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Science

Aviation Startup Picks Engine Designer for Supersonic Plane

December 13, 2022

DALLAS — Aviation startup Boom Technology says it will power supersonic passenger jets with engines designed by a company better known for making small engines used on drones and cruise missiles.

Boom said Tuesday that Florida Turbine Technologies, or FTT, will design the engines with help from GE Additive, a division of General Electric. Boom says the plane could be making test flights in 2026 and carrying passengers a few years after that.

The company says its 88-seat jet, called Overture, will use four engines, fly up to 1.7 times the speed of sound — about 1,300 mph — and use sustainable aviation fuel.

The Denver company generates plenty of skepticism in aviation circles for its ambitious schedule and certitude that supersonic passenger flights can be economically feasible and environmentally benign — Concorde wasn’t, so it stopped flying.

Getting the plane certified will be daunting, with regulators more cautious after two deadly Boeing Max crashes. Flights would likely be limited to ocean crossings or would have to slow down over land to limit damage from sonic booms. And Boom overhauled Overture’s design just a few months ago.

“I understand that people say Boom’s got its work cut out for us. We do,” founder and CEO Blake Scholl said in an interview. “The people who think we’re not going to get there — I look forward to having them on board a flight.”

Much of the skepticism has centered on the lack of an engine for Overture. Rolls Royce ended its relationship with Boom earlier this year after producing some engineering studies, and other leading engine makers indicated they weren’t interested in stepping in.

Scholl said Boom “looked at a bunch” of other engine designers and manufacturers before settling on FTT, which is majority owned by Kratos Turbine Technologies, and GE Additive, better known for 3D printing than for aerospace manufacturing. He declined to name the other companies.

Scholl said Boom will reduce costs by designing an entirely new engine rather than tweaking one made for subsonic flight.

“This is the first engine designed from scratch for sustainable commercial supersonic flight,” he said.

American Airlines and United Airlines have made deposits on future Overtures — although neither airline would say how much they put down.

Boom plans to build Overture in Greensboro, North Carolina, partly because of its location near open ocean where the planes can be tested without rattling windows on the ground.

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