LONDON – It is almost poetic to think that Boom, the first supersonic aircraft to grace our skies since the retirement of Concorde back in 2003 will take its first flights two decades after its predecessor was retired. But is the reason that Boom has not yet conducted its planned flight tests on the “Baby Boom” XB-1 prototype? Or is there something wrong with the project?
Poetry Or Nightmare
While the official confirmation of flight testing is not yet confirmed, it has been said and planned for a while that the XB-1 test bed aircraft will conduct its first flight tests in what was supposed to be around September 2022.
This means that despite the aircraft having completed multiple engine run-up tests back in the first quarter of the year, we are now counting down the clock to the end of the year and have still got no official word from Boom on when they plan to conduct these next series of tests.
The “Overture” which is the aircraft that all the orders have been for, is not due to enter flight testing and certification formats until at the earliest 2026, something which Boom took the time to explain at the Farnborough Airshow in 2022, as it laid out its plane for the next decade on supersonic travel.
Should everything proceed to plan for the company, we will see the first “Overture” enter commercial service sometime in 2026, by which time many sweeping changes will have taken place across the aviation sector so it will be interesting to see how this new aircraft can work its self into the existing sub-sonic market which will have set its focus on being carbon neutral.
While it is true that the “Overture” will fly on 100 per cent sustainable fuel, it does not change the fact that once again Boom now faces the possible same fate as Concorde, where costs from engines and maintenance will start to out-weight the profits airlines can make on these aircraft, but let’s be honest, even if that does happen for a short time we would all love the idea of flying to the U.S from Europe and the U.K in under 4 hours once again.
Engine Doubts Shadow Project
The XB-1 Is powered by GE J85s, however, General Electric are not directly involved with the project as the engines are being managed by a third-party engine producer, but there are still major doubts over the “Overtures” entering into production in 2024 and service for 2029, as the company still doesn’t have a suitable option for the production of the engines.
This is mainly down to the specialist nature of the engines that the aircraft needs, as many engine producers such as General Electric and Rolls Royce are focusing on the next generation of engines for the sub-sonic aircraft, with the A321XLR, Boeings 777X and the new Airbus A350F all needing engine options.
So what can Boom do? Well, it seems unlikely as each month passes by that they are going to be on track for their planned 2029 entry into commercial service, but realistically how much could a project like this really be delayed until it starts to lose customer and consumer focus?
There is nothing to suggest that the airlines will cancel any pre-existing orders for the Overture, but we have seen before that delays in projects can have a major impact on a dynamic and fast past changing aviation market, with Emirates being a classic example of this when the carrier made a shock announcement to cut back on their 777X orders in favour of the A350 and A330neo, making them the first single widebody aircraft the UAE carrier has operated from Airbus since it first launched back in the late ’80s where it operated and A310.