Last year, Boom announced a partnership with United Airlines in an effort to have supersonic travel back in the sky by 2029. In that article, I expressed skepticism as to whether the supersonic planes would actually be in the air by then. The entire process seemed too complex for it to truly happen in a few years, with too many unknowns and uncertainties.
Or at least that's what I believed.
In recent weeks, an update has been provided by Boom Supersonic. On January 11, the company announced a new three-year partnership deal with the Air Force worth up to $60 million. Specifically, the contract is known as "The Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI), the STRATFI contract awarded to Boom is one of the program’s largest investments and a significant commitment to the future of supersonic aviation."
This is an important milestone for Boom, as this contract allows them to accelerate the research and development of their aircraft, the Boom Overture, which will be a supersonic aircraft that runs entirely on 100% sustainable aviation fuel, carrying between 65 and 88 passengers. The flagship aircraft will cut the travel time of international flights by around half. According to Boom, this funding will provide for wind tunnel testing and propulsion system development.
For context, the current timeline for Overture is to begin manufacturing the aircraft in 2023, roll it out by 2025, and begin passenger air travel before 2030. Originally, Boom was awarded a contract by the Air Force in 2020, so being awarded a second contract shows increased confidence in Boom's ability to manufacture supersonic aircraft by the Air Force. This may also indicate that the company is on track to meet its milestones based on the timeline.
In other news, on January 26, the Denver-based company announced the location of its manufacturing and testing center, which includes testing and customer delivery as well. The company selected Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, citing the area's strong aerospace and veteran workforce. Additionally, Boom will have access to a steady stream of technical labor due to the various technical schools around North Carolina. The location is also ideal as it is close to many aerospace suppliers, as well as the Atlantic Ocean, which will provide for transatlantic test flights.
The factory is estimated to be around 400,000 square feet on a 65-acre piece of land, allowing Boom to bring 1,750 jobs to North Carolina by 2030 and growing the economy by over 30 billion dollars in the span of 20 years. It will break ground in late 2022, with production beginning in 2024.
Given that aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing have also built facilities in Alabama and South Carolina, respectively, it is no surprise that North Carolina was chosen for Boom's manufacturing facility. Looking at it from a more historical perspective, as North Carolina governor Roy Cooper put it, "It is both poetic and logical that Boom Supersonic would choose the state that’s first in-flight for its first manufacturing plant," referencing the Wright Brothers' first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
With the location of its factory chosen, Boom appears to be on track to meet the production milestones that it set, and barring any unforeseen technical or regulatory setbacks, supersonic travel may truly be back by the end of the decade.
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