Colorado-based Boom Supersonic says it has raised $100 million in Series B financing, bringing its total funding to more than $141 million.
“This new funding allows us to advance work on Overture, the world’s first economically viable supersonic airliner,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic, in a news release.
Current commercial airliners travel at an average cruising speed of about 900km/hour, or about 75 percent the speed of sound. By contrast, Boom envisions its Overture airliner traveling at Mach 2.2, which is about 10 percent faster than the Concorde traveled. The company says a flight from New York to London would take about 3 hours and 15 minutes, and Sydney to Los Angeles would take 6 hours and 45 minutes.
The Overture would carry 55 passengers, in a sleek cabin that eliminates overhead bins, with carry-on luggage stowed in under-the-seat lockers. The all business class seats would run in single rows on each side of the cabin, giving every seat both a window and aisle access.
One of the key innovations Boom hopes to demonstrate is reaching a high rate of speed without injecting additional fuel into the jet pipe after the turbine, a process known as afterburning. This increases thrust but substantially decreases fuel efficiency. The Concorde used afterburning during take off and acceleration; Boom hopes to ditch afterburning with better aerodynamics, materials, and propulsion.
London to NYC in just 3.4 hours? A roundtrip will set you back $5,000
Initially, the company said roundtrip flights would cost about $5,000. Now, on its website, it says, “Final ticket prices will be set by airlines, but we are designing the aircraft so that airlines can operate profitably while charging the same fares as today’s business class. Our ultimate vision is to reduce operating costs to make supersonic flight even more affordable and accessible.”
The Overture has a similar appearance to the Concorde from the outside, with a sleek nose and delta-wing shape. The key question is whether the company can design and develop the Overture vehicle for a reasonable amount of money, and then, whether commercial airliners can fly it profitably.
Concorde died because it was too expensive to operate. You can make a good argument that the project was doomed from the outset, because it was launched before the technology for efficient and affordable supersonic flight existed.
Today we have the technology for much faster flights at the same price as subsonic business class. This matters because while business class is just 10% of seats, it represents nearly half of international airline revenue and the majority of profits.
A round-trip ticket NY/London on Concorde cost about $20,000 (2016 dollars), fundamentally driven by poor fuel economy. At that price, this is a bucket list item for most of us — not practical transportation. Concorde had 100 seats and often flew with just 25% filled. It operated profitably on just a single route and only 14 entered service. A lack of economy of scale put further pressure on ticket prices, as it is tremendously expensive to maintain a small fleet of specialized aircraft.
To build a mainstream supersonic aircraft, one must (1) improve the fuel economy so that tickets can be affordable to more people and (2) right-size the airplane so that airlines can fill seats on many routes, achieving economy of scale.
The additional funding keeps Boom Supersonic on track with the development of the full-size Overture airliner, the company said.
Boom is growing quickly as it ramps up development. Today, the company has a full-time team of more than 100 and anticipates doubling this year. To accommodate the assembly of XB-1 and development of Overture, Boom recently relocated to a large, state-of-the-art facility in Centennial, Colorado. Selection efforts are ongoing for the manufacturing site for Overture, which will begin passenger service in the mid-2020s. Future customers include Virgin Group and Japan Airlines, which have pre-ordered a combined 30 Overture airliners.