Why did Concorde use afterburners at startup

Supersonic air travel could start again in 5 years

About 25 years after the end of the ultimately completely uneconomical “Concorde” supersonic flight operations, super-fast air traffic could start again. Several companies in North America and Western Europe are now considering such plans.

Above the baby boom, below the design of the Concorde successor Boom: 76 orders for the passenger aircraft, which is supposed to reach twice the speed of sound, were collected by the start-up boom at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget. The aircraft is scheduled to go into series production in 2023.

Photo: Boom

The American Boom Technology Inc., founded in Denver in 2014, is likely to have come particularly far. Boom wants a scaled-down supersonic test jet ready to fly by the end of this year. 4 to 5 years later the “real” big supersonic jet with the name Overture will follow.

Boom Technology has money and customers

What sets Boom Technology apart from several potential competitors is that the start-up has both money and customers. Both are not enough in the long term, but both together are a solid starting point. The money so far is $ 150 million. And the two customers are well-known airlines, Japan Airline (JAL) with 20 Overture aircraft on order and the Virgin Group with a further 10 of these supersonic jets. Boom CEO Blake Scholl cites the unit price for the complete Overture aircraft without interior fittings of the passenger cabin as 200 million US dollars, an astonishingly low price for commercial aircraft. However, it is precisely these prices that are intended to enable airfares at today's business class tariffs, while the flight in the “Concorde” was only possible with “first-class” tickets.

What should Overture be able to do?

With a cruising speed of 2.2 MACH or 2.2 times the speed of sound, the aircraft should be able to fly from Western Europe to New York in a good 3 hours. The range is called 4,500 nautical miles or the equivalent of around 8,300 kilometers (with one tank of fuel). The normal cruising altitude is given as 60,000 feet or the equivalent of almost 20,000 meters. The passenger capacity depends on the seat spacing. In the long, narrow machine there is only one (window) seat on either side of the aisle. The offered capacity ranges from 55 to 70 passenger seats.

What is the technical aspect of Overture?

The “Concorde” consisted of the outer skin of the cabin, the wing and the stern elements essentially of aluminum, which despite its relative lightness resulted in a very high overall weight. The new jet, on the other hand, will essentially be made of fiber-reinforced carbon material. This is much lighter and, above all, can largely be printed in layers, which significantly speeds up and makes the manufacturing process cheaper. One of the advantages is that the “Concorde”, due to its aluminum construction, expands by a full 36 centimeters during fast flight with high frictional heat, a fact that many on-board systems had to take into account. The overture will also expand, but by less than 36 centimeters. While the “Concorde” was powered by 4 engines, all of which had afterburners to increase the air output of the engine, Overture managed without this complex acceleration aid. It is driven by 3 Pratt & Whitney turbines. As with the “Concorde” at the time, the American engines of the Overture, like those of the smaller XB-1, are originally purely military developments.

Before Overture comes the XB-1

In order to have all computer calculations and wind tunnel tests confirmed, Boom is currently building the small XB-1, which only offers space for pilots. However, all crucial techniques are the same as intended for Overture. This starts with the building material of the outer skin, the 3D printing, and extends to the delta shape of the wings. XB-1 is fully under construction and should be ready to fly by December this year. Even the test phase has already been very carefully prepared. The tests are carried out in cooperation with the American company Flight Research Inc. and extend over the so-called Mojave Supersonic Corridor, in which mainly military aircraft are tested over the largely uninhabited Mojave Desert. Flight Research also provides the chaser aircraft that flies alongside or after the test in order to perform additional test tasks. Overture itself will later not be allowed to fly at supersonic speeds over the country. Similar to the “Concorde”, because of the so-called supersonic bang when breaking through the sound barrier, it will only be possible to fly over water at full speed. As far as the noise in the subsonic area is concerned, i.e. primarily during take-off and landing, the XB-1 and Overture will lag behind the commercial jets flying today, i.e. they will fly more quietly.

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Already cooperations with many partners

What also distinguishes Boom from its competitors is the comparatively high number of already firmly agreed partnerships with well-known partners. This includes, for example, Prometheus Fels, a company that will supply a carbon-neutral fuel. But this also includes Stratasys, probably the largest manufacturer of 3D printing equipment in the western world. These partners also include the aircraft specialist Dassault Systèmes from France. A Chinese partner is also involved.

Simulation of a boom jet at Heathrow Airport in London: the plane is supposed to make the route New York - London in three and a half hours.

Source: Boom

The Baby-Boom is designed as a two-seater.

Source: Boom

But Boom is not the only manufacturer that wants to build a Concorde successor. Airbus wants to anticipate the boom and bring a civilian supersonic aircraft into the air as early as 2021.

Also read:

Boeing wants to build the fastest airplane in the world

Japan Airlines invests in supersonic jets

Virgin boss Branson wants to help build the successor to Concorde

A contribution by:

  • Peter Odrich

    Peter Odrich studied business administration with a focus on transport companies. After 28 years as a business editor for a German national daily newspaper with long activity in East Asia, he returned to his native Great Britain. Since then he has reported freelance for newspapers and technical information services in various countries. Transport issues, metals and East Asian issues are in the foreground.