and cargo delivery. With its speed and range, a supersonic jet could deploy medical supplies, disaster relief, or military assets to a crisis anywhere in the world in half the time of current aircraft.

To bring its vision to market, Boom is targeting a price point for Overture in line with today‘s business and first class fares. The company projects that airlines will be able to profitably operate the jet with fares averaging around $5,000 per round trip, a premium of 15-20% over subsonic business class.

While this may seem expensive compared to economy travel, Boom believes there is a large and growing market of travelers willing to pay for the time savings and convenience of supersonic speeds. As Scholl explained to Bloomberg, "The ultimate goal is to make supersonic affordable for anyone who flies. But to get there, you have to start at a high price point and work your way down."

The Road Ahead

Boom‘s journey to bring back commercial supersonic flight is still in its early stages, and significant challenges remain before Overture can take to the skies. The company must successfully navigate a complex web of regulatory hurdles, technological risks, and market uncertainties.

One of the biggest obstacles is the current ban on civil supersonic flight over land in many countries, including the United States. Boom is working closely with regulators like the FAA and ICAO to develop new noise and environmental standards that would allow Overture to fly supersonically over populated areas.

The company is also racing against the clock to bring Overture to market before competitors like Aerion and Spike. While Boom has secured major airline customers and suppliers, it will need to continue raising significant capital to fund the development and production of its airliner.

However, if Boom can overcome these challenges, the payoff could be huge. By one estimate, the global market for supersonic air travel could reach $300 billion annually by 2040, with demand for as many as 2,000 aircraft. If Boom captures even a fraction of this market, it has the potential to become one of the world‘s most valuable aerospace companies.

Looking beyond Overture, Boom has even bigger ambitions for the future of supersonic travel. The company has teased plans for a larger, faster airliner called Hypersonic that could fly at over Mach 5, cutting global travel times to mere hours. While such an aircraft is likely decades away, it underscores Boom‘s long-term vision of making high-speed travel the norm.

As Scholl mused to The Atlantic, "In 100 years, people are going to look back at this time and say ‘Isn‘t it ridiculous that people used to fly across the Atlantic in aluminum tubes at 0.8 Mach and it would take 7 to 10 hours? Because there‘s no doubt in my mind that the economy in the long run is going to demand speed.‘"


Boom Supersonic is on a mission to revolutionize air travel by making the world dramatically more accessible. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, sustainable fuels, and innovative design, the company aims to bring back supersonic passenger flight in a way that is safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible.

While significant challenges remain, Boom‘s rapid progress and growing list of partners suggest that the dream of routine supersonic travel may finally be within reach. With major milestones like the rollout of the XB-1 demonstrator and groundbreaking of the Overture factory on the horizon, the coming years will be critical in determining whether Boom can deliver on its ambitious promises.

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and pent-up demand for travel takes flight, the idea of flying twice as fast is sure to resonate with many passengers. If Boom succeeds in making supersonic flight a reality, it could have profound impacts on global business, tourism, and human connection. The only question is, will you be on board?