Japan Airlines (JAL) announced a strategic investment in Boom Supersonic, a Denver-based company. JAL is investing $10 million with Boom to help the manufacturer develop its Mach 2.2 airliner (10% faster than Concorde, the last attempt at a supersonic passenger plane), giving Boom’s executives and engineers a partner with decades of industry experience.
“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic. “JAL’s passionate, visionary team offers decades of practical knowledge and wisdom on everything from the passenger experience to technical operations. We’re thrilled to be working with JAL to develop a reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers. Our goal is to develop an airliner that will be a great addition to any international airline’s fleet.”
“We are very proud to be working with Boom on the possible advancement in the commercial aviation industry,” said Yoshiharu Ueki, President of Japan Airlines. “Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic travel with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers while emphasizing flight safety.”
Boom is confident that it can overcome fatal design flaws present in the Concorde. There are, however, multiple visual similarities. Both planes have a tapered fuselage that gets thinner toward the back of the plane, where the delta wings are thickest. This makes the plane less sensitive to turbulence and strong crosswinds at supersonic speed.
Both planes also have a chine. This is a nose extension similar to that of fighter jets that helps to generate lift at supersonic speeds, offsetting the tendency of the plane’s center of gravity to shift backward at high speeds
Besides overall speed and design, Boom is trying to make its plane better than Concorde in other ways. Boom’s plane, for example, will have a sonic boom 30 times quieter than Concorde. Boom also says that fares in its planes could be up to 75% less than fares on Concorde.
JAL is specifically working with Boom to refine certain parts of its aircraft design. Boom gets the benefit of manufacturing benefits that weren’t around during Concorde’s time. For example, Boom can build its aircraft after carbon composite materials lighter and less susceptible to heat expansion (aircraft temperatures can reach 150 degrees Celsius while mid-flight at supersonic speeds) than Concorde’s aluminum frame.
“This is about signaling to the broader ecosystem that this is something that there’s real airline customer interest in,” said Scholl. “The money is largely symbolic, but it’s an important symbol. JAL doesn’t put $10 million around without thinking really hard about it.”
Boom announced in March that it is ready to begin developing a supersonic demonstrator. Boom announced 76 firm aircraft orders at the Paris Air Show in June, including an option for JAL to pre-order as many as 20 planes. (Virgin Atlantic is the only other customer to be publicly identified. It holds orders for the first 10 Boom jets.)
Including JAL’s investment, Boom has, according to Scholl, now raised a total of $51 million. School says that the money is more than enough to develop a small two-seat aircraft, called XB-1, to demonstrate what the larger plane could do.
Boom’s supersonic aircraft will have a max range of 5178 miles (8333 kilometers) for up to 55 passengers in a business class setting. The plane is expected to take off for the first time in 2018 and begin service in the mid-2020s. The aircraft could reduce flight times between London and New York to as little as 3 hours 15 minutes; a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo on a Boom plane could take about 5.5 hours, a trip that takes subsonic jets about 11 hours; and a flight between Hong Kong and Tokyo could be cut from five hours to two hours.
“Think about for a moment the families that are separated because of the long flights. Think about the trips not taken because when you add up the lost hours, the trip just doesn’t feel worth it,” Scholl said at the Dubai Airshow. “You won’t have to be on the Forbes’ list to be able to fly, it will cost about the same as flying business class today. The ultimate goal is to make supersonic affordable for anyone who flies.”
Boom’s suppliers include General Electric Co, Boeing, Honeywell International Inc, and TenCate Advanced Composites.
Featured image by Boom Supersonic