Boom Supersonic Test Flies Demonstrator Aircraft

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Boom Supersonic hopes to revolutionize air travel by reintroducing supersonic passenger flights. The company has amassed over $700 million in funding, with notable contributions from entities like Japan Airlines, and has chosen Greensboro, North Carolina, for development. Additionally, it boasts over 130 preorders. A significant milestone was reached with the production of the Boom XB-1 “Baby Boom” demonstrator, which is one-third the size of the planned Overture passenger aircraft. The Baby Boom is designed to fly at Mach 2.2 for more than 1600 kilometers. The final Overture aircraft will accommodate 65 passengers and cover a range of 7870 kilometers. Boom Supersonic aims to have the Overture operational by 2030.

A major accomplishment was just achieved with the first test flight of the Baby Boom. The XB-1 successfully took off at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California. Boom extensively utilizes carbon fiber composites and 3D printing in its construction, indicating that its success could have major implications for the 3D printing industry as well.

“Today, XB-1 took flight in the same hallowed airspace where the Bell X-1 first broke the sound barrier in 1947. I´ve been looking forward to this flight since founding Boom in 2014, and it marks the most significant milestone yet on our path to bring supersonic travel to passengers worldwide,” said Boom Supersonic CEO Blake Scholl.

Chief Test pilot Bill “Doc” Shoemaker, flew the XB-1 while Test Pilot Tristan “Geppetto” Brandenburg flew a T-38 chase plane to collect data and monitor the flight.

¨In preparation for flying XB-1, Geppetto and I have spent many hours studying XB-1’s systems and flying the simulator. We also maintain currency in T-38 and F-5 aircraft. Flying these aircraft allows us to develop chase procedures, practice flight test techniques that we will use in XB-1, and get very familiar with the airspace where we will fly XB-1. Like most prototypes, we expect XB-1 to be relatively demanding, and flying high performance aircraft allows us to keep critical skills sharp,” stated Shoemaker, who has piloted over 50 aircraft.

For its maiden flight, the plane reached an altitude of 7,120 feet and a speed of up to 238 knots (273 km per hour). The pilots assessed its handling and stability. The next step involves Brandenburg taking the plane to supersonic speeds.
The Overture will primarily consist of composite materials and is designed to operate on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). It features AR helmets to assist with landing and is expected to include 3D printed parts from Velo3D and Stratasys. These parts, such as Variable Bypass Valve manifolds, NACA ducts, and louvers, are critical for directing compressor air, cooling the engine bays, and regulating cabin temperature. Given the aircraft’s high speeds and forces, these components must perform flawlessly.
An obviously crucial component is the engine, which will also make significant use of 3D printing. The engine has been a major challenge for Boom, as the company has struggled to find a major engine manufacturer willing to fund or develop it. Typically, engine programs are costly, and partners are usually secured in advance to help subsidize the engine’s development, later recouping their investment through maintenance contracts over the engine’s service life. However, this model has not been viable for Boom, as potential partners may view the project as too risky, especially since the engine is initially intended for use by a single aircraft manufacturer.

Other companies, such as Hermeus with its focus on hypersonic aircraft, Spike Aerospace with its interest in supersonic jets, and the US Air Force’s investment in hypersonic technology, have not aligned around a single engine or engine family. One possible solution could be to develop engines that can be used for both one-time use in missiles and long-term use in jets, which could help distribute costs and satisfy all parties involved.

For now, Boom plans to create its own engine in collaboration with Florida Turbine Technologies for engine design, GE Additive for additive design consulting, and StandardAero for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services. Building a supersonic airliner is a formidable challenge, and crafting an engine may be an even more intricate endeavor. However, the company appears to be making progress on the rest of the aircraft. It is assembling its supplier base and has secured partnerships with several key companies: Aernnova for the wings, Leonardo for the fuselage, Aciturri for the aircraft’s tail and stabilizers, Honeywell for the integrated flight deck and avionics, French group Latecoere for the electrical wiring interconnect system (EWIS), ADI for testing and digital twin software, Collins Aerospace for ice protection, EATON for the fuel systems, Safran for landing gear and controls, and Flight Safety for training. Indeed, it takes a village to build a supersonic airliner. While Boom’s ambition is commendable, the immense challenges ahead are undeniable.

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