Aircraft

Can Boom bring back supersonic flight without the astronomical price tag?

Can Boom bring back supersonic...
Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane
Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane
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Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane
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Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane
Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane at Heathrow
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Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane at Heathrow

A Denver-based startup company is entering the race to reintroduce supersonic commercial travel with the promise of a 40-passenger airliner that can not only fly faster than Concorde, but at business class prices. Boom Technology says it is using modern engines and materials to develop a supersonic passenger jet that can cruise at Mach 2.2 (1,675 mph, 2,700 km/h), with prices starting at US$5,000 for a return ticket between London and New York.

When the two Concorde fleets were grounded in 2003, aviation took a giant step backwards. However, it may not be a permanent setback with NASA starting development on a new supersonic X-plane and various companies testing the supersonic waters. This would be encouraging if it weren't for the fact that the Concorde was anything but a bargain. It may have been able to carry up to 128 passengers at Mach 2 (1,500 mph, 2,450 km/h), but the average round trip price from London to New York was $12,000.

With headquarters at Centennial Airport near Denver, Boom Technology believes that it can build a new supersonic passenger jet in just a few years that will not only be faster, but also cheaper than its predecessor. The finished product is projected to carry 40 passengers in two single-seat rows of standard first-class seats at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,000 m) and a speed of Mach 2.2.

In a report in Bloomberg Business, Boom said that it's only been in the last 10 years that the technology became available to make a Concorde replacement practical. Thanks to new advances in aerodynamics, composites, engines, wind tunnels, and software, Boom believes that it's possible to make a plane that can fly from London to New York in 3.6 hours at a cost of $5,000 for round trip.

Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane at Heathrow
Artist's concept of the Boom supersonic passenger plane at Heathrow

According to Boom, carbon composites can withstand higher temperatures than the aluminium alloys used in Concorde, yet are cheaper than the titanium and other exotic alloys used in military aircraft. They're also lighter, which allows the aircraft to fly faster and more efficiently. Combined with advanced engines, the company believes that the finished product will be 30 percent more efficient than Concorde, and that through the use of computer simulations development can be achieved in record time.

So far, the Boom project hasn't gone much beyond artist's concepts and some wooden mock ups, but the company says that it will have a development prototype ready for a first flight late next year to be followed by supersonic testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. However, supersonic aircraft are still on the cutting edge of aerospace technology with a lot of surprises (especially when it comes to costs), so it remains to be seen whether it will be Boom or bust.

Source: Boom Technology

10 comments
DomainRider
No mention of how they'll get around the sonic boom problem, which was a major contribution to Concorde's difficulties...
Vandy
Hyperloop is 800mph, safer, and most cost effective
minivini
Is that $5000 the cost of the aircraft making the flight, or a single passenger fee? If it's the latter then that answers the question posed in the title with an emphatic "No. No, they cannot."
TerenceKuch
I flew on the Concorde - cramped, hot, noisy, but what a ride! The bulkhead display was a real-time digital Mach speedometer (on Emirates, it's the direction of Mecca; on Lufthansa & others, it's where you are in the world).
Gene Preston
You know there is a much better technology than the super sonic jet for transatlantic flights. Strap an X37b minishuttle to a Space X reusable rocket and launch both of them from the US mainland and then land in England in a few minutes. The X37b separates from the Space X rocket and then glides to a landing in England. The Space X rocket also lands at the same airport. Both are joined back together and refueled for a flight from England to China or Japan or Australia. From there the rocket and X37b are flown on a leg back to the US where they started from, all this in one day. Now isn't that a lot faster than a super sonic jet? All we need is for Elon to get his rocket working reliably and for Pete's sake stop trying to land on barges in the ocean that are rocking and rolling with the waves. No wonder the rocket crashes on those barge landings. By the way some time look up the instabilities associated with the SR71 at super high speeds. Now that is scary and a much more difficult engineering problem limiting supersonic speeds in our atmosphere than just going into low orbit at 17k mph with a minishuttle.
Len Simpson
My son in law (& daughter ) cadged seats on the last Concorde flight NY to France , described the flight as sort of a tube shaped missile , primary excitement came from watching the Mach Meter posted on the bulkhead.
Derek Howe
I'm all for supersonic airliners, but at 5,000 dollars...I think I'll keep my butt at home.
MattII
@Domain Rider, looks like it's only going to be for transatlantic, so apart from take-offs and landings, no issue with booms. @Vandy, but doesn't work well over water. @minivini, $5000 is for a return ticket, not a one-way, so the one way price is $2500, a little high for Business class, but below First class prices.
ErnestRider
More than possible. We are in the age of rapid prototyping, metallurgy, home owned supercomputing to do FEM. So it's quite feasible but often slower to evolve this tech, because it isn't a national will goal of earlier research. There are a few things to achieve this goal technically, Mach 2.3 is about 350F from skin friction with nose heating slightly lower. Maximum heating is where higher speed air rubs at the boundary layer. Composite aircraft absorb less heat than aluminum/metal. Another thing is both prior SSTs used reheat to get into their efficient Mach bubbles, today nozzle confinement allows jets to super cruise to about Mach 1.4 generating supersonic exhaust speeds beyond this speed without sacrificing impulse requires high airflow turbo ramjet bypass system. A hypersonic jet would either use solid bonded carbon skin, or use plasma generation to put a layer of insulating plasma around the skin of the aircraft above Mach 7.
wpp
So nobody thinks that "Boom" is a terrible name for an Airplane manufacturer?