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Who is Boom Supersonic? Background on the airplane maker that might be coming to PTI

·4 min read
Boom Supersonic

From basements to boardrooms, Boom Supersonic has come a long way in its six-year history.

In June, the company won a purchase contract from United Airlines for a minimum of 15 of its supersonic passenger jets, the Overture, with an option for United to buy 35 more.

North Carolina lawmakers, hoping that Boom will build the Overture in the Tar Heel state, recently added a $106.75 million incentive package to the state budget to persuade an unnamed aircraft manufacturer to open a plant in Greensboro.

The legislature has only identified the mysterious airplane maker as “Project Thunderbird,” but five people in government and business confirmed for The News & Observer that it’s Boom Supersonic.

The upstart company is on the vanguard of supersonic passenger jet technology — airplanes that could transport travelers from New York to London in about three and a half hours, faster than the speed of sound.

But Boom’s origins are less glamorous than its prospects. Who is this company so few have heard of until now?

A basement dream

When Blake Scholl dreamed up the rebirth of supersonic travel, he was a disgruntled director at Groupon.

“There is nothing like working on Internet coupons to make you yearn to build something you truly love,” he wrote on his LinkedIn resume.

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in computer science, Scholl made his way through various managerial roles at Amazon, Pelago and Kima Labs — a company he founded before Groupon acquired it in 2012.

Two years later, he was ready for a change. After visiting a museum and seeing the Concorde — a supersonic jet that flew passengers from 1976 to 2003 — Scholl fixed his sights on a “supersonic renaissance,” and got to work studying aerospace engineering in his Denver basement.

“Our mission at Boom is to make the world dramatically more accessible by building travel that is faster, less expensive and more convenient,” Scholl says in a video on Boom’s website.

A rapid ascent

Six years since Scholl began his self-education in aerospace technology, Boom Supersonic has grown to include 140 employees and a place among the world’s most respected airplane makers.

In addition to United, also partnering with Boom on the supersonic renaissance are Rolls Royce, Japan Airlines and the U.S. Air Force.

“Concorde is the story of an audacious vision,” Scholl said, “of a journey started but not yet completed. Limited by the technology of its time, it flew on only a few routes and only at stratospheric fares. It never changed the way most of us travel. But half a century later, the conditions have arrived for a renaissance of speed.”

Ticket prices will be competitive with current air travel fare, the company says, but air speeds will more than double.

“What Overture is doing is not just building on the Concorde legacy, but building on everything we’ve learned since the Concorde legacy,” said Lawrence Azzerad, author of “Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde.”

“Travel doesn’t have to be the way it is now. We can do better.”

Is Boom up to the task?

Six-year-old companies rarely secure $100 million government subsidies or land what has to be a multibillion-dollar sale, but Boom has demonstrated enough success to land major financial support from several prominent investors.

In 2019, the company raised $100 million in Series B funding. Boom raised another $110 million this year in its Series C campaign, bringing total funds to $270 million as of May. Major investors include Bessemer Ventures, Prime Movers Lab, Emerson Collective, Celesta Capital and American Express, according to Boom’s website.

The company has partnered with Rolls-Royce to develop its propulsion system for the Overture supersonic jet. Boom says the engines will reduce noise, optimize fuel efficiency and accommodate 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

Collins Aerospace, one of the world’s largest producers of aerospace products, is collaborating with Boom engineers to ensure Overture’s stability at supersonic speeds.

And Amazon Web Services is powering Boom’s sophisticated flight simulations.

Boom board members include Phil Condit, former chairman and CEO of The Boeing Company; Dan Javorsek, a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force with experience as a flight test squadron commander and experimental test pilot for several supersonic aircraft; and Dr. Lourdes Maurice, retired executive director of the Office of Environment and Energy at the FAA.

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