Today at the Farnborough International Airshow — the world’s largest airshow — Boom Supersonic unveiled the final version of its Overture supersonic airliner, a major milestones on its path to sustainable, supersonic flight.
Fifty-one years after the Concorde made its first appearance at Farnborough, Boom signaled significant progress toward delivering the world’s first economically and environmentally sustainable supersonic airliner.
The company has made no secret of how its use of both polymer (Stratasys FDM) and metal additive manufacturing (Velo3D) have dramatically shortened its development cycles and made many breakthroughs possible.[Read 3dpbm’s excusive interview with Boom Supersonic in our latest AM Focus Aerospace 2022 eBook issue]
Production Overture design reveal
Overture is the world’s fastest airliner — optimized for speed, safety and sustainability. Production Overture is the culmination of 26 million core-hours of simulated software designs, five wind tunnel tests, and the careful evaluation of 51 full design iterations.
“Aviation has not seen a giant leap in decades. Overture is revolutionary in its design, and it will fundamentally change how we think about distance,” said Boom Founder and CEO Blake Scholl. “With more than 600 routes across the globe, Overture will make the world dramatically more accessible for tens of millions of passengers.”
With this updated configuration, Boom combines a number of engineering innovations in aerodynamics, noise reduction, and overall performance. Key features include a four-engine design, contoured fuselage and gull wings.
Overture will be powered by four powerful, wing-mounted engines that enable the airliner to cruise at Mach 1.7 over water and just under Mach 1 over land. Additionally, the four-engine design reduces noise while also decreasing costs for airline operators. Engine placement was selected to conform to the strictest passenger safety requirements.
According to the principle of area-ruling, Overture’s contoured fuselage has a larger diameter toward the front of the aircraft and a smaller diameter toward the rear. Boom has applied this design technique to minimize drag and maximize fuel efficiency at supersonic speeds.
The aircraft’s gull wings are sculpted to enhance supersonic performance as well as improve subsonic and transonic handling. Importantly, the wing shaping also helps ensure safety and stability at any speed.
Overture has been developed from the beginning to be net zero carbon, flying on 100% SAF. Sustainability is woven into all aspects of Overture, from design and production to flight and end-of-life recycling.
Overture was created to achieve optimal performance while meeting stringent safety and sustainability requirements. We are integrating today’s regulations and industry expectations while simultaneously pushing the sector forward, from supply chain to production and safety requirements.
Overture will be the most profitable new addition to global commercial airline fleets, as it is capable of flying twice as many of the 600+ identified optimal routes in a day.
Strategic collaboration with Northrop Grumman
Boom Supersonic also presented landmark partnering agreement with Northrop Grumman to develop special mission variants for the U.S. Government and its allies.
“Time is a strategic advantage in high consequence scenarios, from emergency evacuations to disaster response,” said Scholl. “This collaboration between Boom and Northrop Grumman unlocks the potential for Overture to provide the US and our allies with an unmatched high-speed capability when and where it’s most needed.”
Together, the two companies will pursue new use cases for Overture to support government and military operations that require rapid response, including quick-reaction surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, as well as mobility and logistics missions such as emergency medical and troop transport.
“Pairing Northrop Grumman’s airborne defense systems integration expertise with Boom’s state-of-the-art Overture supersonic aircraft makes perfect sense,” said Tom Jones, president of Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. “Together we can ensure military variants of Overture are tailored for missions where advanced system capabilities and speed are critical.”
Overture’s top-tier suppliers
As it continues to build the supply chain for Overture, Boom announced new and expanded relationships. Collins Aerospace, Eaton, and Safran Landing Systems are joining the Overture program, supplying key systems such as landing gear, fuel and inerting, avionics, and ice protection.
Collins Aerospace will assist Boom in the evaluation and development of major aircraft systems and components for Overture. Engineers at Collins and Boom will perform aerodynamic analysis to evaluate Overture’s Ice Protection System, the system that prevents the formation of ice on the aircraft during flight. Boom will also work with Collins to assess Air Data System architectures that meet Overture’s field performance and range requirements.
The expanded joint effort with Collins builds upon several years of successful collaboration aimed at improving propulsion system performance and minimizing aircraft noise on Overture. Collins and Boom have worked together to develop inlet, nozzle, and exhaust system technologies to facilitate the net zero carbon operation of Overture.
Boom and Eaton are developing the Overture fuel distribution, measurement, and inerting systems. An industry leader in fuel systems for both military and commercial aviation, Eaton will contribute significant domain expertise to the Overture program on system analysis, including engine feed rates, refuel and jettison, venting, basic and emergency center of gravity control, and pump performance.
The first system to be co-developed between Safran and Boom will be the Overture landing systems. Technical teams at Safran Landing Systems and Boom will focus on incorporating the latest technology to improve aircraft safety, optimize weight, and reduce aircraft noise.
Testing and manufacturing facilities
Boom will begin outfitting its Iron Bird facility, where Boom will construct its first full-scale testing model of Overture, in Centennial, Colorado. Boom’s new 70,000-square foot facility will house the systems integration labs (SIL), which include the iron bird test model and fully functional flight deck simulators.
The iron bird is a skeletal steel structure in the rough shape of the airplane, and will be approximately 200 feet long and 100 feet wide.
The iron bird will be used to test and integrate Overture’s flight components and systems, software, and hardware-in-the-loop (i.e. physical components that will actually move). The Iron Bird building also maximizes safety, as it represents an opportunity to test and validate all critical systems before aircraft production launches in 2024 at the Overture Superfactory in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Iron Bird facility will be completed with an Overture cabin mockup and a virtual visualization room that uses a unique combination of virtual and augmented reality programs to aid in remote design of production aircraft assembled at the Overture Superfactory.
The Overture Superfactory will be located at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina as the site of its first full-scale manufacturing facility.
The Overture Superfactory will be a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, including the final assembly line, test facility, and customer delivery center for Overture.
In addition to the location of its Superfactory, Boom also announced a commercial agreement with United Airlines and a strategic partnership with the U.S. Air Force in the past year.
In June 2021, United Airlines reached a commercial agreement with Boom Supersonic to add aircraft to its global fleet as well as a cooperative sustainability initiative – a move that facilitates a leap forward in returning supersonic speeds to aviation.
Under the terms of the agreement, United will purchase 15 of Boom’s Overture airliners, once Overture meets United’s demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements, with an option for an additional 35 aircraft.
In January 2022, Boom Supersonic entered into a three-year strategic partnership with the U.S. Air Force valued at up to $60 million. Known as the Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI), the contract awarded to Boom is one of the program’s largest investments and a significant commitment to the future of supersonic aviation.
The STRATFI contract will accelerate research and development on Overture. The award represents a substantial increase in the Air Force’s financial investment in Boom following an SBIR Phase 2 contract awarded in September 2020.