Boom Supersonic’s recently announced sustainability initiatives are ambitious and innovative, befitting a company with the lofty ambition of reintroducing supersonic commercial air travel. The world has not seen supersonic transport since British Airways operated its final commercial Concorde flight from New York to London in October 2003. But with companies like Boom looking to make supersonic travel quieter, faster and more environmentally friendly than ever before, it is not unreasonable to imagine this form of transport taking off once again.
Boom’s commitment to sustainability is far-reaching: the startup plans on maintaining carbon neutrality across every step of its test program. Before Boom can begin work on its commercial airliner, Overture, it needs to vigorously test its one-third scale demonstrator airplane known as XB-1, which will fly the supersonic highway above the Mojave Desert this summer.
The company claims it is the first commercial airplane manufacturer to commit to a carbon-neutral test program, through the use of sustainable aviation fuels and carbon offsetting. In June, Boom announced a partnership with Prometheus Fuels, a company that uses a process known as direct air carbon capture to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into jet fuel using renewable energy. Ground tests that ran XB-1 engines using a blend of over 80% sustainable fuel were successful.
In October, Boom created a dedicated team to manage Boom’s sustainability partnerships and initiatives, including new opportunities for sustainability in aircraft design, aviation fuel, flight routing and carbon offsetting. Former Google alum and ICAO Aviation Environmental Protection Committee member Raymond Russell is Boom’s head of Sustainability. Also on the team is head of European Policy Andreas Hardeman, who spent 20 years at IATA dealing with environmental policy issues. Aviation attorney Rachel Devine was named head of US Policy, and rounding out the group is aviation sustainability leader Dr. Lourdes Maurice.
Boom’s culture of sustainability permeates the entire operation. The company leverages 3D printing to reduce R&D costs and wasteful, transport-intensive design iteration. Boom claims that in some cases, this process leads to 90-98% material cost savings since the carbon-composite airframes of the aircraft are lighter than aluminum and maximize fuel efficiency. The Boom production facility is in the process of becoming LEED-certified. Even the urethane molds used for the XB-1’s wing skins were re-machined to create new assembly tools.
Boom’s vision of bringing families, businesses and cultures closer together through supersonic travel and making the world more accessible echoes the mid-century aspirations of the team of designers and engineers behind the Concorde. What has changed since then is the focus on sustainability. Boom CEO Blake Scholl noted that the designers of the Concorde “were ultimately limited by the technology of their time.” With more efficient propulsion systems, better materials and faster computational design techniques, supersonic air travel can be a responsible and worthwhile endeavor to pursue once again.
How the Boom Overture stacks up against the Concorde: