Boom Supersonic will use the first anniversary of unveiling plans for a $500 million “superfactory” at Piedmont Triad International Airport to announce what the company calls “a milestone” for its planned Overture aircraft.
Gov. Roy Cooper and state Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, are among the expected attendees for the announcement, which will be made at 1 p.m. Thursday at the airport.
A calendar alert from Cooper's office indicates the event will be a ground-breaking ceremony.
Boom, based in Denver, committed on Jan. 26, 2022, to producing Overture aircraft within a 400,000-square-foot factory on the PTI campus.
The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority approved at Tuesday’s monthly board meeting a 40-year proposed lease with Boom Technology Inc. for the 62-acre site where the plant is to be located.
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However, the authority said the lease “has not been fully executed with signatures from all parties yet.”
On Dec. 13, Florida Turbine Technologies was named as the engine developer for what Boom has branded as Symphony. FTT is better known for making small engines focused on drones and cruise missiles.
The engine partner had been the overarching uncertainty about Boom since Sept. 8, when Rolls Royce bowed out of that role.
Boom also announced Dec. 13 that General Electric division GE Additive and StandardAero would be key suppliers and vendors for Symphony.
At that time, Boom officials said it expected to announce additional supplier commitments early in 2023.
The airport authority said in December that the contractor has completed the authority’s portion of the site grading.
The authority said at that time it is working with the design build firm BE&K to turnover the site to them with the necessary environmental documentation expected to be completed soon.
Boom and FTT said FTT has supersonic engine-design expertise, including key engineers who were among the team responsible for the design of the F-119 and F-135 supersonic engines that power the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.
“Developing a supersonic engine specifically for Overture offers by far the best value proposition for our customers,” said Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and chief executive.
“Through the Symphony program, we can provide our customers with an economically and environmentally sustainable supersonic airplane — a combination unattainable with the current constraints of derivative engines and industry norms.”
Scholl said the decision to now take a proprietary approach to engine design could lead to more jobs related to Overture than the 1,761 planned for the PTI plant.
However, he said it’s too early to determine where the engine will be assembled.
Symphony is described by Boom as “a medium-bypass turbofan engine with the same basic engine architecture that currently powers all modern commercial aircraft. Unlike subsonic turbofans, this new propulsion system will include a Boom-designed axisymmetric supersonic intake, a variable-geometry low-noise exhaust nozzle, and a passively cooled high-pressure turbine.”
GE Additive will handle metal additive technology design consulting, while StandardAero has been chosen for maintenance services, in particular for original and spare parts.
GE Additive is providing additive technology design consulting, foremost engineering consultancy services focused on the design, materials and processed used in industrial 3D printing.
Industry analysts had questioned whether one of the other Big Four aircraft engine manufacturers — GE, Pratt & Whitney and Safran — either expressed limited or no interest in developing a supersonic engine apparatus.
The Associated Press quoted Scholl as saying Boom “looked at a bunch” of other engine designers and manufacturers before choosing FTT, which is owned by Kratos Turbine Technologies.
“This is the first engine designed from scratch for sustainable commercial flight,” Scholl said.
Boom has been widely seen as a promising aircraft manufacturer — though one not likely to have a proven product until 2026-29.
The manufacturer has said it would begin production in 2024 and test flights in 2026 from its planned PTI factory.
Overture is expected to be the first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from Day One, running on 100% sustainable aviation fuel, also known by the acronym SAF.
As part of the agreement with Air Co., Boom has agreed to purchase up to 5 million gallons of Airmade sustainable aviation fuel on an annual basis over the duration of the Overture flight test program.
Using a similar proprietary technology that mimics photosynthesis to create its consumer ethanol, Air said it has developed and deployed its single-step process for CO2-derived fuel production using renewable electricity.
Developing a net zero carbon supersonic “is no easy task,” said Keith Debbage, a joint professor of Geography & Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality at UNC Greensboro.
“For sure, a great deal more work still remains before we see a successful end product.”