Boom Supersonic loses its engine manufacturer. What this means for the Jet Maker

Boom Supersonic will need a new engine manufacturer to move forward with its plans to create a pioneering commercial supersonic aircraft in North Carolina.

Last week, Rolls-Royce announced it was ending its partnership with Boom, a Colorado-based company that received more than $121 million in state and Guilford County incentives to build a facility. assembly and testing facility at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

Boom has pledged to employ more than 1,750 people and invest $500 million in the site by the end of the decade. The plan is for the Piedmont factory to produce the Overture, Boom’s future slender-nose four-engine passenger plane that could cruise at 1,300 mph above water and 770 mph above land.

Boom and London-based Rolls-Royce agreed in the summer of 2020 “to work together to identify a propulsion system that would complement Overture’s airframe,” a statement from Boom said at the time.

But the partnership will not move forward and both parties have made statements suggesting they were behind the split. Reports from aviation-focused outlet AIN Outline indicate that it was Rolls-Royce who initiated the breakup.

Rolls-Royce spokesman Donald Campbell said in a statement to The News & Observer that “after careful consideration, Rolls-Royce has determined that the supersonic commercial aircraft market is not currently a priority for us”.

Boom spokesman Aubrey Scanlan said in an email: “We appreciate the work Rolls-Royce has done over the past few years, but it has become clear that Rolls’ proposed engine design and business model legacy are not the best option for future airline operators or Overture passengers. .”

Scanlan added that Boom will announce a new engine partner “later this year”.

“Maybe a big hiccup”

Despite the change in engine manufacturer, Scanlan said the Overture is still on track to carry passengers by 2029. Among the company’s current contracts are agreements to sell a number of Overtures to United Airlines (15 airliners) and American Airlines (20 airliners) when they become available.

Yet an aviation expert says the loss of an engine partnership could be a major hurdle for a supersonic jet maker that has yet to achieve its goal of creating a quiet and durable final aircraft.

“Essentially, you design an airplane around your engine,” said Janet Bednarek, aviation historian and professor at the University of Dayton. “Not having the engine you expected is kind of a hiccup, and maybe a major hiccup.”

Bednarek said the plane’s engines and frames are typically designed in tandem, which means a change in engine could require other changes. She wondered if many engine manufacturers would jump at the chance to make a supersonic jet engine, a highly specialized product for an as-yet-unproven market.

“Not knowing how many are going to be sold, finding a new partner might be a bit difficult,” she said.

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Virginia C. Taylor