“You are chopping off the front of your
widebody,” Scholl said, referring to the pre-
mium cabin at the front of a typical multi-
class airliner. “Blake’s crystal ball is that
subsonic will become the low-cost carrier market and
supersonic will become the premium.”
But Boom, which now employs 85 people, has a long
way to go to make the aircraft the first supersonic airlin-
er since the Anglo-French Concorde stopped operations
in 2003. Scholl, for instance, does not address how an
airline would make its widebodies profitable without the
high-yield passengers that typically provide the majority
of the full-service airline’s profits.
Nor does he fully address the additional operational
costs and complexity of introducing an additional aircraft
type in a fleet, although he says, “We are deliberately designing it to make it as easy to operate as possible. You
don’t need widebody gates; it’s the opposite of an A380.”
Another operational hurdle is that, based on the existing technology, ATW understands the aircraft could
not do routes such as Los Angeles-Tokyo nonstop; it
would need to refuel somewhere—Alaska, for instance.
Tat would add time, ground support and potentially
customer support costs.
Nevertheless, Scholl says that the aircraft is generat-
ing a lot of interest. Te company had a chalet at the
Farnborough Air Show in July and it was “buzzing,”
he said. “Te conversation today is about who is in the
market and who will be first.”
Te two-seat XB- 1 demonstrator is being built at the
company’s facility at Centennial Airport near Denver. It
will be powered by three General Electric J85 engines,
and test flights will take place in southern California.
Te production aircraft would be powered by three
turbofans—an engine supplier has not yet been selected—and have a 1-1 cabin configuration.
A major technical hurdle for supersonic airliner design
is how to get regulatory approval for overland flights,
especially in the US. But NASA is planning to fly a
low-boom supersonic demonstrator over selected areas
of the US to collect information on public acceptance
of the noise.
Community response data gathered by NASA’s Low
Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) program will be
provided to FAA and ICAO to help define a standard
for enroute noise that would permit civil supersonic
flight over land. NASA is planning a three-phase pro-
gram that will use the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works-
developed low-boom demonstrator, designated the X-
59A QueSST. First flight of the X-59A from the Skunk
Works is scheduled for mid-fiscal 2021. In Phase 1,
Lockheed will conduct initial checkout flights followed
by envelope expansion flying into fiscal 2023, LBFD
project manager Craig Nickol said.
Te aircraft will then be handed over to NASA for
Phase 2-acoustic validation testing by Armstrong Flight
Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in Cali-
fornia. Tis will measure and characterize the reduced
boom, or sonic “thump,” in different flight and atmo-
spheric conditions, he told the AIAA Aviation 2018
conference in Atlanta June 28.
In Phase 3, “the rubber will hit the road,” Nickol
said, when the X-59A conducts a series of community-response tests. Tis will begin with an initial overflight
survey at Edwards in the first half of fiscal 2023, followed by multiple campaigns in which the aircraft will
be deployed to fly over representative US communities
in representative weather conditions.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes, meanwhile, is looking to
go even faster. Te company unveiled a concept vehicle
in June for an airliner capable of crossing the Atlantic in
two hours, or the Pacific in three.
Boeing has joined with hypersonic specialists at
the company’s Research & Technology unit to study a
Mach 5 vehicle. Te concept is a preliminary step toward a long-range development plan targeted at both
commercial and military applications. Although not
yet defined, the concept is provisionally aimed at a passenger capacity larger than long-range business jets, but
smaller than the Boeing 737, with potential entry into
service from the late 2030s onward.
Flying at Mach 5, and with a projected cruise altitude
of 95,000 ft., the vehicle would travel at more than 2. 5
times the speed and 30,000 ft. higher than Concorde.
Te civil design forms part of a broader Boeing program that might include the nearer-term development of a
reusable hypersonic demonstrator. Tis vehicle, if sanctioned, would be used to prove a wide range of airframe,
systems and propulsion technologies for multiple applications and could be flown as early as 2023 or 2024.
Guy Norris contributed to this article.
“Subsonic will become the low-cost carrier
market and supersonic will become the
premium.” Blake Scholl, CEO Boom Technology