A sub-scale prototype of a futuristic supersonic passenger airliner has been revealed for the first time, ahead of its official unveiling tonight.
Created by aerospace company Boom and backed by Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, the ‘Baby Boom’ jet could usher in a new era of affordable supersonic travel.
Claimed to be the ‘world’s fastest civil aircraft ever made’, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator is due to take off on its first test flight in late 2017 and could take passengers from London to New York in 3.5 hours, its maker claims.
The subsonic flight test will be conducted near Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California in partnership with Virgin Galactic’s The Spaceship Company.
The prototype was unveiled today at Centennial Airport in Denver.
The XB-1 is a technically representative ⅓-scale version of the future Boom Airliner.
‘I have long been passionate about aerospace innovation and the development of high-speed commercial flights,’ said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.
‘As an innovator in the space, Virgin Galactic’s decision to work with Boom was an easy one.’
The airline tycoon has confirmed that Virgin has options to buy 10 of the recently revealed supersonic Boom jets, which will be capable of flying at 1,451mph – about 100mph faster than Concorde – and reaching New York from London in three and a half hours.
‘Sixty years after the dawn of the jet age, we’re still flying at 1960s speeds,’ said Blake Scholl, a former Amazon executive and CEO and founder of Boom.
‘Concorde’s designers didn’t have the technology for affordable supersonic travel, but now we do.
‘Today, we’re proud to unveil our first aircraft as we look forward to first flight late next year.’
The XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator features engines developed by General Electric, avionics from Honeywell and a carbon fibre shell from Tencate, with composite structures fabricated by Blue Force.
The Boom jet was created by top aviation experts with collection experience working at NASA, SpaceX and Boeing.
Learning from the Concorde, they combined advanced aerodynamics, efficient engine technology and new composite materials to produce a ‘safe and affordable’ supersonic aircraft 2.6 times faster than current jetliners.
The prototype has been subjected to more than 1,000 simulated wind tunnel tests and features a tapered carbon fiber fuselage, and efficient turbofan jet engines.
Unlike Concorde, the Boom design requires no afterburner, which should significantly improve fuel efficiency.
In March, Virgin told MailOnline Travel: ‘Richard has long expressed interest in developing high speed flight and building high-speed flight R&D through Virgin Galactic and our manufacturing organization, The Spaceship Company.
‘We can confirm that The Spaceship Company will provide engineering, design and manufacturing services, flight tests and operations and that we have an option on the first 10 airframes. It is still early days and just the start of what you’ll hear about our shared ambitions and efforts.’
Scholl said: ‘We’re thrilled to be working with Virgin. It’s hard to imagine a better partner for bringing supersonics to market.’
When created Boom will have 45 seats – with a ticket costing $5,000 (£4,020).
Speaking to Bloomberg earlier this year, Scholl, 35, said: ‘The idea is for a plane that goes faster than any other passenger plane built before, but for the same price as business class.’
According to the simulations, Boom’s design is quieter and 30 percent more efficient than the Concorde.
It will be split into two single-seat rows, so everybody has a window and an aisle.
To reduce weight, the seats are of the standard domestic first-class variety, so no lay-down beds.
To cut flight time, Boom’s plane will cruise at 60,000 feet, where passengers will be able to see the curvature of the earth, while going 2.6 times faster than other passenger planes.
Scholl said about 500 routes fit the craft’s market, including a five-hour trip from San Francisco to Tokyo and a six-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.
‘Boom was founded on the philosophy that we need to overcome the challenges to supersonic passenger flight, not surrender to them,’ the firm says.
The firm hopes London to New York could be one of its most popular routes, with a 3.6 hour saving on a normal flight.
The firm even has record breaking US Astronaut Scott Kelly as an advisor.
It added: ‘We’re making a supersonic aircraft affordable for business travel. Our ultimate goal is routine supersonic flight for everyone.’
‘Today, international travel means jet-lag and days of lost productivity and family time. But imagine leaving New York in the morning, making afternoon meetings in London, and being home to tuck your kids into bed.
‘Unlike Concorde, flying Boom is affordable – the same price as business class,’ said Boom.
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