Boom Supersonic reveals XB-1 plane built to break the sound barrier
Aviation startup Boom Supersonic has unveiled a fully assembled version of its demonstrator aircraft, taking an important step forward in its efforts to build the world’s fastest airliner. The company’s XB-1 is a sleek, one-third-scale prototype of its Overture passenger plane, and is designed to break the sound barrier itself with test flights due to kick off next year.
Boom Supersonic is one of a number of aviation companies working to make supersonic air travel a part of the civilian transport mix, with Virgin Galactic, Aerion and Spike Aerospace all sharing similar visions. The startup only emerged in 2016, with the lofty ambition of one day flying passengers from London to New York in 3.6 hours on a US$5,000 return ticket.
A key part of its roadmap is the XB-1 prototype, which was also announced in 2016 with claims that it could fly 10 percent faster than the Concorde with a cruising speed of Mach 2.2 (1,675 mph, 2,700 km/h). Boom Supersonic had originally targeted 2017 for the first subsonic flights of the XB-1, so it is a little behind schedule, but today showed off the fully-assembled demonstrator for the first time.
The XB-1 features a 71-ft-long (21.6-m) fuselage and carbon-composite airframe. The three J8-15 engines built by General Electric generate more than 12,000 lb of thrust, which the company expects to propel the XB-1 to supersonic speeds.
There is something of a cloud hanging over development of the XB-1 and Overture, in that flights in excess of Mach 1 have been banned from taking place over US land since 1973. The US Federal Aviation Administration is, however, weighing up new rules around the noise certification of these aircraft and the sonic booms they produce, and is looking to streamline the approval process for exemptions around flight testing.
Boom Supersonic doesn’t plan to roll out its Overture passenger aircraft until 2025 at the earliest, so it’s very much a case of watch this space. In the meantime, it will carry out a ground testing program with the XB-1 and is targeting flight tests in Mojave, California for 2021. Breaking the sound barrier with the aircraft is among the aims of that program, which the company promises will be 100 percent carbon-neutral.
“Boom continues to make progress towards our founding mission—making the world dramatically more accessible,” said Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO. “XB-1 is an important milestone towards the development of our commercial airliner, Overture, making sustainable supersonic flight mainstream and fostering human connection.”
You can hear more from Scholl on the XB-1 in the video below.
Source: Boom Supersonic