Concerns over the viability of supersonic flight have halted its progression for decades, but one company is using modern technology to develop a supersonic jet that could finally bring affordable and sustainable flight, faster than the speed of sound, to the masses - and cutting journey times in half.
In 1947, the first supersonic jet took to the skies, with American pilot Chuck Yeager becoming the first to break the sound barrier. To make the technology mainstream, the British and French governments joined forces to create the Concorde: the first commercial-sized supersonic jet capable of transporting 100 passengers or more.
Over a span of nearly 30 years in operation, Concordes were able to provide their passengers with the fastest flight times in the world: topping out in 1996 with a trip from New York to London in under two hours and 53 minutes.
The problem was although the Concorde managed to fly at supersonic speeds (768 miles per hour), it cost way too much to operate (guzzling 6,770 gallons of fuel per hour), and finally was taken out of service in 2003.
Today, a startup called Boom Supersonic is designing a new supersonic jet that might just become the commercial airliner of the future. What Boom has done is to modernize how the aircraft is constructed, as well as the technology used to test them. Unlike Concorde, which was weighed down by heavy aluminum, Boom’s jet has a strong yet lightweight airframe built using carbon fiber composites. Additionally, the startup is using computer simulators, rather than wind tunnels, for aerodynamic development. This allows testing, which would have previously taken months, to now take hours if not minutes.
The loud, inefficient, and after-burning turbojets have been replaced by quiet, environmentally-conscious turbofans.
If you’re thinking that the Boom’s supersonic jet sounds like 'pie in the sky', think again: it disproved the skeptics when they rolled out their XB-1 model earlier this month and the company has already received pre-orders for their jets from Virgin Atlantic and Japan Airlines, who are clearly attracted by the prospect of cutting flight times in half.