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Boom CEO sees market for 1,000 supersonic passenger jets by 2035

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Published: May 3, 2017

Denver-based Boom Technology founder and CEO Blake Scholl believes the company’s first supersonic passenger aircraft can enter commercial service as soon as 2023 and there is a market for as many as 1,000 supersonic airliners to be delivered by 2035.

Speaking at the IATA Wings of Change conference in Miami, Scholl said $ 33 million in funding secured last month—bringing Boom’s total financing to $ 41 million—removes monetary obstacles for the company, enabling it to build and flight test the “Baby Boom” prototype that will be a precursor to the full-size Boom aircraft. The full-size aircraft will be able to seat up to 55 passengers in an all-business class configuration, according to Scholl.

The Baby Boom’s first flight is targeted for 2018, and the full-size Boom aircraft’s first flight is targeted for 2020 with a 2023 FAA certification goal. The Baby Boom, which is being built now, will be a third of the size of the planned full-size Boom aircraft.

“Finally, the funding is not the problem,” Scholl said. “$ 41 million is not enough to get all the way through certification, but enough to build the first Baby Boom airplane and prove that it works.”

Unlike the supersonic Concorde, which was so costly for airlines to operate that fares were largely unaffordable and led to its commercial demise, the Boom aircraft will be cost-efficient and affordable for passengers, Scholl said. “You could charge the same fares you’re charging in business class today and get the same margins or better,” he said.

The full-size Boom aircraft will be priced at $ 200 million each, Scholl said. Maintenance costs on the airframe will be “very similar” to other carbon fiber aircraft, such as the Boeing 787, according to Scholl. He conceded that engine maintenance costs will be higher, although he emphasized that the engine will be a modified version of today’s turbofan jet engines and not an exotic new design.

“None of this stuff is in a lab somewhere,” he said. “All of the technology being put into the Boom is flying on other aircraft today and the FAA knows how to approve it.”

Scholl said the Boom aircraft would be viable on 500 daily routes globally and is generating interest from airlines.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has taken options for the first 10 full-size Boom aircraft, and Scholl indicated additional agreements with airlines could be announced by the end of this year. “We get a lot of excitement from airlines all over the planet,” he said. “Getting there in half the time is a real differentiator for airlines.”

Flying at a speed of Mach 2.2 over water (overland supersonic flying is currently prohibited by regulation in the US), the Boom aircraft could fly between New York and London in 3 hr. and 15 min.; between Miami and Santiago de Chile in 3 hr. and 48 min.; between San Francisco and Tokyo in 5 hr. and 30 min.; and between Los Angeles and Sydney in 6 hr. and 45 min. The transpacific flights would require a refueling stop since the aircraft’s nonstop range will be limited to 4,500 nautical miles.

Although Scholl said it would be “irrational” for Airbus and Boeing to launch a commercial supersonic aircraft program now, he believes the established aircraft manufacturers will ultimately get into the game. “Will Boeing and Airbus do this? Eventually they’ll have to,” Scholl said. “But I think a startup is uniquely positioned to do this initially.”

The overall market for a new supersonic passenger aircraft is “not quite” as large as the market for the 787, but it is “close,” Scholl said. He acknowledged that Boom will not be able to serve this 1,000-aircraft market by itself in the decade or so after the first Boom aircraft enters service. “Scaling production is going to be a challenge,” he said. “We’ll likely start with a lower-rate production capability and then ramp that over time.”

Aaron Karp aaron.karp@penton.com


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