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DUBAI: Boom to make a big noise at show about shortening long-haul travel

A one-way Emirates flight in an Airbus A380 business-class seat from Dubai to Sydney takes about 13.5h at Mach 0.85.

Boom Supersonic has a plan to shorten the trip by about 6h by 2023 with a new 55-seat airliner capable of flying Mach 2.2 on the same route over the Indian Ocean.

The Colorado-based start-up will make a debut appearance in the Dubai air show exhibit hall in booth 1676.

As the UAE already functions as a subsonic hub for Europe, Asia and Oceania, Boom founder and chief executive Blake Scholl will make the case that it is soon poised to become a supersonic hub – perhaps with the region’s major airlines as customers.

Since launching the programme within the Y Combinator startup incubation programme in 2016, Scholl, a pilot and former Amazon executive, has raised $41 million, launched development of the XB-1 “Baby Boom” supersonic prototype and collected 76 order commitments from multiple customers, including Virgin.

For all the coverage from the Dubai air show visit our dedicated event page

The Dubai air show is not Scholl’s first stop in the UAE as the head of Boom. In April, Scholl introduced his company’s vision for reviving commercial supersonic flight at the Dubai Future Foundation, according to the UAE newspaper The National.

Scholl aligns the Boom project with Dubai’s innovative vision for revolutionising travel, which has embraced development of a local network of autonomous trains, cars and air taxis.

“Supersonic flight is the biggest leap forward since the jet, removing time barriers and allowing passengers to make business and leisure trips to destinations that otherwise would have been too far,” Scholl says in a news release. “We’re excited to be here sharing our progress toward a faster future.”

Boom’s goal may be a faster future, but it merely revives a faster past.

For three decades until 2003, a small fleet of British Aerospace/Aerospatiale Concordes whisked travellers over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at speeds up to Mach 2.

But the Concorde fleet was retired in 2003 as spiralling operating costs made an already dubious business case untenable.

When the Concorde was retired, Scholl was managing a $300 million sales portfolio for Amazon.com. Seven years later, he co-founded an e-commerce start-up called Kima Labs, which was acquired by Groupon in 2012.

Scholl worked at Groupon for two more years, but by 2014 the private pilot started becoming puzzled by the strange absence of supersonic travel.

“It’s so strange that we had [supersonic] speed and then we lost it,” says Scholl, speaking on 25 October at the Aero Club in Washington DC.

When he decided to leave Groupon to launch a new business, a supersonic jet start-up seemed to be the right idea.

At first, he thought he would immerse himself in the technology and economics of supersonic flight for a few months, get it out of his system and move on to something else.

But his research led him down a different path. Scholl recalls that instead of an impenetrable technological barrier rendering affording supersonic travel impossible, he found the opposite.

Since the Concorde first flew on March 2, 1969, the aviation industry has pioneered several new generations of aerodynamic design tools, structural materials and propulsion systems. Creating a new supersonic airliner does not rely on finding a new breakthrough, Scholl says. The technology is already there.

“Put it together in a new package, you can have a breakthrough,” he says.

Computational fluid dynamics has made it possible for small companies to refine aerodynamic designs without costly and lengthy rounds of windtunnel tests. Advances in carbonfibre composites means designers are not limited to aluminium, which contracts when exposed to friction heat caused by supersonic speed. Finally, says Scholl, modern turbofans do not require afterburners to reach supersonic speed, meaning it is possible to design a supersonic aircraft that is far more fuel efficient than Concorde.

“Without inventing fundamentally anything new, our concept delivers high speed very affordably,” he says.

Adjusted for inflation, a round-trip ticket on Concorde from New York to London in the 1970s would cost $20,000 today. Boom is designing the 55-seat airliner to offer operating economics that allow an airliner to serve the same route for $5,000, Scholl says.

The New York-London route was Concorde’s only consistently profitable origin and destination. Boom’s aircraft should offer the economics to be profitable on 500 routes, Scholl says.

“We see an opportunity to sell 1,000 or 2,000 of these” aircraft, he adds.

Of course, all of this is still only theory. Boom plans to deliver a 77,100kg (170,000lb) airliner with Mach 2.2 speed by 2023, but first the start-up needs to get its aerodynamic feet wet, so to speak, with a subscale prototype.

The design of the XB-1 Baby Boom demonstrator was unveiled earlier this year as a one-third scaled prototype.

The company’s existing financing is enough to fund it through the construction and test phases of the XB-1, Scholl says.

First flight is scheduled for 2018, but Boom still has a lot of work to do. Scholl revealed a picture and video of what he called the first wing spar of the XB-1 during the Aero Club presentation. Following his speech, he clarified to Flight Daily News that the spar was actually a ground test article.

Once the XB-1 validates Boom’s design models, the company will start working on raising more money, then designing and building the full-scale airliner.

“What we see from the public is tremendous excitement about a faster future,” Scholl says. “We’re making that tangible to people and making the benefits real.”

For all the coverage from the Dubai air show visit our dedicated event page

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