Last week, Japan Airlines (JAL) and Boom Supersonic announced a strategic partnership to bring commercial supersonic travel to passengers. The supersonic aircraft are expected to go into service during the mid-2020s.

For the past few years, Boom has been developing a new-generation supersonic aircraft, which flies at Mach 2.2 and cuts flight times in half. During the 2017 Paris Air Show, Boom unveiled the completed design of the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, the subscale prototype of a composite-intensive, supersonic passenger airliner. The demonstrator is a one-third scale version of what the company intends to be the final version of the aircraft.

When it flies next year, the XB-1 will be the world’s fastest civil aircraft and will demonstrate key technologies necessary for mainstream supersonic travel. The demonstrator will fly with General Electric engines, Honeywell avionics, TenCate carbon fiber prepreg, and 3-D printed components from Stratasys. As Boom explained on its website, carbon fiber composites have a number of advantages over aluminum.

“Compared to aluminum, carbon composites can be manufactured efficiently in almost any shape, allowing us to implement the ideal aerodynamic design in a strong, lightweight structure,” says Boom. “Furthermore, composites handle the heat and stresses of supersonic flight better than aluminum. At Mach 2.2 (1,451mph), the nose and leading edges of our aircraft reach 307°F (345°F on a hot day). Concorde, built from aluminum, grew about 15″ in length due to the heat of supersonic flight. Composites expand much less with heat, allowing a simplified and lighter design.”

JAL has made a strategic investment of $10 million in Boom and is collaborating with the company to “refine the aircraft design and help define the passenger experience for supersonic travel.” JAL also has the option to purchase up to 20 Boom aircraft through a pre-order arrangement. The two companies will cooperate closely to realize faster and more convenient air travel.

“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic. “JAL’s passionate, visionary team offers decades of practical knowledge and wisdom on everything from the passenger experience to technical operations. We’re thrilled to be working with JAL to develop a reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers. Our goal is to develop an airliner that will be a great addition to any international airline’s fleet.”

For those attending CAMX in Orlando, Fla. tomorrow, Boom engineer Kerry Manning will be speaking during the General Session to explain the role of composites in the development of Boom’s aircraft. For more information, visit https://www.thecamx.org/conference-program/.