Supersonic airplane startup Boom has just completed a key milestone in the build of it’s transatlantic (& beyond) supersonic passenger jet; the startup has completed its wind tunnel testing, verifying two years of aerodynamic design work and setting the stage for building the airframe that will eventually become the basis of it first flight-ready aircraft.
The completed wind tunnel testing, means that Boom are now ready to build large-scale hardware for testing with human pilots.
Just a few years ago, this kind of milestone would’ve involved repeated wind tunnel trials through multiple physical model iterations over a drawn-out period of time. Every iteration would take six months, cost millions – which means that trials like these were only possible for the largest companies. Today, each iteration takes 30 minutes and costs almost nothing, and so you can do it with a tiny team. When you finally think you’ve got it right, you go to the wind tunnel and you verify rather than develop there.
The changes in the cost of the development process are part of what is helping Boom pursue its goal of creating a Concorde-like supersonic passenger jet that can operate with ticket prices close to that of current business class travel. Concorde tickets used to cost much more than that, and in the end operating the jets was simply too expensive for airlines. These new supersonic jets will be more cost effective to run ensuring ticket prices will be affordable for Business travel.
Boom CEO and co-founder Blake Scholl’s goal isn’t just to get supersonic flight down to business class prices; he foresees a time when they can bring costs down far enough that supersonic travel will be accessible to anyone who can fly today. Boom sees itself having a parallel trajectory with SpaceX or Tesla in terms of massively changing the economies of a transportation technology.
“It’s the dividing line between development and being ready to build, so you do all of your testing and simulation initially, you think you have a design that looks like it’s going to go work, and then you go to the wind tunnel and you verify with real air and real flow that you’re seeing the results that you predicted in simulation and at that point then you’re ready to go forward and start constructing large pieces of the aircraft.”
Scholl said that there was a “really awesome agreement” between the results predicting in software simulation, and the results that bore out in actual wind tunnel testing.
Boom has already revealed what its first aircraft, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator (pictured above), will look like, but now it can actually start the task of building one. It expects to start construction in about a year. The demonstrator will be a human piloted, 1/3 scale prototype of the eventual 45-passenger jet craft it aims to use for commercial service.
The billionaire Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has teamed with Boom to offer ‘affordable’ $5,000 transatlantic supersonic flights between New York and London in 3.5 hours. Branson’s Spaceship company is helping Denver-based startup, Boom, build a new generation of supersonic jets and reintroduce transatlantic flight times unseen since Concorde was scrapped.
Supersonic Aircraft companies Spike Aerospace , Aerion and Airbus, have also proposed transatlantic plans for their Supersonic passenger aircraft and I can share some interesting pictures of the proposed interiors of these supersonic jets.