Imagine being able to have a business meeting in London and make it back home to New York in time for dinner – all in the same day. That‘s the future Boom Supersonic wants to make real with Overture, its next-generation supersonic airliner. By reaching speeds of Mach 1.7 or about 1,300 mph, Boom plans to cut many long flights in half. For example, the New York to London route could be reduced from 7 hours down to just 3.5 hours.
This new era of speed and accessibility for transatlantic travel hasn‘t been possible since the Concorde retired back in 2003. But thanks to advancements in engine efficiency, aerodynamics, and composite materials, supersonic passenger flight is ready for a comeback.
A Brief History of Supersonic Flight
Before we look at how Boom plans to make supersonic mainstream again, let‘s look back at some key moments that led to this point:
1976 – The Concorde enters commercial service, offering transit times around half that of conventional jets at the time. But high costs limit its adoption.
2003 – Following a fatal crash and with rising maintenance costs, the Concorde is retired from service after 27 years.
2016 – Boom Supersonic is founded with the goal of creating a new affordable supersonic airliner.
2020 – Boom unveils the XB-1 demonstrator jet to test and refine supersonic technologies.
2022 – Boom secures orders from United Airlines and American Airlines for a combined 140 Overture aircraft.
2025 – Overture assembly is slated to begin at Boom‘s North Carolina factory.
2029 – Boom aims to have the Overture certified and ready for passenger service.
Now 50 years after the first Concorde flight, Boom believes it can leverage everything that‘s been learned about supersonic flight over the past half century to create an airliner ready for mainstream adoption.
What Makes the Overture So Fast?
So how will Boom‘s Overture cruise at over 1,300 mph – twice the speed of conventional passenger jets? Here are some of the key innovations that enable such impressive performance:
Slender Fuselage and Swept Wings Reduce Drag
The Overture features a long, slender fuselage and highly swept wings to minimize drag at supersonic speeds. This reduces the strength of shockwaves that form as the plane approaches Mach 1. The fuselage is also shaped using the "area rule" to further improve high-speed efficiency.
Overture‘s fuselage shaping aims to reduce shockwaves at supersonic speeds. (Image credit: Boom Supersonic)
Powerful and Efficient Engines
Boom‘s custom Symphony engines provide 35,000 lbs of thrust while optimizing efficiency through the use of a passively cooled turbine and 100% sustainable fuels. The advanced turbomachinery builds on decades of supersonic engine progress.
Extensive Use of Lightweight Composites
By utilizing carbon fiber composites in the fuselage, wings, and other structures, the Overture maximizes strength and temperature resistance while minimizing weight for increased fuel efficiency.
Computer Simulations Optimize Design
Boom is leveraging supercomputer simulations and wind tunnel testing to refine the Overture‘s aerodynamic design. This allows them to refine shapes and angles to eke out every bit of performance possible.
By combining all of these technical innovations, Boom aims to create an airliner capable of cutting travel times on major long-haul routes in half. That will open up new possibilities for transatlantic business travel and tourism.
How Efficient and Sustainable is Supersonic Flight?
A major priority for Boom is improving efficiency and sustainability compared to previous supersonic programs. Here‘s a look at some metrics for the Overture:
Carbon Emissions: Thanks to high aerodynamic efficiency and sustainable fuels, Boom is targeting carbon neutral flights.
Fuel Burn: At Mach 1.7 cruise, estimated fuel burn per seat is on par with subsonic business class jets.
Sonic Booms: Shaping minimizes boom noise on the ground below regulatory limits.
Materials: Lighter composite materials require less energy to produce than traditional aluminum.
|Cruise Speed||Mach 1.7||Mach 2||Mach 0.85|
|Range||4,250 nm||3,900 nm||6,000 nm|
While inherently less efficient than subsonic aircraft, improvements in engine efficiency and aerodynamics allow the Overture to carry more passengers with less fuel burn than the previous generation Concorde.
Major Airlines Betting on Supersonic Future
For Boom to succeed, having airlines committed to purchasing and operating the aircraft is critical. Boom already has received orders from:
- United Airlines – 35 firm orders, 35 options
- American Airlines – 20 firm orders, 40 options
- Japan Airlines – 20 firm orders
That‘s at least 75 aircraft already slated for delivery by major global carriers. United and American aim to cut passenger travel times dramatically on transatlantic and transpacific routes with future supersonic service. JAL‘s early investment back in 2017 helped fund Boom‘s efforts.
Boom states over 600 routes could potentially benefit from Overture service. Airlines value the increased premium ticket prices and competitive advantages supersonic provides. And for passengers, halving travel time has tremendous value, allowing more on-site time at distant destinations.
Overture Development Timeline
Developing and testing a new supersonic jet takes significant engineering efforts. Here‘s an overview of the major milestones so far and what‘s ahead:
2020 – XB-1 supersonic demonstrator jet is unveiled. Wind tunnel testing begins.
2023 – XB-1 to begin test flights to validate supersonic technologies in the real world.
2025 – Overture assembly is slated to being at Boom‘s factory in North Carolina.
2026 – Overture projected to make its first test flight.
2028 – An intensive Overture flight test program aimed at securing certification.
2029 – Boom‘s goal to have the Overture certified and ready for passenger service.
2030 – Potential start of supersonic passenger flights on Overture.
That‘s an ambitious timeline, with always the possibility of delays inherent in aerospace development programs. But by learning from previous efforts and utilizing cutting-edge design tools, Boom aims to bring sustainable, mainstream supersonic flight back within this decade.
The Future of Fast Flight
Boom Supersonic aspires to make the world dramatically more accessible by enabling rapid sustainable air travel between major cities across the globe.
If Boom can fulfill this vision, we may look back at Overture‘s debut as a key moment in aviation history – the beginning of a new era of supersonic passenger transport. The potential travel time reductions would be game-changing, enabling everything from half-day transatlantic business trips to future rapid air ambulance flights.
Of course, this will only be possible if the Overture completes its ambitious flight test objectives and achieves safety and efficiency milestones. But with pre-orders from major airlines, Boom has already gained crucial confidence from key launch customers.
After decades focused on slower, but efficient subsonic flight, the 2020s may see supersonic passenger travel finally ready to go mainstream. That future may arrive faster than expected if Boom has anything to say about it. The countdown is on.