For $10 million, Japan Airlines (JAL) is backing commercial supersonic travel. A strategic investment in U.S.-based Boom Supersonic sets the airline up for an opportunity to collaboratively design — and possibly purchase — Mach 2.2 aircraft.
“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.”
Boom Supersonic’s airliner concept travels at 1,451 mph and carries 55 passengers. According to the company’s website, medium-bypass turbofan engines that are based on a proven commercial engine core would deliver quiet takeoff and efficient supersonic cruise. A slender fuselage and refined delta wing have been optimized through 1,000-plus simulated wind tunnel tests to make the design more aerodynamic. Carbon fiber-reinforced plastic would be able to withstand the intense heat of supersonic flight, while also providing a lightweight and strong structure.
Boom Supersonic’s hangar is located at Centennia Airport in Colorado. Next year the company plans to fly “the first independently developed supersonic jet,” the XB-1 — powered by three General Electric J85-21 turbojet engines. These are fed by three variable geometry supersonic intakes, according to the company. Each engine has a variable geometry nozzle system. The XB-1 uses a compact turbojet engine, while the production airliner uses a medium-bypass turbofan engine for additional quiet and efficiency, Boom Supersonic said.
Subsonic flight tests would be conducted east of the Denver metro area, with supersonic flight proven near Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California in partnership with Virgin Galactic, according to the company’s website.
The agreement has JAL collaborating with Boom Supersonic to refine the aircraft design and help define the passenger experience for supersonic travel, the airline said. It also gets the option to purchase up to 20 Boom Supersonic aircraft through a pre-order arrangement — joining Virgin Group as an option holder.