Boom showcases XB-1 supersonic demonstrator, raises questions

Boom Technologies

On October 7, 2020, in a virtual presentation Boom rolled out its XB-1, one-third scale technology demonstrator for Overture supersonic airliner, set to conduct first passenger flights by 2029.

XB-1, a sleek, fighter jet-like aircraft with delta wings and carbon-fiber body, is powered by three General Electric J85 engines. The aircraft is aimed at testing a range of planned Overture’s features, from engine inlet design to flight controls.

The assembly of the demonstrator began in 2019, simultaneously performing static tests on wings and fuselage. The maiden flight is expected in 2021. According to the company, the airplane is able to supercruise at Mach 2.2, the intended cruising speed of the Overture. 

The appearance of XB-1 was unveiled in 2016, and there were intentions to perform the first flight tests in 2017. However, the company faced a number of delays due to monetary shortages and the flight got rescheduled to 2018, then 2019, then late 2020. 

Now, the company aims at building the prototype of Overture while XB-1 is in flight testing, and unveil the full-scale aircraft by 2025, while the first passenger flights are to be conducted in 2029. There are many questions as to the validity of such a timeline given the previous record of the company’s delays. 

While in the presentation the company states that the Overture will be able to carry passengers on over 500 routes around the world, and showcases 3D models of the aircraft with liveries of a number of the world’s largest airlines, some crucial problems remain unaddressed. Namely, the issue of the sonic boom over the populated areas, which greatly limited the routes that the Concorde could fly. Despite referring to the Concorde as Overture’s predecessor numerous times, Boom’s presenters sidestepped the issue, focusing on their aircraft technological advancements, performance and luxury instead. 

Previously, the first batch of the company’s aircraft was said to be preordered by Virgin Group and Japan Airlines (JAL), while in early September 2020, Boom became the third company to be awarded a contract by the United States Air Force (USAF), in a project to develop the supersonic Air Force One, the executive transport for the highest U.S. government officials. While Virgin (VAH) has since opted for their own supersonic airliner, representatives of both JAL and USAF were featured in the presentation, assuring of their support for the company, but never revealing any actual numbers of expected orders.

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