Boom Supersonic’s PTI factory is complete


Boom Supersonic’s new factory at Piedmont-Triad International Airport is complete, structurally at least, which enabled officials to hold a ceremonial ribbon-cutting there on Monday.

Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate leader Phil Berger, U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning and various other dignitaries participated, all looking forward to the day the $100 million facility is turning out a new generation of super-fast airliners.

The project has its skeptics, but Cooper said officials came together to support it  two years ago because it squares with both the state’s first-in-flight history and its overall economic development strategy.

“Sometimes, we all have to take a little bit of a risk,” Cooper told Boom founder and CEO Blake Scholl. “This risk will pay off for your company, for its employees and their families and the contractors, for the state of North Carolina, and for the world.”

“North Carolina is a longtime leader in groundbreaking research and innovation,” Berger added. “The fact that the future of supersonic flight, with [Boom’s] Overtures going to be produced right here in North Carolina, is monumental for our state.”

Clocking in at about 180,000 square feet, the factory for the moment is just a shell. For it to come to life, Boom will have to install tooling — a task Scholl said is next on the list.

“The first thing we’re doing is installing a test manufacturing cell, and that’s going to take place over the next six to 12 months,” he said.

Once in place, the cell will become a learning lab that the company can use to validate its manufacturing process before assembling the first examples of the Overture, its proposed supersonic transport.

With it, “we will begin doing the first kind of fit-ups of test wings, test fuselages,” because “quality and safety are job No. 1,” Scholl said. “We’re going to do a lot of practice before we start building the first airplane.”

By the way, if you ask Scholl about that, don’t use the tried-and-true aviation cliche “cutting metal.” Boom’s plan relies heavily on the use of carbon fiber composites.

Eventually, the company will put four manufacturing stations inside the PTI building, and intends it to turn out 33 airplanes a year.

Boom figures it can add a second building like it on the site, and maybe even a third, each with the same capacity.

The skepticism about the company’s prospects comes because of the commercial failure of the only prior supersonic airliners, the British-French Concorde and the former Soviet Union’s knockoff version, the Tupolev Tu-144.

The Concorde was noisy and fuel hungry, to the point “it was a $20,000 ticket,” Scholl said. “For most people, that’s not travel. It’s a bucket-list item.”

Boom’s idea is to sell its airplanes for about $200 million a copy, a price low enough that operators could charge customers a quarter of the Concorde’s fare.

So far, United, American and Japan Air Lines are interested enough that they’ve submitted orders or pre-orders, and put non-refundable deposits on the barrelhead.

Scholl said United has ordered 15 airplanes and signaled interested in getting another 35. American put down a deposit on 20 airplanes and also has pre-orders for 40 more.

Back in 2017, JAL invested $10 million in the project and signaled that it might buy 20 airplanes.

All told, Boom has raised about $700 million, but that’s not going to be enough. This “will be a multi-billion-dollar development effort,” Scholl said.


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