Are you as excited as I am to learn that supersonic air travel is set to return by around the end of the decade?
Boom Technology’s Overture supersonic airliner is in design and has already received firm orders. So, unless the company is unable to meet its confirmed airline customer’s strict safety and operational requirements, it seems that supersonic air travel will once again be an option; something we have not seen for almost 20 years.
I missed out on the Concorde experience, so a trip on a Boom Overture is definitely going on my bucket list!
Boom Technology: A Company with Supersonic Ambitions
Boom Technology, the maker of the Overture, was founded in 2014 by Blake Scholl with the goal of making high-speed travel mainstream. Prior to founding Boom, Blake held leadership roles at Amazon and Groupon and co-founded the mobile technology startup Kima Labs.
The Boom Technology Company Mission is “to make the world dramatically more accessible.”
Boom Technology is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, USA, and its leadership team consists of a number of highly qualified engineers and executives. The governance of the company also includes oversight by an eminent advisory council which includes former senior executives from Boeing, the FAA, and the USAF.
Boom Overture: The Next Supersonic Commercial Aircraft?
The Boom Overture will be powered by four Rolls Royce turbofan engines, without afterburners to minimize noise and fuel consumption. The expected cruising speed is Mach 1.7 (1,300mph/2,080kph) over oceans, which is around twice the speed of current commercial aircraft.
It will fly subsonic at Mach 0.94 (720mph/1,160kph) over land and near coasts so that people on the ground will not be exposed to sonic booms. The Overture design team has worked hard to reduce take-off and landing noise, and the aircraft will meet the same regulatory noise levels as new subsonic aircraft.
The Boom’s cruising altitude will be 60,000ft (18,300m) and its maximum take-off weight (MTOW) is expected to be around 77 tonnes.
It will have a range of 4,250nm (4,888m/7,867km) with a full payload. This will allow non-stop transatlantic flights; however, transpacific flights would require a refueling stop.
Boom Technology is designing the Overture to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and the objective is the make this aircraft net carbon zero.
Dimensions and Key Design Features
The Overture will have a capacity of 65-80 passengers, and its key dimensions are as follows:
- Length: 201ft (61.3m)
- Wingspan: 106ft (32.3m)
- Height: 36 feet (11.0m)
Key design features are as follows:
- Contoured fuselage: The Overture’s fuselage will have a larger diameter toward the front of the aircraft and a smaller diameter toward the rear. This design technique optimizes airflow to minimize drag and maximize fuel efficiency at supersonic speeds.
- Compound modified delta planform: This improves supersonic performance and subsonic stability to maximize safety and efficiency.
- Carbon composite construction: This reduces the weight of the aircraft making it more fuel efficient, and more sustainable. These composites also maintain strength at high temperatures and expand and contract less than metal under supersonic conditions, allowing the Overture to fly at higher speeds more safely.
- Gull wings: These minimize drag and, therefore, engine thrust by allowing air to flow smoothly over and around the aircraft.
- Contoured wing profile: This reduces sonic shock and creates a swirling vortex along the entire wing surface to generate lift and reduce engine stress.
So far, it seems that Boom Technology has received more than 200 firm orders or options for the Overture, these include:
- American Airlines: 20 orders and 40 options
- United Airlines: 15 orders and 35 options
- Japan Airlines: 20 orders
- Virgin Group: 10 options
- An undisclosed European carrier: 15 options
The Overture will dramatically shorten flying times and allow airlines to offer a new flying experience on many key routes. Boom Technology’s stated flying times for example routes are as follows:
- London – New York: 3.5 hours
- Frankfurt – New York: 4 hours
- San Francisco – Tokyo: 6 hours
- Miami – London: 5 hours
- Los Angeles – Honolulu: 3 hours
Ticket prices are expected to be comparable to current business class fares.
Key milestones in the development of the Boom Overture are as follows:
- 2016: Virgin Group place options for Overture aircraft.
- 2017: Japan Airlines becomes a Boom Technology strategic partner.
- 2020: Boom Technology and Rolls Royce form an engagement agreement.
- 2020: Boom Technology announced that the USAF had placed a contract to develop the Overture as a possible replacement for Air Force One.
- 2021: United Airlines announced plans to buy 15 aircraft with options for 35 more.
- 2022: American Airlines announced plans to buy 20 Overture aircraft with options for 40 more.
- 2022: The Overture design was revealed.
- 2022: The Overture ‘Superfactory’ was announced: Aircraft production will be done at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. The Superfactory will be a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, including the final assembly line, test facility, and customer delivery center for the Overture. The Superfactory is expected to have a production capacity of 5 – 10 aircraft per month.
- 2024: Expected launch of Overture production.
- 2025: Expected first Overture rollout.
- 2026: Expected first Overture flight.
- 2029: Expected type certification.
- 2030: Overture expected to enter commercial services with launch customers.
Boom Overture vs. Concorde: How Do They Compare?
The Boom Overture will have similar overall dimensions to Concorde.
However, there will be two key physical differences between these two supersonic aircraft. The Overture will be a much lighter aircraft thanks to its carbon composite construction, compared to Concorde’s heavier aluminum construction.
The Overture will carry fewer passengers than Concorde, and whilst no seating layout plans have been released by Boom Technology, a Boom Technology render image of the cabin interior shows much roomier seats, possibly 1-1 in First Class, compared to Concorde’s all 2-2 seat configuration.
That said, the seating layout will ultimately depend on the customers’ decisions and chances are they might opt for more dense configurations if the certification allows for it.
|Aircraft||Length/ m||Wingspan/ m||Height/ m||Seats||MTOW/ kg|
The Overture will have a slightly longer range than Concorde but when traveling in supersonic mode it will travel slightly slower than Concorde.
The significantly lower weight of the Overture requires engines with much less thrust than the hugely powerful (and noisy) Concorde engines. Boom Technology estimates that the Overture will be able to operate at around one-quarter of the costs of Concorde by relying on its dry (no afterburner) engines and its lightweight composite structure.
|Aircraft||Range||Cruising Speed||Cruising Altitude||Engine Thrust|
|Concorde||3,900nm (7,222km)||Mach 2.02 (2,490kph/1,550mph)||60,000ft||4 x 31,000 – 38,000 lbs|
|Overture||4,250nm (7,867km)||Mach 1.7 (2,080kph/1,300mph)||60,000ft||4 x 15,000 – 20,000 lbs|
The Boom Overture offers the prospect of sustainable supersonic air travel with capital and operating costs at levels that can make it a commercial success. The Boom Overture is expected to sell at a price around $200m, which is slightly more expensive than a new 787, and significantly less expensive than a new 747-8.
Whilst the Overture may look similar in some respects to Concorde, its design and efficiency are a world away. The Overture is made largely of carbon composite material making it lightweight, leading to significantly enhanced fuel economics.
If development continues to go well, and type certification is achieved, commercial operations are expected to start around 2030. The potential relaunch of commercial supersonic air travel is an aviation milestone that I’m looking forward to with much anticipation!