Greensboro-bound Boom Supersonic finds new engine designer

Roughly three months after Boom Supersonic saw its first engine partnership fall apart, the jet startup with ambitious plans in North Carolina unveiled designs Tuesday in Greensboro for its new supersonic engine — and the new team who will help make it.

Instead of Rolls-Royce, which was Boom’s original engine partner, CEO Blake Scholl announced that three companies will combine to make Boom a “bespoke” propulsion system. Florida Turbine Technologies, a division of the defense contractor Kratos Defense, will design the engine while GE Additive will help manufacture it, and Arizona’s StandardAero will handle engine maintenance.

The engine, named Symphony, will be tailored for Boom’s Overture airliner, a prospective narrow-nosed, four-engine passenger aircraft that promises to halve the flight times made by current commercial planes.

The Colorado-based Boom will hold the engine’s patent.

“We took this approach because it is the best approach for our customers and our passengers,” Scholl said during an introductory event at the Piedmont Triad International Airport, the planned future site of Boom’s future assembly and testing facility,

Scholl also touted Symphony’s enhanced operational reliability and lower operating costs when compared to other supersonic propulsion system designs.

Boom has committed to hiring more than 1,750 people and investing $500 million at the Greensboro site by the end of the decade. If it achieves these benchmarks, it will be in line to receive more than $121 million in state and Guilford County incentives. The company says production will begin in 2024, and hopes the Overture gains commercial certification in 2029.

Scholl envisions the Overture transforming travel.

“What happens when you can get to Sydney, Australia, as quickly as we can get to Honolulu today?” he said. “What happens when crossing the Pacific is as easy as crossing the Atlantic today? What happens when we can have a weekend in Paris? These are the kinds of things supersonic flight makes possible.”

But for any of those hypotheticals to be realized, Boom will have to hope its latest engine partnership works out better than its first.

Boom Supersonic CEO Blake Scholl fields media questions after he unveiled his startup’s new Symphony engine design at the Piedmont Triad International Airport on Dec. 13. Brian Gordon

Getting over Rolls-Royce

In September, Boom Supersonic found itself without an engine partner after the London-based Rolls-Royce announced it was ending its work with the startup. The two companies had agreed to work together in the summer of 2020.

Both sides gave statements in September hinting that they were the ones to instigate the split, though the aviation-focused news outlet AIN Outline reported at the time that it was Rolls-Royce who initiated the breakup.

On Tuesday, Scholl said Boom’s new arrangement will help the company avoid “the baggage of designs that were never optimized for supersonic flight.”

Unlike Rolls-Royce, Kratos Defense is not a large engine designer in the aviation industry. According to its website, it focuses on developing jet engines for drones and cruise missiles.

“Every single one of them is our first-choice,” Scholl said of the new engine partners. “We are super proud of this team.”

This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.

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Brian Gordon is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He writes about jobs, start-ups and all the big tech things transforming the Triangle.

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