Boom Supersonic unveils a new design for the Overture supersonic jet

(CNN) — It has been almost 20 years since Concorde last flew.

While various companies have set out to bring supersonic travel back to life since then, we’ve yet to see it come to fruition.

However, Colorado-based start-up Boom Supersonic is making big strides in its quest to make supersonic flight a reality again.

Nearly two years after rolling out its prototype supersonic demonstrator, the XB1, Boom has unveiled a major new design for its highly anticipated Overture jetliner, which will fly at twice the speed of current subsonic commercial jets and is expected to carry its first passengers in 2029.

Renderings of the plane, which has been in development for several years, were revealed this week during a press conference at the Farnborough Air Show, a UK-based aviation trade event.

Not only does the updated design feature an additional engine, but it also has a streamlined fuselage and gull wings.

Refined design

A rendering of the redesigned Overture supersonic aircraft from Boom Supersonic.

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According to Kathy Savitt, president and chief commercial officer of Boom Supersonic, the refined design is the result of approximately 26 million hours of software simulation, five wind tunnel tests and 51 design iterations.

« We had to really take the time to learn, to iterate, to walk our walk, » Savitt told CNN Travel from the Boom Chalet at the Farnborough Air Show.

« There’s nothing like having a real plane to learn from, plus simulators and hours of math, which I think resulted in a remarkable breakthrough and a remarkable plane. »

The plane, slated for production in 2024, will fly at Mach 1.7 over water with a range of 4,250 nautical miles and have a capacity of 65 to 80 passengers, according to Boom’s team.

In January, United Airlines placed an order for 15 of the supersonic jets, which could potentially fly from New York to London in just three and a half hours.

Meanwhile, Japan Airlines invested $10 million in Boom in 2017 and has the option to buy up to 20 planes.

Additionally, the aerospace startup recently announced a partnership with US military technology company Northrop Grumman to develop a military variant of Overture.

Net zero carbon aircraft

According to Boom's team, Overture will fly at Mach 1.7 over water with a range of 4,250 nautical miles

According to Boom’s team, Overture will fly at Mach 1.7 over water with a range of 4,250 nautical miles

supersonic boom

Concerns about noise, as well as its impact on the environment, played a big part in Concorde’s demise, and Boom goes to great lengths to ensure this supersonic jet is both durable and quieter.

“Our vision has always been for Overture to be the first clean-sheet aircraft developed and optimized to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel,” says Savitt.

« And today, compared to the days of the Concorde, we are able to use carbon composite materials throughout our fuselage, on our wings and on the vertical tail, which allows us to be much more aerodynamic and much more efficient. This helps reduce drag, which consumes fuel, as well as making the aircraft much more fuel efficient. »

United has already committed to flying its Overture fleet on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

According to Savitt, the introduction of a fourth engine on the updated aircraft design will help reduce noise significantly, while Overture will use the world’s first automated noise reduction system.

“We really focused on making our takeoffs and landings as quiet, if not quieter, than any other long-haul airliner departing from any airport,” she explains. « And that’s what we managed to do.

« We’re not going to fly supersonic over land, we’re going to fly supersonic over water. So this ‘boom’, so to speak, is over the high seas.

« But we are still flying at Mach 0.94 on land, and it was really important for us to be good for the community around airports, really fighting noise. »

Supersonic developments

United will be the first US airline to operate the Overture aircraft.

United will be the first US airline to operate the Overture aircraft.

supersonic boom

Efforts to increase the speed of passenger aircraft have gained momentum in recent years.

NASA has partnered with aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin to develop the X-59, an experimental « quiet » supersonic aircraft, to collect data that will be shared with U.S. and international regulators to help determine new rules based on the sound for supersonic flight over terrain.

Earlier this year, aircraft manufacturer Bombardier confirmed that its test vehicle, the Global 7500, broke the sound barrier during a demonstration flight last May, reaching speeds in excess of Mach 1.015.

In 2020, aviation startup Aerion revealed plans for a Mach 4+ commercial jetliner named the Aerion AS3, but the Florida-based company collapsed the following year.

« Aviation hasn’t seen leaps and bounds in decades, » Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl noted in a statement this month, before saying Overture « will fundamentally change the way we do business. » thinking the distance ».

Boom now has over 600 different routes around the world planned for Overture.

Make connections

“We’re really focused on connecting people,” says Savitt. “We ultimately want Overture to be not only the fastest aircraft, but also the most durable and accessible for anyone to fly supersonic.

« In a world where you want to accelerate that human connection, there shouldn’t be that few people doing it. »

Although Scholl has previously said Boom’s long-term goal is to eventually be able to take passengers anywhere in the world in four hours for $100, it’s safe to assume that we’re unlikely to see seats on sale at this price for a long time. .

Stressing that « it’s up to the airlines to determine their price », Savitt estimates that an Overture flight will initially cost around 25% more than a business class and around 75% less than the Concorde, which charged around $12,000 for a round trip in the nineties.

In addition to speed, security and durability, described as its « core principles », the company has emphasized customer experience.

Passengers will have the ability to switch between various in-flight digital experiences and customize their windows accordingly during their journey.

There will be various flight modes available, including a productivity mode for those who want to focus on work, a relax mode for passengers wishing to get some sleep, and an exploration mode for those who want to pay close attention to their route during their flight. air.

Air transport revolution?

A rendering of an Overture supersonic airliner in United Airlines livery.

A rendering of an Overture supersonic airliner in United Airlines livery.

supersonic boom

Savitt says Boom sat down with thousands of potential passengers to better understand their needs and found that the desire for sustainable speed was significantly high.

“They want a new flying experience,” says Savitt. « They don’t want to spend double the time on a flight, especially after Covid. »

Although there is still a long way to go before we see the aircraft start passenger services, taxi trials have already begun on the XB1, and Boom’s team is « working to get it off the ground ».

« We’re getting closer now, » adds Savitt.

So, could supersonic really be the future of travel, or is it just a pipe dream that will never really take off?

There is still no clear answer to this question as such, but the progress made by Boom, together with the high-speed achievements of the Bombardier Global 7500 flight test vehicle and the involvement of NASA, are certainly exciting and hopeful developments.

Savitt believes the Overture has the potential to revolutionize air travel in the same way as Boeing’s 747 jumbo jet, which made its commercial debut in 1970 and became known as the « Queen of the Skies ».

« Ultimately, we’d like to drive a paradigm shift, where supersonic really becomes the way people want to fly, » she says.

« It’s sustainable. It’s fast. It changes travel, in that you can spend more time connecting to your destination.

« In 10 to 15 years, we expect it to be the first choice for travel, because it is a difference maker. »

Top image credit: Boom Supersonic

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