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Boom: how a startup is trying to make supersonic flights commercially viable

BEAM Staff
October 16, 2017
Boom, the US-based startup that graduated from YCombinator in 2016, has to date raised $41 million from a series of investors including Richard Branson and Paul Graham on a simple idea, make supersonic flights commercially viable for airlines.

Although supersonic flights were a made a reality with the development of the Concorde as early as 1976, airlines could not operate them in a commercially viable way. This combined with high noise levels severely limited the market for supersonic flights, leading to the Concorde being retired from circulation in 2003.

Through the use of advanced composite materials, a new aerodynamic design and custom-built engines, Boom however believes that it has found a way to fix these problems, offering viability at the same price level as the cost of a business class ticket today, with its plane reaching Mach 2.6, twice the speed of any commercial airliner currently in circulation.

Earlier this year, Boom introduced a new design for its XB-1, a supersonic jet it's building as a working prototype to prove out its tech before it starts working on large passenger aircraft. According to the company, it already has 76 pre-ordered aircrafts from five airlines that have put down non-refundable deposits to be amongst the firsts to operate Boom supersonic jets.

"It's a combination of things" says Boom CEO, Blake Scholl, "The build cost of the airplane itself is about $13 million. So that's carbon fiber composites, and avionics and the hydraulics and fuel pumps and all the stuff of an airplane. The bigger cost is actually the engineering team, the development cost."

The XB-1, currently in construction at Boom, will have a range of 1,000 nautical miles and a cruising speed of 2,335 km/h with first test flights expected towards the beginning of next year. The company plans to introduce supersonic passenger flights as early as 2023.

Potentially able to reach New York from London in just 3 hours and 20 minutes, the Boom Jet could cross from San Fransisco to Tokyo in just 5h 30 minutes. "We are talking about the first supersonic jet people can afford to fly." says Scholl "This isn't science-fiction, we're actually doing this."