Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
Boom Aviation has billed itself as the company that would bring supersonic flight back, how they will achieve it remains to be seen.
Have you seen an engineering team thinking about their resignation letters while on stage?
In the aftermath of the Second World War, many of the advances that were made in technology were percolating through things we use daily. Aviation technology had made a huge leap and there were plans to bring these advances to people.
One of the first civilian aircraft manufacturers in Britain was de Havilland. In 1949, they introduced a plane called de Havilland Comet, which was to be the fastest civilian plane at the time. The Comet is also the reason that we have round windows instead of square ones on planes. The square windows created corners that allowed for stress to accumulate. The Comet was prone to coming apart mid-air due to the square windows.
At the time when the Comet disasters of 1954 were afoot, a French and a British company were collaborating to undertake a study to produce supersonic jets. That plane designed by Sud Aviation and British Aircraft Corporation made its first flight on 2nd March 1969. We know this plane today as the Concorde.
The plane could maintain a speed of Mach 2 (2100 Km/h) and flew at the edge of the atmosphere at 60,000 feet. Most of the commercial planes that we fly on today fly at about 900 Km/h at an altitude of 30-35,000 feet.
The plane was painted as very accident-prone although it was only involved in three incidents of which one was fatal. The truth is that the cost of flying the plane was very high. At a $3800 ticket for a transatlantic flight, there were not too many takers.
In 2016, a company called Boom Aviation was incubated by Y Combinator. The company promised a vision of going supersonic across the world. They raised $51 Million only because they were incubated at the Y Combinator. To date, the company has delivered a beautiful website and a film that I am certain was produced by a gee-whiz animation team.
There are a handful of companies that make turbofan engines that are used on planes. In all, there are 22, but if you leave out Russian and Chinese manufacturers, you would be left with about a dozen manufacturers. Within that dozen, if you were to think of companies that could produce Mach-grade engines, you would come down to three. GE, Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce.
Rolls Royce was the company that had put together the engine for the Concorde.
Derby-based aero engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce has withdrawn from the Boom Overture supersonic airliner saying it had completed its contract with the project.
Rolls-Royce was one of several jet engine manufacturers helping Boom with engineering studies and had signed a two-year cooperation agreement with the US company.
Unlike other engine manufacturers, Rolls-Royce has real-world experience with engines on supersonic airlines having produced the Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 engines used on Concorde.
Source: UK Aviation
As you can see from the Concorde example above, it can take more than a decade to go from drawings to prototype. It can take as many as 2 decades to go into full-blown production.
This also explains why our aeroplanes look no different from the one you might have flown in 1990.
To put two decades worth of work into a project that no other manufacturer seems to be keen to buy is not a great business decision. Rolls Royce does not believe Boom is going to take the world on by fire and produce hundreds of these aircraft.
I said three manufacturers right…
In the wake of Rolls-Royce’s departure from Boom Supersonic’s Overture programme, three additional propulsion specialists have indicated they have no interest in developing powerplants for supersonic civilian aircraft, leaving fresh questions about who will supply the jet’s engines.
GE Aviation had been tipped to step in to the Overture programme using a version of the Affinity engine it had been working on to power a supersonic business jet being developed by now-defunct Aerion, a US company that failed in May 2021 amid financial difficulties.
But the engine manufacturer rules itself out: “Civil supersonic is not a segment that we are currently pursuing,” GE Aviation says.
Another of the relatively few companies capable of developing such a powerplant – Pratt & Whitney – declines to comment on the Overture programme. But a top P&W executive stresses that the company remains focused on subsonic engines.
Safran remains “strongly focused on the RISE initiative to develop the technologies for the next generation of narrowbody aircraft engines,” Safran says.
RISE – Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines – is a joint Safran-GE effort to develop an open-rotor powerplant, delivering a 20% fuel-burn saving at service entry, likely in the mid-2030s. RISE aligns with a broad push by the aerospace industry to reduce emissions.
Source: Flight Global
Aviation is a huge contributor to emissions and there is a push to make aviation cleaner and more sustainable. Building gas-guzzling Mach-grade engines does not seem to be the way to go.
In the computer industry, vaporware (or vapourware) is a product, typically computer hardware or software, that is announced to the general public but is late or never actually manufactured nor officially cancelled. Use of the word has broadened to include products such as automobiles.
Engines or not, these planes are going to fly. To offer proof of it, to the engine makers, the team at Boom went and…
American Airlines has agreed to purchase 20 supersonic Overture planes from Boom Supersonic, the companies announced Tuesday.
The deal is the second firm order in the last two years for Boom, still years from building its first commercial airplane. United Airlines made a commitment last year to buy 15 Overture jets.
How do you manage to sell a plane that has not even undergone a test flight? For which a proof of concept does not even exist? Where it is not even clear if it can be manufactured or not.
Hustle is a real thing!
This is a classic case of fake it till you make it.
The unfortunate truth is whether the people behind this company are futurists or frauds will be determined by the outcome, not by their intention.
You can set out to do something real and still fail; at the same time you could be just screwing around and end up creating value - case in point WeWork.