The company Boom is developing a supersonic airliner (SST).

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In one of their blog-entries1 they state they would not need to use after-burners because they use modern turbo-fan engines.

  1. Does this mean they will use a variable geometry exhaust?
  2. Is there another (efficient) way to become supersonic with turbo-fan engine?
  3. Which turbo-fan engine are they planning to use?

1: blog.boomsupersonic.com/why-we-dont-need-an-afterburner-a4e05943b101

  • $\begingroup$ well for what is's worth @mins, they have Japan Airlines and Virgin on-board. $\endgroup$
    – rul30
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ MAYBE they’ll pull it off; most likely the program and company will go bankrupt on this venture. Always beware of Silicon Valley whiz kids touting this kind of stuff. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ All I have to do is look at the specifications on that aircraft and realize that if they could bring it into fruition, it will be a good engineering achievement but a commercial lemon. They have a limited range of 4500 nautical miles - I don’t know if they can maintain that during supersonic cruise - so scratch trans pacific routes where the big bucks would be for an SST. Regulations in Europe and the Americas prohibits supersonic flight over land, so that eliminates even more routes. It also has a balanced field length listed at 8200 feet. That’s s hell of a long takeoff roll. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ The business of those companies are basically: 1) make a good presentation, get funding, 2) spend the funding, convert cash to the "value of the company", 3) sell the company, convert "value of company" back to cash. "entrepreneur"s make money at step 3. Individuals, consultants, contractors make money at step 2. There's no reason to force yourself believe their design makes sense because it doesn't have to make sense in the first place. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think afterburners are necessary for supersonic cruising? Several modern military fighter jets achieve this (F-22, to name one), they call it "supercruise", and specifically designed the airframe to not require afterburners for Mach 1+ supercruising. These jets usually use turbojets, instead of turbofans, although I think the F-22 and F-35 use turbofans. $\endgroup$
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 21:34

2 Answers 2


1. Will they use variable geometry exhaust?

According to Wikipedia, with references, they plan to use variable inlet/exhaust. So yes, which is similar to the Concorde.

2. Are there other ways?

In theory, the variable cycle engine (VCE), which according to them they won't go for due to the R&D cost. Those engines are also heavy and very noisy, even by the 80's standards.

3. Which turbofan are they going to use?

For the scaled demonstrator they built, they are going for a turbojet, the General Electric CJ610 from the 60's. At the present time, we don't know is the right answer. But the technology can be analyzed.

The inlet of a supersonic turbojet slows down the oncoming air so it can be compressed and then accelerated by combustion out the back. And as you hinted, a converging nozzle is needed for the supersonic regime. This is the classic accelerate a small amount of air by a lot.

The propeller and the fan (in the turbofan) are the opposite, they accelerate a lot of air by a little. And it's easy to visualize why. The optimum blade tip speed is around Mach 1.0 give or take, so the average velocity of the air behind the fan after gaining energy will not be much faster, but it will be a lot of air (also note, away from the tip it's slower). This is where I don't get it, why have an inlet that slows down the air, only to accelerate it by a little bit, instead of accelerating it by a lot?

They also note that the engine they will settle on will have higher maintenance cost, which hints at running at extreme power levels. This is to be expected as the previous paragraph shows. This answers how the no-reheat. The aim seems to be noise reduction, not economics (wait for it).

Onto some true context:

They compare a fare of \$5,000 to the Concorde's \$20,000 (adjusted for inflation). What they don't say is that the Concorde's original fare was around £1,000, and it only increased because the management realized the rich who flew the Concorde didn't even know how much they were paying.

Adjusted for inflation from 1981, we are looking at an original fare of \$5,500. The reason is simple, to this date, the Concorde's engine remains the most efficient, when you factor in the speed.

Note: I was being very conservative when I said £1,000, in 1980 it was actually £600. And BA was reporting profits on the NYC route.

In short, they already said they can't afford the R&D of the VCE technology, so don't expect something new, it will be present day transonic technology used in the wrong flight regime, which explains the high fare.

Note on the Concorde afterburner:

The reheats are turned off shortly after take off. The reheats are turned back on, for around 10 minutes to push the aircraft through Mach 1 and on to Mach 1.7 where they are no longer required.

Addressing comments:

  • I would think that higher maintenance costs could be completely attributable to the small market that this engine will have.

If they don't have financing for VCE R&D, then they should settle on an engine with parts commonality to existing models to reduce the maintenance cost.

  • Existing turbines in reliable daily operation all around the world make enough [thrust] to power the Boom jet.

In the supersonic regime, if they don't use a turbojet or at the very least, a low BPR turbofan, they're wasting fuel, but yes, they will be keeping the noise down. I just didn't like the false marketing of a low-fare. Engine manufacturers would not have been chasing VCE's if medium BPR was the solution all along. The problem with supersonic flight and the low speed of the turbofan exhaust can be understood from this NASA page. The faster the freestream, the faster the exhaust needs to be.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer (1) I was not aware that the Concorde exhaust system could form a CD-nozzle. And that the afterburners where not necessary to maintain supersonic flight velocities. $\endgroup$
    – rul30
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe GEs new AdaptiveCycleEngine is not as heavy and loud anymore. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. $\endgroup$
    – rul30
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @ymb1 Boom has bandied about that they would engage a major engine player to use an existing widebody turbofan engine core including its high pressure section but would the have to design a custom low pressure section of lower bypass ratio. I would think that higher maintenance costs could be completely attributable to the small market that this engine will have. Basically it will be specific to this 1 airframe. It needn't operate at especially high temperatures, existing turbines in reliable daily operation all around the world make enough to power the Boom jet... if they had smaller fans $\endgroup$
    – Charles847
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Charles847 - see update. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 5:05
  • $\begingroup$ Variable inlet geometry is not a prime requisite for these moderate Mach flight speeds, please provide a reference for the claim, I couldn't find one. $\endgroup$
    – 0scar
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 9:39

I do not think that not needing an afterburner has as much to do with their engine choice as it does their aerodynamics. They think that between (1) the area ruling they will do with the fuselage, (2) the chine that will allow them to achieve stability with an overall smaller wing, and (3) the wing itself with more sweep on both the leading and trailing edge which reduces induced drag, should altogether substantially reduce the amount of energy required to pass through the transonic regime, which hopefully will mean that they shouldn't need to use an afterburner.

I wish them good luck in this whole endeavor.


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