Boom Supersonic has announced two developments on its planned Overture aircraft as the company regroups from the ending of an engine partnership with Rolls-Royce.
Boom, which is planning a $500 million “superfactory” at Piedmont Triad International Airport, said Friday it has signed a sustainable aviation fuel agreement with Air Co., which makes carbon-negative products from carbon dioxide.
On Wednesday, Boom hired Richard Parker, a former Rolls-Royce executive of 40 years, to serve as a senior advisor on technical, commercial and sustainability issues. Parker served 15 years as Rolls Royce’s chief technology officer.
On Sept. 8, Rolls-Royce chose to end its contract with Boom, meaning Boom needs to find a new engine designer and manufacturer for Overture.
Opinions on the significance of the Rolls-Royce partnership ending after just two-plus years vary, with some analysts expressing concern about the experimental nature of Boom’s strategy and others focusing on Rolls-Royce’s current financial struggles.
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Boom, based in Denver, has been widely seen as a promising aircraft manufacturer — though one not likely to have a proven product until the 2026-29 timeframe.
The manufacturer has said it would begin test flights in 2026 from its planned PTI factory. It projected having at least 1,761 jobs at full production capacity by 2030.
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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, Boom has agreed to buy up to 5 million gallons of Airmade sustainable aviation fuel on an annual basis over the duration of the Overture flight test program.
“Sustainable aviation fuel is critical to sustainable supersonic travel, and fuel made from CO2 is the most scalable pathway to abundant SAF,” said Kathy Savitt, Boom’s president.
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.
“Air and Boom Supersonic are two companies making real strides towards a markedly different world of aviation,” Air chief executive Gregory Constantine said in a statement.
Although both companies acknowledge that SAF production “is still in its infantry, the SAF industry is well aimed to achieve exponential growth seen in other renewable energy sectors.”
“If SAF scales at the rate of solar energy, it could reach projected international jet fuel demand by 2036.”
Developing a net zero carbon supersonic “is no easy task,” said Keith Debbage, a joint professor of geography and sustainable tourism and hospitality at UNCG.
“For sure, a great deal more work still remains before we see a successful end product.”
Parker serves as chairman of Singapore Aerospace Programme, the country’s flagship research project to strengthen its aerospace industry. He also oversees Singapore’s Low Carbon Energy Research program.
“As we prepare to announce our engine partner and transformational new economic model for Overture later this Fall, Ric will continue to bring relevant and valuable insight to Boom,” Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and chief executive, said in a statement.
“Ric’s broad experience at Rolls-Royce and in Singapore will benefit us greatly as we bring Overture to market,” Scholl said.
Parker said he agreed to the advisory role with Boom because he said it “is well positioned to tap this significant market opportunity” with supersonic flight.
“Boom has mobilized a strong technical team and the right industry partners to deliver an economically and environmentally sustainable supersonic aircraft in Overture.”
Rolls Royce said it had delivered various engineering studies for Overture before ending its contract, saying it had determined “the commercial aviation supersonic market is not currently a priority for us.”
Boom in turn said it “became clear” that the proposed engine design from Rolls Royce and the company’s legacy business model is “not the best option for Overture’s future airline operators or passengers.”
The uncertainty over Boom engine development increased when industry trade publication FlightGlobal.com reported Sept. 16 that potential suppliers GE Aviation, Honeywell and Safran Aircraft Engines have indicated no interest in developing engines for civil supersonic aircraft.
Another potential supplier, Raytheon Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney business unit, told FlightGlobal.com that it remains focused on subsonic engine development.
Still, Boom has said it remains on track to get a plane in the air and said it plans later this year to announce its selected engine partner and “transformational approach for reliable, cost-effective and sustainable supersonic flight.”
Elected officials have promised more than $116 million in local and state incentives to the company.
A state Commerce Department report on the Boom project determined the operational hub could bolster the North Carolina economy by $32.3 billion over the 20 years of the state’s $87.2 million Job Development Investment grant agreement.