Boom Supersonic just unveiled the prototype for its supersonic commercial jet that's slated to bring a new era of ultra-fast travel.
The XB-1 demonstrator will begin flight testing in 2021 to prove viable the technology that will power the larger, Concorde-like Overture passenger plane.
Development of the Overture will continue concurrently with the XB-1's flight testing for a planned 2025 debut.
The days of supersonic travel are almost here again and leading the charge isn't Airbus or Boeing, but smaller startups including one Colorado-based aviation firm that just rolled out a flyable prototype.
Boom Supersonic has been at the forefront for the relaunch of supersonic commercial flight with a design of its own, the Overture, a Concorde-like jet that's slated for a 2025 debut. The $200 million plane could cut down travel times in half if successful and make the world a significantly smaller place.
The Concorde was known for three-hour transatlantic crossing between the East Coast and Europe, making it possible for travelers to have breakfast in New York and lunch in Paris, or breakfast in London and a second breakfast in Washington. But standing in the way between today's planes and the next supersonic age is flight testing — thousands of hours of it.
Boom just took the wraps off of the prototype that will perform flight testing and prove its technology viable for wide-scale commercial flight. The single-pilot demonstrator known as the XB-1 will take to the skies starting next year and pave the way for the Overture.
Airlines have already shown an interest and desire to get back into supersonic travel as Virgin Atlantic Airways and Japan Airlines are both investors in the company that has racked up 30 pre-orders. Even the US Air Force wants to get on board for a potential supersonic Air Force One.
Take a closer look at the Boom XB-1.
The XB-1 just rolled out of Boom's facility in Centennial, Colorado, the result of six years of work since the startup's launch in 2014.
Source: Boom Supersonic
The prototype will lay the foundation for the Boom Overture, conducting flight testing to ensure that Boom's supersonic tech can be transferred into the larger jet.
At 71 feet in length, the XB-1 is around one-third the size of the aircraft for which it will lay the foundation.
Source: Boom Supersonic
Admittedly, its color scheme does bear resemblance to the iconic Breitling Jet Team aircraft.
But the XB-1's speed capabilities, as well as its purpose in advancing aviation toward a new supersonic era, set it light-years apart.
The XB-1 is a far cry from the passenger jet that the Overture will be. This is merely a single-seater prototype but the design is comparable and the knowledge learned flight testing will help get the larger jet off the ground.
In the simplest terms, the XB-1 is a rocket with wings and flight controls.
Its design is similar to a fighter jet where the plane is built around the engine.
In this case, that engine is the General Electric J85, three of which offer the XB-1 12,300 pounds of force.
The fuselage is made from carbon composites, titanium, and aluminum, strong enough to withstand a temperature of over 300 degrees Fahrenheit but light enough to ease its flight through the sound barrier.
Supersonic travel can yield temperatures of 260 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Boom.
The XB-1 was designed with pilots involved from the very beginning, Boom said, ensuring the plane was ergonomic and practical for the test flights — and applicable as Boom tries to prove that its technology will work for a larger jetliner.
The XB-1's is already showing how new aircraft technology can help solve the problems that plagued the Concorde.
An important advancement: the ability to design the plane using a computer, instead of "pencil and paper," Greg Krauland, the chief engineer of the XB-1, said at a live-streamed unveiling event.
One issue faced by the Concorde's designers was visibility, since the Concorde's nose was pointed so high. As a result, pilots couldn't see the ground when landing.
The low-tech result was an extendable nose that lowered while at low altitude.
The XB-1 mitigates this problem using cameras in the nose landing gear that can be viewed by the pilot in the cockpit.
The chief test pilots for Boom said that it's a simple, but perfectly effective solution that took hardly any effort.
Such technology is widespread now on airliners but was unfathomable at the time of the Concorde's first flight.
Its cameras might even be used to create an autonomous Overture as Airbus is making strides in the field of self-flying planes using software linked to onboard cameras.
Though the prototype will soon be fully functional, a stationary flight simulator will allow test pilots to train while on the ground.
It's designed to mirror the XB-1's characteristics, much like how airline pilots train in simulators every few months.
Boom has also committed to a carbon-neutral flight training campaign with the XB-1 as sustainability is one of the company's main tenets. Carbon offsetting and sustainable aviation fuels from Prometheus Fuels will be utilized to achieve that goal.
The Overture will also have to ability to use sustainable aviation fuels, which more airlines are adopting as they become available.
Ground testing will continue in Colorado and then aerials trials will kick off in 2021 from Mojave, California.
The XB-1's testing and the Overture's development will proceed in tandem as Boom continues to finalize the technologies that will be used on the passenger jet.
"Boom continues to make progress towards our founding mission—making the world dramatically more accessible," Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO, said in a press release. "XB-1 is an important milestone towards the development of our commercial airliner, Overture, making sustainable supersonic flight mainstream and fostering human connection."
If all goes to plan, we could be seeing a return to supersonic commercial travel before the decade is over.
The Overture will feature a 55-seat passenger cabin arranged in a 1-1 configuration.
It's nearly half that of the Concorde but each seat will be comfortable with unobstructed aisle access and oversized windows.
The Concorde sat more passengers – around 100 in a 2-2 configuration – but had famously small windows.
Boom claims that the aircraft's economics will allow for airfares similar to modern-day business class but airlines will be keenly aware of how much more businesses and the wealthy are willing to pay to save a few hours with quicker flights.
Japan Airlines has already expressed interest, investing $10 million in Boom in 2017. Flights between Seattle and Tokyo could take just four hours with the Overture.
Even the US Air Force has taken an interest. Though the next Air Force One is already lined up, Boom may be providing a supersonic upgrade in the near future.
According to Brigadier General Ryan Britton, the Overture could also be used by diplomats racing across the globe to solve crises face-to-face in real time.
And it will have all started in a small aircraft hangar on the outskirts of Denver.
Read the original article on Business Insider