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Boom!Text by Divan Muller Images courtesy of Boom Supersonic Commercial aviation’s return to supersonic flightTwenty years ago, when Concorde was retired, the world became a bigger place. Concorde and the less successful Soviet Tupolev Tu-144, which was retired much earlier, were the world’s only supersonic airliners. With the industry focussed on developing more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft, a return to supersonic air travel seemed unlikely. However, what if an efficient, environmentally friendly, supersonic aircraft could be built?In 2014, software engineer, entrepreneur and private pilot Blake Scholl founded Boom Supersonic in Denver, Colorado. His goal was to make high-speed air travel possible again. In 2015, development of the company’s proposed supersonic airliner, the Overture, began. Then, the next year, development of the XB-1, the Overture’s experimental technology demonstrator, commenced.Japan Airlines was the first potential operator to show interest in the project. In 2017, the airline invested $10 million and pre-ordered twenty Overture airliners. Three years later, Boom and Rolls-Royce announced that they would be collaborating to identify and develop an ideal propulsion system, compatible with future net-zero carbon requirements. Later that year, Boom rolled out a fully assembled XB-1 demonstrator and test aircraft. It was also announced that engineers from Collins Aerospace would help develop inlet, nacelle and exhaust systems to reduce fuel burn and reduce noise during supersonic flight. Last year, United Airlines agreed to purchase fifteen Overtures, with an option to purchase 35 additional aircraft.Earlier this month, the US Air Force entered a three-year strategic partnership with Boom, providing funding to accelerate design and development initiatives. According to Boom Supersonic, “a derivative of Overture could offer the Air Force a future strategic capability in rapid global transport and logistics. Potential users and applications include executive transport, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, special operations forces, and the Pacific Air Forces.”Once it enters service, what will Overture look like? With a length of 62m, the aircraft will be about the same size of Concorde, its supersonic predecessor. It will be able to carry 65 to 88 passengers at an altitude of 60 000 ft. While Concorde could fly at twice the speed of sound, Overture will fly at a slightly slower, but still impressive speed of Mach 1.7. It will have a range of almost 7,900 km. The aircraft is set to enter production next year and roll out in 2025. It should enter service by the end of this decade.
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