Home / News / Boom Rolls Out Its XB-1 “Baby Boom” Supersonic Demonstrator Jet

Boom Rolls Out Its XB-1 “Baby Boom” Supersonic Demonstrator Jet

Boom hopes to make waves in the air travel sector with Overture, which could also have a top speed of Mach 2.2 and a cruising speed of just under Mach 2. With an expected maximum range of 4,500 nautical miles, the company says it has identified more than 500 viable commercial routes, including runs between New York and London, which the Concorde also famously flew. The noise pollution caused by sonic booms is still an issue, as it was with Concorde, so the company envisions the aircraft traveling at subsonic speeds over populated landmasses. 

The trick will be ensuring that Overture is low-cost and reliable enough to make it a practical alternative to existing subsonic airliners. “On an available premium-seat-mile basis, Overture is meaningfully less costly to operate than subsonic widebody aircraft,” Boom’s website says, but does not give a hard cost per flight hour to operate the aircraft. Boom does state that they are targeting a seat cost to be around that of a business class international ticket on existing airliners. 

Boom says that the airliner has a projected unit cost of around $200 million each, not including a customer’s desired interior configuration and other unspecified optional extras. This would make it cheaper than many subsonic widebody airliners now on the market, but those aircraft can also carry substantial more passengers. For example, in 2018, Airbus said that the average price of one of its popular A330-200s was approximately $238.5 million, but that aircraft has a maximum seating capacity of 406, nearly four times that of Overture as presently planned. Boeing says that the average price of one of its 767-300ER airliners is around $217.9 million, but again, those planes can seat nearly 300 passengers, depending on the internal configuration.

There has already been not insubstantial interest in the Overture, though, with Boom saying it has commitments to buy up to 76 of the jets from five airlines, including Virgin and Japan Airlines (JAL). Virgin Group has been a major investor in Boom for years now, as well. The Spaceship Company, a Virgin Galactic subsidiary, was previously reported to be preparing to assist in building and testing the airliners. 

In all reality, the private jet market could draw huge demand for an aircraft like Overture. For someone who has everything, or big businesses where time is literally money, buying back some of that time through faster air travel is already the norm, not the exception. Going from transonic cruise to over Mach 2 is one heck of a proposition. Even though Boom’s price tag is over twice that of the most capable business jets, it won’t stop many from pursuing it that have the means. An aircraft like this is also positioned to become the ultimate status symbol. 

Supersonic airliner-type aircraft could have military applications, as well, as The War Zone
explored in depth when discussing the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet, a potential competitor in this space for Boom. In September, Boom actually received a contract from the U.S. Air Force, in part to explored supersonic executive transport aircraft concepts. That service also recently hired hypersonic aerospace startup Hermeus Corporation and Exosonic, another aviation firm focused on supersonic aircraft development, to conduct similar work.

Boom has previously announced an ambitious timeline for testing the XB-1 and the continued development of the Overture. The goal now is to complete ground testing of the Baby Boom demonstrator and then begin flight tests next year. In 2022, the company hopes to have completed construction of a new manufacturing plant for the Overture, which will then roll out the first of those airliners three years later.

There have already been some delays with both the XB-1 and Overture programs. Boom had hoped to begin flight testing of the XB-1 before the end of this year, but pushed that back to make improvements to the aircraft’s stability augmentation system to improve safety margins for landing and taking off at high speeds. As of 2017, the plan had been for the first Overture airliner to enter service in 2023.

Still, with the XB-1 demonstrator now complete, it will definitely be exciting to see how testing progresses in the months ahead.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com


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