Boom… Or Bust? Just How Viable Will Be the Next Generation of Supersonic Commercial Aircraft?
Boom Supersonic is the latest entrant to the commercial supersonic airliner project line-up, and Boom hopes to redefine commercial air travel by bringing sustainable, supersonic flight to the skies. Boom’s commercial airliner, Overture, is designed and committed to industry-leading standards of speed, safety, and sustainability. Overture will be net-zero carbon, capable of flying on 100% sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) at twice the speed of today’s fastest passenger jets. Overture’s order book, including purchases and options, stands at 70 aircraft, and Boom is working with the United States Air Force on government applications of Overture. Northrop Grumman has also recently placed an order for special-mission-equipped Boom Overtures. The Boom XB-1 demonstrator aircraft rolled out in 2020, and its carbon-neutral flight test program is underway.
There’s only one real operational issue currently hindering the Boom game plan: there is still no international consensus regarding supersonic flight over the earth’s landmasses. This lack of consensus relegates the performance and range envelopes to the Concorde era, somewhat defeating the speed advantage, especially when the latest generation of “conventional” airliners can cruise just slightly subsonic across land and sea.
Furthermore, the proposed range of 4,250 nautical miles is only a slight increase over Concorde’s original range, and the maximum altitude (seldom achieved under normal flight conditions) is still 60,000 feet. Boom’s proposed passenger load is a mere 88 passengers. For comparison, Concorde could carry 100 passengers (I was once one of them!).
Bizjet Advisor has suggested to the Boom team that the natural extension of the commercial airliner application intended for Overture would be a “Boom Bizjet.” However, for some puzzling reason, BJA’s suggestion was dismissed because, as a public relations person in Colorado informed us, “Boom is only designed to be a commercial airliner.” Perhaps the Boom Overture team has never heard of the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), the Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ), or the Embraer Lineage? These three commercial aircraft manufacturers have all successfully and lucratively converted their airframe offerings into highly customized bizjets.
Obviously, these airborne palaces have superior range and payload capability. The payload conundrum cannot be easily resolved, but the range extension for the “new supersonics” can be achieved using a well-tested military application: air-to-air refueling!
We can only imagine the radio exchange: “Overture one zero one, you are cleared onto the tanker at flight level five zero zero and at airspeed five hundred. Your fuel load is confirmed at thirty thousand gallons, and your window expires at zero seven hundred Icelandic time.”
Let’s hope that we can all fly supersonically in the near future, whether commercial or bizjet. Air travel is not exactly fun anymore, and the less time in the air, the better for all concerned!