Which Companies Are Competing In The Supersonic Flight Race?

**Update: 03/08/20 @ 16:10 UTC – Update on the nature of Lockheed Martin’s project**

With the recent news that Boom Supersonic has chosen October 7th as the date to reveal its first completed prototype, we thought we’d take a step back and look at all the companies who are racing towards producing a commercially viable supersonic passenger jet.

Aerion is backed by both Boeing as well as GE Aviation. Photo: Aerion

Aerion Supersonic and the AS2

Aerion is an American company headquartered in Reno (Nevada) with facilities in Palo Alto (California). The company proudly announces on its website that it has backing from both Boeing and GE Aviation – two of the biggest names in aerospace and aviation.

At the end of 2019, Aerion had also announced an agreement with Safran for work on the landing gear and some of the AS2’s engine design. Other big names like Spirit Aerosystems and Honeywell are also part of the project.

Its product will be a supersonic passenger jet geared towards business travelers and sized accordingly.

Interestingly, Aerion says the AS2 will be the first supersonic aircraft designed with the ability to accept 100% biofuels.

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Aerion is headquartered in Reno, Nevada. Photo: Aerion

Boom Supersonic and the Overture

Seemingly the furthest ahead in the supersonic race is Boom Supersonic, which is headquartered at Centennial Airport in Colorado. As mentioned earlier, the company will reveal its first prototype to the world this coming October. Named the XB-1, the prototype is a one third scale trijet, which will be used for testing and development – leading up to the full-size Overture later on down the road.

“With XB-1, we’re demonstrating that we are prepared to bring back supersonic. We’re ensuring that the supersonic future is safe and environmentally, and economically sustainable. We’ve learned that the demand for supersonic has grown even faster than we anticipated.” -Boom Supersonic

While the logos of Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Embraer, SpaceX and more, adorn Boom’s ‘Company’ page, this is far from a partnership with any of the companies mentioned. Rather, Boom has confirmed with us that these logos merely represent the companies its employees have worked for in the past.

However, further down, it is made clear that Boom already has pre-order arrangements with two airlines: Japan Airlines for 20 jets, and Virgin Atlantic for 10. It’s this type of news that has us most excited about Boom as pre-order arrangements and options are a step closer towards reality.

Boom overture
Pictured here is the smaller XB-1 (top) next to the bigger commercial Boom Overture (bottom). Photo: Boom Supersonic

Lockheed Martin and the X-59 QueSST (updated)

Lockheed Martin is quietly working in the background on supersonic jet technology for passenger air travel, this is being done in partnership with NASA. We had previously written that the X-59 was a competing aircraft – however, it should be clarified that the project is meant to develop technology to support future supersonic airframe builders.

Covering Concorde’s demise in numerous articles, it has become clear that many countries did not accept overland travel due to the sonic boom caused by supersonic jets when the sound barrier is broken. Thus the focus on noise reduction seems like a sound strategy – no pun intended.

Lockheed Martin’s X-59 QueSST (Quiet Supersonic Technology) was scheduled to have its first flight in 2021, with community flight tests to begin in 2023. However, a Public Affairs Officer at NASA has informed Simple Flying that changes are underway. Saying:

“While 2021 was our target date, potential impacts from COVID and production challenges are being assessed, and an updated target flight date will be announced once this assessment is complete.”

Lockheed Martin
A look at the X-59 prototype next to the type of larger passenger jet its technologies and research could support. Photo: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

The race for first

It seems like a less-than-ideal time to be developing supersonic passenger travel, but these companies have had their projects in the works for many years up until now.  The current global crisis will pass, and perhaps by the time one of the above jets will have its entry-into-service, there will actually be an appetite for supersonic (business) passenger travel.

Do you think Boom will actually be the first to get an aircraft to market? Or will one of the other companies beat it to the finish line? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.