“Baby boom”, the supersonic that wants to become the fastest airliner in the world

Supersonic Boom has just flown its test plane for the first time as it races to build the world's fastest airliner – meet the 'baby boom'.

XB-1, tested to be the fastest airliner in the world PHOTO: facebook/Scamble Magazin

Colorado-based aerospace company Boom Supersonic wants to bring back the Concorde era, a faster-than-sound passenger jet that flew for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2003.

Boom's vision of the next supersonic airliner is a Mach 1.7 plane called the Overture, and the company just flew its first prototype on Friday, writes businessinsider.com.

Nicknamed “baby Boom”, the XB-1 demonstrator is the “foundation” of the futuristic Overture aircraft. Boom says it is using the experimental plane to prove breakthrough technologies essential to safe and efficient supersonic flight.

In November, Boom Supersonic announced that the XB-1 is preparing for its first flight and that it has received the necessary certificate of experimental airworthiness from federal regulators to operate the test plane.

Ahead of the flight tests, the XB-1 went through a series of ground evaluations, including evaluation of subsystems, medium-speed taxi tests and upgrades to the engines and landing gear, the company said.

“Today, the XB-1 took flight in the same hallowed airspace where the Bell X-1 first broke the sound barrier in 1947”Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl wrote in a press release.

“We've been looking forward to this flight since we founded Boom in 2014, and it marks the most important milestone yet on our journey to bring supersonic travel to passengers around the world.” he continued.

Boom said the envelope for range, speed and altitude is expanding over time and over several phases of testing, and the inaugural XB-1 is just a fraction of what the Overture will be built to fly.

According to Boom, its future faster-than-sound plane is expected to soar at speeds of up to Mach 1.7, or about 1,300 mph, and cruise at up to 60,000 feet — which it means the plane could connect New York City and London in just three and a half hours.

In 1947, the Bell X-1 became the world's first plane to fly faster than the speed of sound, flying over the Mojave Desert, which is designated for special flights and has a 50-mile supersonic corridor used for flight tests with Mach speed above the ground.

Other famous aircraft that have taken off from the Mojave include an experimental rocket-powered jet plane called the North American X-15. According to the Smithsonian, it was the first winged aircraft to fly at four, five and six times the speed of sound. Before Boom, Shoemaker led the first flight of the Block II Super Hornet military aircraft and piloted electric prototypes of vertical takeoff and landing.According to Boom, Brandenburg is a graduate of the United States Navy Test Pilot School and an opponent of TOPGUN.

Brandenburg and Shoemaker completed hundreds of hours of training in flight simulators for both the XB-1 and the T-38 Chaser before taking the controls on test flights.

“Everyone on the XB-1 team should be incredibly proud of this achievement,” Shoemaker said Friday. “It has been a privilege to share this journey with so many dedicated and talented professionals. The experience we have gained in reaching this milestone will be invaluable to the rebirth of Boom's supersonic journey.” According to Boom, ground monitoring of the mission comes from a control room full of engineers and other staff.

“The engineers in the control room are the same who designed the aircraft's systems and functioned as a team for every ground test event conducted over the past two years,” Boom stated.

The “augmented reality vision system” involves two nose-mounted cameras that allow pilots to” excellent runway visibility”.

According to Boom, this can improve aerodynamic efficiency and negate the need for the Overture to have Concorde's famous movable nose – which lowered to reduce drag and give pilots better visibility.

Meanwhile, Boom said the XB-1 is also testing strong yet lightweight carbon composite materials, supersonic air intakes that slow Mach air to subsonic speeds, and “digitally optimized aerodynamics”
which improves supersonic efficiency.

The landing was complicated, but Boom said pilot Shoemaker used the augmented reality system and the help of a “landing signal officer” positioned on the side of the runway to safely land the XB-1 demonstrator. Although Boom secured GE as the engine supplier for its XB-1 demonstrator, the company struggled to find a major engine manufacturer such as Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and CFM International to help build its Overture supersonic engine.

GE's 3D printing division, GE Additive, will offer Boom “consulting and design technology in the field of additive manufacturing” to help create a lightweight and fuel-efficient design for Symphony.

Aviation analyst Henry Harteveldt told Business Insider in 2022, when Boom was unable to find an engine supplier, that building an engine in-house would be challenging but could prove profitable if Boom sold the project. baby Boom has three engines, while Overture will have four wing-mounted engines.

Both the XB-1 and the Overture are designed with gullwings, which increases safety and reduces engine effort, cost and noise, according to Boom. People today still reminisce about the days when you could fly to London in less time than it takes to cross Manhattan at rush hour. The three global carriers have ordered and pre-ordered a collective number of 130 Overture aircraft. American ordered 20 in a deal worth $4 billion at list price, with options for 40 more.

Meanwhile, United has ordered 15 Overtures worth $3 billion at list price, with options for 35 more. JAL has invested $10 million in Overtures and has an option to buy 20 under a pre-order agreement.

Concorde's fastest recorded flight took place in February 1996, when a British Airways flight from New York to London crossed the Atlantic in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds. Like the Concorde, the Overture will only have business class seats. However, this high-end product is likely to be expensive, given the high operating costs of a supersonic aircraft. Cost-cutting tactics include, among other strategies, implementing systems that improve aerodynamic efficiency, using lightweight materials, and building its Symphony engine with additive parts that will lower assembly costs.

“You'll be able to fly Overture for a quarter of the price of a Concorde ticket, or about the same price you'd pay in business class today, Scholl said in 2019, according to Simple Flying. “This is the most important thing.”

He repeated this for Simple Flying again in 2022, reiterating that Overture tickets will be 75% cheaper than Concorde and will “within reach of tens of millions of passengers from the first day”.

Boom said it is working with US aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman on military and government applications of Overture. The US government has signed multimillion-euro contracts with hypersonic jet maker Hermeus, which is developing a jet that can reach Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound – far beyond what Boom is building.