Boom Supersonic’s XB-1 Takes Historic First Flight, Paving The Way For Overture

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Aviation startup Boom Supersonic took a major step forward in its mission to revive commercial supersonic travel with the inaugural flight of its prototype aircraft, the XB-1.

According to a press release, XB-1 took off from the Mojave Air & Space Port and flew for approximately 12 minutes over California’s Mohave Desert. The 63-foot aircraft successfully completed all of its test objectives, reaching an altitude of 7,120 feet and attaining speeds up to 238 knots.

Boom says that every feature on the aircraft is optimized for supersonic performance including carbon fiber composites, advanced avionics, digitally optimized aerodynamics and an advanced supersonic propulsion system.

“Today, XB-1 took flight in the same hallowed airspace where the Bell X-1 first broke the sound barrier in 1947,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic. “I’ve been looking forward to this flight since founding Boom in 2014, and it marks the most significant milestone yet on our path to bring supersonic travel to passengers worldwide.” 

Boom says the maiden voyage of the XB-1 demonstrator comes as the company works to advance Overture toward production. Set to carry some 64-80 passengers at Mach 1.7, Overture already has 130 orders and pre-orders from prominent carriers like American Airlines, United Airlines and Japan Airlines.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

49 COMMENTS

    • Why? Are you suggesting that private companies backed by private investors shouldn’t do research? We may speculate that it isn’t a viable business, but hey, if that’s your thing, go for it.

      • If a private company lies to attract investment, that’s illegal.
        There are mountains of research on this over the last 50 years, including the economic side, of operating passenger supersonic vehicles. All the latest carbon fiber and electronics cannot erase history and physics. That’s why I would agree that it’s wrong.

        • Lies? Do you know something or are you just speculating?

          While I’m not suggesting that every new company is perfect (e.g. Theranos), if you think every (any?) technology start-up has proof they can achieve their lofty/crazy goals when looking for investment you are sadly mistaken. Investors are supposed to be smart enough to make the risk/benefit call. The funds they invest are not backed by federal insurance for that reason.

          Technology advances do make things possible that weren’t possible previously. How about having a wrist watch that can independently track your health and make phone calls. Not possible 20 years ago. Just because something didn’t make sense in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t make sense in the future.

          Here’s an idea, if you don’t think something is viable, don’t invest in it. Other people may feel differently.

          • I know that airlines never made it profitable in the past and that airlines today are on even tighter margins. Point is that selling it “as viable” in today’s market is not being honest; AKA wrong.

          • The wright Brothers did what many, many said couldn’t happen but they did it anyway. Supersonic travel will happen. Henry Ford said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

          • To AJ: Finance may be hard to sort out, but it seems that the two airlines *did* pull an operating profit (‘tho not a large one).

            It was the developers who lost money.

  1. At a time when some possessed people are freaked out over minute amounts of unmeasurable lead being expelled by piston GA airplanes and others are possessed by electric flight and cars as a way to save the Earth, this Company is trying to build a supersonic jet. WHY? It’s fuel consumption/seat-mile will be far greater than anything else flying intercontinentally. I heard earlier today it can reduce the time to get from the US to Europe from 7.5 hrs to 4.25 hours. Is THAT needed or worth it?

    Answer: I HAVE to say it … John Kerry will be able to get to Davos and back sooner. 🙂
    (I already heard that on TV this afternoon, BTW).

    Meanwhile, over at NASA Armstrong, we’re STILL waiting for the X-59 to fly so they can figure out if people in El Paso or Shreveport are offended by the muted ‘boom’ (pun intended) of the thing so the FAA can write Regs for supersonic airplanes. Either Boom knows something we don’t OR they’re betting on the come? Great to have NASA paying for their research, however. The X-59 was supposed to fly in 2021 (maybe NASA’s calendar is slow?) and the program is now gonna cost $632M … that’s 2/3 of a BILLION BUCKS. Add in the X-57 Maxwell debacle and you’ve got 3/4 of a BILLION bucks spent on just two airplanes. Someone needs to put NASA Armstrong on a substantial monetary diet.

    “Electric pipsqueak (rimes with Pipistrel) airplanes for thee and supersonic jets for me” … THAT oughta be their slogan. Oh well, at least Boom is paying for this research (I HOPE?).

    • Larry you seem more than passionate about this. Hurt maybe that you were passed over a time or two?

      • You ‘sense’ right about my ‘passion’, John. I worked on or near Edwards AFB for 27 years. I was there at a time when NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) did more with less and managed projects correctly. NOW, it seems to me they’re in the PR business — touting what they’re doing on NASA TV, or in person — and unable to do actual productive things with a LOT of money. $750 million for two airplanes … one of which they didn’t even complete and the second that is years over time and budget … give me a damn break, NASA. I wasn’t passed over for anything, BTW. I never worked at NASA Dryden but WAS there nearby. I’m passionate about managing aerospace projects correctly … something I know a thing or two about.

        With respect to Boom’s project, NASA is doing some of the research that BOOM oughta be doing for … are ya ready … $632M. 🙁
        Good for Boom, good for Lockheed Martin but … bad for taxpayers … that’d be you and me.

  2. talk about vapour–ideas! Maybe some folks have gotten up and smelt the coffee. As we are in a race to the bottom of mass air travel how reasonable does this project seem?

      • The economics are “vapor” because we have decades of history that show it’s never been profitable.

          • Factoring in development costs, no, it did not make money for BA. What they omit here is how much it will actually take to certify “the real thing”.

          • Very profitably is not the term I would use but both Air France and British Airways made money on the Concorde Routes. They were able to do so because the cost of the planes were absorbed by their respective governments.

  3. Cool. If they can build a supersonic airliner that can operate at a profit and get around the sonic boom problem, good for them.

    • Dream On -Steven Victor Tallarico
      There’s a sucker born every minute -Phineas Taylor Barnum
      You cannot fool physics -Richard Phillips Feynman

      It smells of more hype than hyper -Arthur Julian Foyt

      • I did say IF they could, not that they would. Once the belief was the sound barrier couldn’t be broken, the world was flat (some still believe this), etc. etc…..
        Time will tell.

        • Thanks for those examples! When something has been shown to be in error, you stop trying to prove otherwise. Using the same logic on supersonic passenger aircraft, why are these people going against historic reality? They are the ones trying to prove a flat earth at this point.

  4. Why are supersonic aircraft uneconomical? The world is a lot wealthier at the top (and in general) than it was 20 years ago. Both demand and technological capability have changed since then.

    • Off the top of my head it would be high fuel burn rates, few passengers, little (if any) cargo, low production numbers, and higher maintenance.

      • THAT is why I said, “Pipsqueek airplanes for thee, and supersonic airplanes for” … fill in the blank with the name of a heavy hitter.” The very same people who are telling us the planet is dying in 10 years and climate change is gonna ‘get’ us all will be flying these things IF Boom pulls it off. And the airlines who are trying to use SAF to save the planet will be flying these things, too. Ya can’t have it both ways, boys!!

      • That just means it will cost a lot. There is plenty of money out there though, way more than in concorde’s day.

        If I was going to make an argument that it is uneconomical I would say that the cost will be too high to make it competitive against flying private or business class. On a transatlantic it would be 4 hours vs. 7 hours, but on the Boom you’d need to be 2+ hours prior to departure and you are stuck with the United’s schedule. Aside from taking barely longer and being far more convenient, private planes are more restful and/or better for getting work done than an SST cattle class.

        That assumes that the costs are comparable between private charter and public SST. Without knowing anything about the costs, my uneducated guess would be that a smaller-sized private supersonic jet would have a better business case, both for practical use and as “my yacht is bigger than your yacht” status symbols.

    • Burn an awful lot of fuel, and need specialist maintenance crews. Ask BA and Air France. Get hammered with tax too. Not seen the sound barrier move a lot in the last 20 years, even though computers are much faster…

  5. My attitude is that if Boom is working with private money, they can build whatever they want. Venture capitalists aren’t stupid people. If they choose to fund the project, they have likely done enough background research to think it could be profitable. If not, it’s their problem. However, I agree with Larry that spending NASA’s (aka our) money on R&D should be much more carefully monitored. Let Boom conduct the studies to see whether ground-pounders will find the noise objectionable. What is going to be interesting is if Boom has a working prototype, but NASA and the FAA have yet to promulgate the “rules” for operation. Then what?

    • I’ve watched tremendous amounts of money wasted out in that desert on ideas that will never work. There are some very stupid rich people out there. Look up Roton for example. That was $50M at least 25 years ago.
      The fundamental problems of super sonic transport aircraft have not changed since Concorde.

      • The Rotary Rocket served a good purpose … as a statue out in front of the Mojave Airport Headquarters building. A mighty expensive statue.

        See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_Rocket

      • Inasmuch as the two airliners flying the Concordes were turning a small profit, it appears that “the fundamental problems of super sonic transport aircraft” lie with gov’t regs (e.g., sonic booms), not with the economics.

  6. I’ll give “em credit for making colorful videos accompanied by persuasive music and breathless sales pitch. The huge hangar just completed in Greensboro North Carolina will make a nice Amazon distribution center.

  7. Lotta comments here. My 2¢:
    ● I wish Boom and its staff joyous, boundless success, however that is defined.
    ● I wish Boom’s investors critical yet accurate due-diligence appraisals which are followed by heart-warming returns.
    ● The risk:return ratio is not to my liking and I hope that my pension fund is not one of those investors.

  8. Only 235 knots on the first flight. Seems like a pretty slow gear limit speed for a supersonic jet. I would expect more than that. Only 1000 more knots to go.

    • The X-1 made a multitude of subsonic flights before its first supersonic flight. Even the X-15 made many subsonic flights first. That’s how flight testing works – you don’t jump right up to the goal on the first flight.

      • Yup. Look what happened to Maverick. He tried to jump to the goal, lost the ‘plane and ensured that the program stayed cancelled. I don’t think that he got nearly enough tough love for that.

  9. Interesting technology, but it seems to me that Aerion Aircraft of Reno had a great design two decades ago. Its head of engineer was the great Richard Tracy of Learjet / Learfan fame.

  10. What is missing from the discussion of how this latest SST effort is being financed is the fact that my state of North Carolina has gifted Boom $200 million of my tax dollars in its bribe to Boom build in Greensboro. Our D Governor Cooper loves to hand out other peoples’ money. Our state has done the same for HondaJet, located on the same airport. More recently our state government bribed Vinfast, an unknown battery car maker from Communist Vietnam, bankrolled by the Communist Chinese, to build a factory for a car no one wants. The only question regarding Vinfast (and perhaps Boom) is whether they will get into production before they go Bust, and taxpayers are left holding the bag. See the sad tale of how Dell Computer fleeced us in their now abandoned factory outside Winston-Salem. Maggie Thatcher put it best when she said “Socialism looks pretty good until you run out of other peoples’ money to spend.”

    • If you are referring to the government giving direct subsidies – then I agree with you. However, if you are referring to tax breaks to encourage a company to locate (and generate direct and support jobs) – then I disagree because that approach is typically a net benefit to an area – without reducing or diverting existing tax revenue.

      • What is really missing from this discussion is that poor Kent just can’t help himself from injecting politics into every issue, however irrelevant. Or misleading.

        What he fails to mention is that NC is one of the purplest states in the US. True, its citizens have elected far more D governors than R ones since WW-II. What he neglects to mention is that the NC legislature has ensured that the governor’s office is one of the weakest in the nation (“not worth a bucket of warm ___” is the term of art). The real power is wielded by the long-time R-dominated legislature, with a veto-proof majority.

        All of those “other peoples’ money” initiatives he bemoans were approved, budgeted, and funded by the R-dominated legislature. Those projects have more than paid for themselves in tax revenues, new high-tech and -paying jobs, and are loudly touted by his R-friends in the legislature.

        Now, may we please get back to speculating over whether anyone will make any money building an SST? Frankly, I don’t care. The only time I’ve been in an SST (or ever expect to be) was on a trip to Bristol where I got to wander around the last Concorde to be built and flown, at the factory museum. Saw the flight engineer’s cap.

    • “… is the fact that my state of North Carolina has gifted Boom $200 million of my tax dollars”

      I truly don’t believe that you paid North Carolina $200,000,000 in taxes.

      Ever.

  11. It’s funny how so many people bemoan why we don’t have, for instance, electronically-controlled engines that can produce a lot of power on regular mogas at low fuel burn rates, but then in the next article are criticizing private companies attempting to develop the “next big thing”.

    Remember also when the aviation industry said it was a physical impossibility for a helicopter to fly faster than 250kts, then Sikorsky used their own money to develop a helicopter that did fly faster than 250kts? Everything is “impossible” until a way is found to make it possible. Same thing happened with supersonic flight, and orbital spaceflight, and flying non-stop around the world unrefueled.

    If Boom (or any other company) thinks they can make supersonic air travel an economic possibility, and there are private investors willing to take a chance on them, what is the argument against that?

    • Well said, Gary. Somewhere between the “experts” who know there’s nothing new under the sun and the dreamers with their eternal optimism, things get done.

  12. You guys forget that there is far more to learn about physics than what we know right now. The more we learn, the less we know. I am working on a technology right now that totally violates what we know of material science, but guess what, it works.

  13. Great discussion! Kudos to Boom for boldly venturing. Who knows, it just may be “the way of the future.”

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