XB-1: Path to First Flight – December Update

First flight shifted to early 2024 — three safety enhancements (now completed) contributed to schedule update; XB-1 is currently configured for flight, preparing for high-speed taxi in weeks ahead; safety remains top priority for XB-1

As 2023 comes to a close, Boom’s XB-1 supersonic demonstrator has completed several pre-flight milestones and is now preparing for high-speed taxi tests, which will take place once the aircraft is fully cleared to fly — now planned for early 2024. 

In the last 12 months, XB-1 has received its airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, completed an extensive Flight Readiness Review (FRR), and successfully executed a series of integrated ground and taxi tests. 

XB-1 Vice President, Jeff Mabry details XB-1’s progress in this video.

We have also uncovered unanticipated challenges, and no XB-1 milestone is more important than safety. While new aircraft development inherently involves risk, we test thoroughly and take the time to ensure we meet our high safety and performance bar, even when this comes at the expense of schedule. 

Recently, testing revealed three opportunities to improve XB-1. In each case, we’ve taken the time to address them. This included upgrading XB-1’s landing gear (for increased reliability), optimizing the engine intakes (for improved resistance to engine stall), and adjusting XB-1’s dampers (for improved stability and control). Now implemented, these aircraft optimizations move XB-1’s first flight into early 2024. These learnings reflect the core purpose of XB-1: each represents technical advancements that pave the way for a smooth and successful delivery of our Overture supersonic airliner.

“While we didn’t get to see XB-1 take flight this year, that historic moment is now imminent,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic. “We always knew building the world’s first independently developed supersonic jet would be challenging, and I remain proud of our progress towards supersonic flight.” 

XB-1 Now in Flight Configuration

In early November, we conducted XB-1’s Flight Readiness Review (FRR), an extensive evaluation of the aircraft’s preparedness to conduct safe flight operations. In December, XB-1 advanced into its flight configuration, meaning all known configuration challenges on the aircraft have now been addressed and further testing will be focused on confirming readiness for flight.

To date, XB-1’s extensive ground testing has included taxi test events up to 94 knots (108 mph), ground vibration tests, fuel system tests, engine operability tests, drag chute tests, and multiple engine test events, including thorough exercising of XB-1’s three J85 engines.

Looking Ahead

Beginning early in 2024, XB-1 will begin its high-speed taxi testing phase, which when safely and successfully completed will lead to first flight.

From the beginning, Boom has established and met rigorous safety criteria for XB-1. With XB-1 in its flight configuration, the team has turned its attention to comprehensive confirmatory testing. As part of this final testing phase, we will resolve all due diligence items identified in the Flight Readiness Review (already two-thirds complete) and complete a final ground testing campaign launched in December (already 30% complete). Upon success, Boom will issue clearance for XB-1 to complete high-speed taxi tests and then take to the sky.

Following XB-1’s first flight, the team will systematically expand the flight envelope to confirm its performance and handling qualities through supersonic flight. This includes in-flight checks of all systems, as well as multiple test points demonstrating safe margin to flutter (vibration) boundaries. We anticipate a total of 10-20 flights from first flight to supersonic flight.

“It’s fitting that XB-1 is now progressing toward first flight at the Mojave Air & Space Port, home to more than 50 first flights and other significant aviation events,” said Bill “Doc” Shoemaker, Chief Test Pilot for Boom Supersonic. “I’m looking forward to flying XB-1 here, building on the achievements of other talented engineers and pilots who inspire us every day to make supersonic travel mainstream.”

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