Aviation History

Video shows the Maiden flight of XB-1, the First civilian supersonic plane to fly in 20 years

The First civilian supersonic plane to fly in 20 years: XB-1 maiden flight

As the video in this post shows, Boom’s demonstrator aircraft, XB-1, took off for the first time during a successful test flight at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California on Mar. 22, 2024. Boom Supersonic says that the inaugural flight of XB-1, the world’s first independently developed supersonic jet, took place in the same airspace that hosted many historic first flights, including the flights of the Bell X-1, the North American X-15, and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

Mojave Air & Space Port sits adjacent to the largest single area of overland Special Use Airspace in the United States, designated the R-2508 Complex. The R-2508 Complex includes all the airspace used and managed by Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin and Edwards Air Force Base.

This region is the proving grounds for the aerospace industry, where an aircraft broke the sound barrier for the first time in 1947 and where speed and altitude records are set.

Mojave has been home to XB-1 and the team since relocating from Boom headquarters adjacent to the Centennial Airport in Centennial, Colorado in 2023. Since then, the aircraft has undergone extensive ground testing, including engine runs and high speed taxi tests leading up to first flight.

T-38 chase plane

Late last year and in preparation for XB-1’s first flight, Bill “Doc” Shoemaker, Chief Test Pilot for Boom Supersonic, reflected on the significance of taking flight in Mojave.

“XB-1 is now progressing toward first flight at the Mojave Air & Space Port, home to more than 50 first flights and other significant aviation events,” said Bill “Doc” Shoemaker, Chief Test Pilot for Boom Supersonic. “I’m looking forward to flying XB-1 here, building on the achievements of other talented engineers and pilots who inspire us every day to make supersonic travel mainstream.”

According to a Boom Supersonic news release, Chief Test Pilot Bill “Doc” Shoemaker was at the controls when XB-1 took flight, and Test Pilot Tristan “Geppetto” Brandenburg followed and monitored XB-1 in a T-38 chase plane. XB-1 reached a maximum altitude of 7,120 feet, and did not exceed 238 knots (273 mph) during the 12 minute flight.

While the pilots were in the aircraft, the ground team, led by Vice President of XB-1 Jeff Mabry, was in the control room keeping a close eye on the many moving parts of the mission. The control room engineers are the same ones who designed the aircraft systems, and have been operating as a team for every single ground test event conducted over the last two years.

Once the aircraft took off, the team focused on how XB-1 flew and landed, including an initial assessment of the aircraft’s handling qualities, airspeed checks with the chase aircraft, and assessing the aircraft’s stability in the landing attitude (at a high angle of attack).

XB-1 landed safely after maiden flight thanks to coordination between the pilot and an LSO

XB-1 landed safely thanks to coordination between the pilot, using XB-1’s augmented reality vision system, and a Landing Signal Officer (LSO) who watches from the side of the runway and communicates additional information to the pilot to support the plane’s final approach and landing. XB-1’s augmented reality vision system is made up of two nose-mounted cameras that feed a high resolution pilot display, digitally augmented with attitude and flight path indications. This system enables excellent runway visibility and improved aerodynamic efficiency without the weight and complexity of a movable nose.

XB-1 met all of its test objectives including safely and successfully achieving an altitude of 7,120 feet and speeds up to 238 knots (273 mph). While XB-1 was in the air, the team assessed the aircraft’s handling qualities, including airspeed checks with the T-38 chase aircraft, and the aircraft’s stability in the landing attitude (at a high angle of attack).

The XB-1

The XB-1 is an entirely new airframe, designed as a technology demonstrator to inform the design and development of Overture, Boom’s supersonic airliner. In order to test and validate new technologies and designs, the XB-1 has undergone extensive ground testing, and has now progressed to flight testing.

The inaugural flight of XB-1 marks a major milestone on the path toward the return of supersonic travel. The XB-1 program set the foundation for the design and development of Overture, Boom’s commercial supersonic plane. Overture will carry 64-80 passengers at Mach 1.7, about twice the speed of today’s subsonic airliners. Optimized for speed, safety, and sustainability, Overture is designed to run on up to 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Photo credit: Boom Supersonic

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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