Frequently asked questions

Flying Supersonic

Why supersonic flight?

Boom is committed to making the planet dramatically more accessible. From 1903 to 1976, the speed of passenger aviation increased relentlessly from 7 mph to Mach 2. Then something broke. Over the last 40 years, not only have we failed to generate further speed increases, we’ve lost supersonic capability.

This step backwards means it takes longer than it should to arrive at your destination—more time spent in a metal tube instead of being there. When distances and travel times seem insurmountable, people stay home. Supersonic flight removes a critical barrier to new business relationships, new cultural experiences, and more time with loved ones.

What will the onboard experience be like?

As we design a clean-sheet, modern supersonic airliner, we are taking the opportunity to rethink the end-to-end passenger experience. Our goal is to provide a tranquil and stress-free experience from the moment you step aboard—whether you want to work, play, or relax. Each passenger has a large personal window, direct aisle access, and dedicated underseat storage. Seat dimensions will be comparable to short-haul first class, with many subtle and not-so-subtle design improvements.

On flights over 6 hours (i.e., those over 15 hours today), airlines may offer a first-class lie-flat suite experience.

What does it feel like to fly supersonically?

Supersonic aircraft fly higher than existing airliners, cruising at up to 60,000 feet. At this altitude, you fly above most of the turbulence, allowing a smoother ride than on subsonic aircraft. Looking out your window, you will see the darkness of space above you and the curvature of the Earth below.

Breaking through the “sound barrier” is inaudible and uneventful; you simply won't notice it. On Concorde, announcements were made and champagne was served to celebrate the moment, which otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

How much will tickets cost?

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.

Are there health risks associated with supersonic flight?

Boom’s supersonic airliner will fly higher and faster than existing aircraft. At higher altitudes, the thinner atmosphere is less effective at screening cosmic and solar radiation, so exposure per unit time is higher. However, faster speeds mean you spend less time in the air in the first place. On balance, total radiation exposure aboard a supersonic jet is about the same as on a subsonic flight of the same distance.

More conclusively, we know for certain that sitting for long stretches of time is unhealthy. Sitting in one place for too long causes blood circulation to slow, which can cause serious problems such as deep vein thrombosis. The Mayo Clinic recommends trying to stand or walk occasionally when on a plane as a preventative measure. Because supersonic flights are shorter than subsonic ones, passengers spend less time sitting still. It stands to reason, therefore, that there is at least this one health benefit associated with supersonic travel.

The Environment

What about the sonic boom?

Boom's airliner is designed to maximize efficiency while producing a “boom” at least 30 times quieter than Concorde's.

There are many common misconceptions about sonic boom. Other commonplace noises, such as thunder, are louder than sonic booms. Sonic booms generated by commercial aircraft at cruise altitude do not break windows or cause any damage to structures. Sonic booms generated by an F-4 flying below 100 feet have been experienced by humans with no hearing damage or other injury reported. These booms are over 100,000 times stronger than what Boom's aircraft will produce.

Unfortunately, supersonic flight is banned over the United States. This ban should be reversed and replaced with a commonsense noise standard, set to promote efficient, affordable supersonic flight while disallowing nuisance. In the meantime, Boom will focus on routes that are primarily overwater—such as New York to London or San Francisco to Tokyo, flying subsonically when over land. Over 500 routes benefit immediately and significantly from supersonic speeds.

How will Boom affect climate change?

Fuel efficiency and operating costs go hand in hand. Since our aircraft has the same fuel burn as subsonic business class, it also has the same fuel consumption and emissions profile. We are relentlessly innovating toward lower fares—which will mean further reductions in fuel consumption and emissions.

While it is important to preserve mankind’s ability to flourish on our planet, it is also important to extend that ability. A key part of this flourishing, in our view, is supersonic travel. We look forward to working with innovators and scientists around the world to ensure that the future is both green and supersonic.

What about takeoff noise?

Relative to the current fleet of long-haul commercial airplanes, Boom’s airliner is fairly small—because noise limits are set based on aircraft weight, our aircraft will actually be quieter than many planes flying today.

Supersonic Economics

Supersonic flight has been promised for decades. Why is it finally coming now?

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947, but supersonic flight has not historically been economical enough for routine commercial operations.

Key advancements, such as composite fuselages and high-temperature material systems, have only recently been accepted by the FAA for use on commercial aircraft. Today, we finally have the technology for efficient, economical, and safe supersonic flight.

Concorde wasn't an economic success, and no other supersonic aircraft has come to market since. Why will Boom succeed?

Every passenger wants faster flights, and every airline would like to offer a faster, more differentiated service to their customers. The challenge is balancing operating costs and marketable fares. Concorde was troubled by (1) high operating costs, driven by fuel consumption, and (2) low utilization and load factors, due to the necessarily high fares.

The business case for supersonic travel rests on reducing operating costs enough to turn a profit at fare levels that the market already supports. Surprisingly, this requires just a 30% efficiency improvement over Concorde's 50-year-old airframe and engines. The fundamental technologies required for this, such as composite structures, are already in service in today’s fleet.

A successful supersonic service has to offer fares that passengers are willing to pay. With up to 55 seats, the Boom aircraft can achieve load factors similar to or better than premium cabins in subsonic widebodies. With lower operating costs and higher load factors, our airliner will bring supersonic flight back in economically sustainable fashion.

Will passengers be willing to pay a premium for speed?

Today, passengers pay a 4–5x premium for business class, even though those seats don't arrive any sooner than economy. Passengers in all service classes pay a premium for more convenient itineraries like nonstop services, so it’s reasonable to expect that customers will be willing to pay more for faster travel.

Moreover, airline customers will find hidden cost savings in supersonic travel: saved executive time, saved hotel expenses, and saved meals and entertainment expenses. All of these factors imply that passengers indeed value the time saved by flying supersonic.

How will supersonic flight affect the competitive landscape?

The first airlines to adopt supersonic jets will enjoy a significant competitive advantage. The advantage of dramatically faster itineraries will give operators an edge in attracting their competitors’ most profitable premium passengers. A halo effect increases share even on subsonic routes, as customers prefer to earn loyalty points with carriers who offer supersonic service.

This is a significant shift in the competitive landscape. Today's carriers have thin margins and must think constantly about fare levels and operating costs, because the industry is fairly undifferentiated. Deploying a supersonic airliner gives airlines the opportunity to offer a dramatically more attractive product.

Boom's Airliner

Why is the airplane just 55 seats?

A major problem with Concorde was its size—the airplane had more seats than could be filled at the required prices. Boom’s airliner has 55 seats, carrying about as many people as the premium cabin in a typical widebody aircraft. If you can fly a widebody aircraft with good load factor, you can also fly a Boom aircraft with the same schedule and expect good load factors.

When do supersonic flights start?

We are currently hard at work on XB-1, our supersonic demonstrator, which will first break the sound barrier in 2019 and will reach Mach 2.2 shortly thereafter in subsequent testing.

We will pursue rigorous airworthiness testing and FAA certification of our passenger airliner on an aggressive timeline, but we will never compromise on safety or cut corners.

How do the economics compare to existing aircraft?

Total operating cost per seat-mile is comparable to subsonic business class.

What is the fuel economy of your supersonic airliner?

Fuel burn per seat-mile is comparable to subsonic business class.

Why three engines?

A third engine helps lower takeoff noise. Additionally, under current FAA regulations, three-engine aircraft are considered to be more reliable. ETOPS rules, which ensure that two-engine airplanes are always within range of an airport in the event of an engine failure, permit new three-engine aircraft to fly more direct overwater routes than twinjets, leading to faster flight times.

What about certification?

We will certify to FAA Part 25 standards, the same as other large passenger aircraft. As with Concorde, we expect to comply with special conditions related specifically to supersonic flight.

XB-1 will receive an airworthiness certificate in the experimental R&D category.

Will Boom require special ground equipment or runways?

No. We’re designing our airliner to be compatible with existing ground support equipment, gates, and runways. Boom’s airliner will be able to operate out of all major international airports without any modifications to terminal design or runway length.

What is the aircraft's range? How will you handle longer transpacific routes?

Boom's airliner is designed for routes up to 10,357 miles (9,000 nm or 16,668 km). On routes longer than 5,179 miles (4,500 nm or 8,334 km), the aircraft will make a brief tech stop to refuel. This process will take less than an hour, and passengers will not need to deplane or even wake up.

For routes over 4,500 nm, we include the duration of a tech stop in the estimated time. A flight from San Francisco to Tokyo, currently a journey of nearly eleven hours, will take a bit more than five hours at Mach 2.2, even including the tech stop.

What does the airplane cost?

The actual sale price of the aircraft is $200M, plus options and interior, in 2016 dollars. On an available premium-seat-mile basis, Boom's supersonic airliner is meaningfully less costly to operate than subsonic widebody aircraft.

Unlike other aircraft manufacturers, our published price is the real price—not a phony figure 2x higher.

Will your aircraft be offered as a private jet?

Yes, our airliner can also be configured as an ultra-VIP personal or business aircraft.

For our fans

I'd like to get some Boom t-shirts, models or other swag.

We're currently reworking our merchandise store. Check back soon!

Can I invest in the company?

Boom is privately held and funded by individual investors, venture capital funds, and future airline customers. We are not taking new investments at this time.

Can I tour your offices?

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer tours.

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