Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Affordable supersonic travel moved a step forward Tuesday as Boom Supersonic unveiled the completed design of its aircraft prototype, which is scheduled to take off from Centennial Airport in 2018.
The reveal, during the International Paris Air Show, showed modifications that improve stability, aircraft performance and safety for a plane that is expected to hit speeds of Mach 2.2, or 2.2 times the speed of sound. That’s 1,451 miles per hour.
“We now have everything required to build history’s first independently developed supersonic aircraft—the funding, technical design, and manufacturing partners,” Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.
Boom also shared Tuesday that it has seen demand for its supersonic aircraft grow to 76 planes, which include “five world airlines.” Last November, Boom had said that partners included Virgin Galactic, which had reserved the first 10 planes produced for $200 million a pop.
In March, the startup picked up $33 million from investors, which included tech accelerator Y Combinator and Greg McAdoo, formerly with Silicon Valley’s Sequoia Capital venture firm.
That was enough “to go and build an airplane,” Scholl said at the time.
Scholl started the company in 2014 because it was hard to believe that supersonic travel via the Concorde came and went. The supersonic jet was just too expensive to build and fly — passenger prices were around $20,000 a ticket. But with improved technology and cheaper and lighter materials, Scholl believed he could piece together great technology and get tickets to something in the realm of what business travelers pay.
The company has spent this year testing its design on computers and at places like the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. The work helped engineers refine the design of the first aircraft, which will be about half the size of the future passenger plane. At 68-feet long, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator can hold two people.
Some modifications included adding a third inlet near the tail to provide greater propulsion system stability, and an improved wing design with a vertical tail for better performance in crosswinds, the company said.
Boom also shared that the XB-1 Demonstrator will use General Electric engines, Honeywell Avionics, Tencate carbon fiber material, and 3D-printed components from Stratasys. Everything will be assembled at Boom’s headquarters at Centennial Airport, where subsonic flights will also take place. Then the aircraft will be shuttled to Southern California and supersonic test flights will be conducted near Edwards Air Force Base.
The future Boom Passenger Airliner will be more than double the length, at 170 feet, of the test plane. It will hold two pilots, four flight attendants and up to 55 passengers. There will also be two bathrooms on board.
Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting firm in Evergreen that studied the viability of supersonic aircraft for Boom, concluded that such travel is viable and Boom could sell at least 1,300 aircraft, even with the U.S. noise ban on over-land supersonic travel. Without the noise ban, Boyd Group projected that Boom’s sales could double.