Boom Supersonic inches closer to legitimacy as doubts remain

When Boom Supersonic first began publicly discussing its plans for faster-than-sound commercial travel with its Overature airplane, its reasoning made more sense. The Concorde supersonic airliner ultimately failed because of poor economics and a changing market, but it’s been 20 years since that plane was retired. It was designed using pencil and paper and slide rulers. With modern digital design tools, it should be possible to design a much more efficient, cost-effective and safe airplane.

Then, nothing really happened. The company raised a lot of money from venture capital and private equity, announced flagship “orders” from airlines with unclear terms, made grandiose promises about sustainability and launch dates and never announced anything solid.

For a while, there was no engine design, current or proposed, that seemed like it would fit Boom’s plans. Even as the company announced plans for factory and test facilities, no engine supplier would commit, with Rolls-Royce publicly pulling out of an exploratory effort.

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Still, Boom continued to insist it was the real deal and continued to take orders from airlines with undisclosed terms — CEO Blake Scholl said that 35 of the 130 orders and “preorders” the airline has booked involve nonrefundable deposits — yet didn’t show anything concrete while offering increasingly condensed timelines and assurances.

Eventually, some joked that Boom would be the “Theranos of aviation,” referring to the biotech firm founded by Elizabeth Holmes that defrauded investors and deceived customers.


Its goal — designing a supersonic aircraft from scratch that offers favorable economics — remains lofty and expensive, and Boom’s Overture airplane may never see the light of day.

However, in recent months, Boom has offered more reasons to consider the possibility that it is actually going to get it done and bring commercial supersonic flight back to the skies.

Boom still does not have an engine in hand, but late last year, the company announced that it had tapped Florida Turbine Technologies, a unit of defense firm Kratos, to design and build the initial engines with input from GE Additive and StandardAero.

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Additionally, in recent months the company began construction on its production line in North Carolina. At the Paris Air Show last week, Boom announced it had secured three new major suppliers, all experienced aerospace firms, and all of which seem unlikely to associate themselves with a project that they saw as illegitimate or likely to cause reputational damage.

A model of Boom’s Overture aircraft at the company’s chalet at the Paris Air Show in June 2023. DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

Italian company Leonardo is set to manufacture the Overture’s fuselage, Spanish manufacturer Aernnova will produce the wings, and Aciturri, also based in Spain, will build the empennage, or tail assembly and control surfaces.

Boom also spent a busy show entertaining potential clients at a large, splashy chalet — an air-conditioned, prefabricated office that most major companies have at these shows. That alone indicates little — Boom has offered lots of fanfare but little substance in the past. However, the chalet (which was accessible by appointment only) was filled with a steady stream of visitors throughout the show.

None of this guarantees that Boom will successfully design, build, certify and manufacture an actual airplane. Nor does it mean that the aircraft’s economics and operating costs allow it to be a successful venture.

In the current economy, it’s easy to imagine Boom being a bust. It’s raised a tremendous amount of capital on a sketchy plan with a lot of hype but little concrete action aside from pouring the foundation for its factory. Seeing fantastical valuations and subsequent contractions of startups and direct-to-consumer companies, and the outright fraud of Theranos, it’s easy to picture Boom as another long shot, carelessly backed by venture capitalists on the off-chance that it succeeds, who will barely notice the loss if the aerospace company’s valuation collapses.

However, it certainly seems that there’s some confidence in its plan.

John Kelly, Boom’s director of propulsion and powerplant systems, speaks to visitors at the company’s chalet at the 2023 Paris Air Show. DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

Just look at the bright public backings from airlines like United Airlines, American Airlines and Japan Airlines, which seem to have put at least a nominal amount of money where their mouths are in the form of order commitments.

Boom’s professed economics — that fares will be hardly more than a modern business-class seat — remain questionable. However, should they bring Overture to global airports, it seems like the airlines think there will be a market for whatever the ultimate fare is.

The company does itself few favors with highly ambitious timelines that seem to shrink but still end with the airplane achieving certification by the end of this decade. A spokesperson for Boom did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the shifting timelines.

Even so, though, it remains worth considering the possibility that Boom might actually pull this off and make supersonic travel a reality once again.

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