Boom Overture’s Fine Tuning: Facility in North Carolina To Open (+Analysis)

SYDNEY – Rarely in the history of mankind have humans taken a step backward when it comes to technology or achievement, but with the retirement of Concorde by Air France and British Airways in 2003 without a successor in place we saw exactly that scenario unfold.

As he stepped off the final Concorde service, Jeremy Clarkson quipped “One small step for (a) man, one giant leap backward for mankind.”

Photo: Charlie Carter/AlphaCharliePhotography/AviationSource

And despite a few daring to talk of a next-generation supersonic airliner, companies such as Aerion have either failed to deliver or closed down completely.

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But there is a quiet air of optimism around Boom and their project, named “Overture”.

Perhaps inspired by the rise of privately funded space enterprises such as Space-X and Blue Origin in the wake of NASA retiring the Space Shuttle in 2011 (also without a successor at the time), Boom is a Colorado-based privately funded company with not just a huge vision of a final goal, but seemingly a clear idea of the steps to get there.

The Air Force has also stated they are investing millions in the project.

Having already secured an order from United Airlines and interest from Japan Airlines, Boom Overture could just be exactly what the commercial aviation industry needs.

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The prototype XB-1 has been rolled out and is due to take its first flight this year.

In the last few days, Boom announced the location of their manufacturing facility as Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Combined with Boeing’s decision to move all 787 Dreamliner production to South Carolina the aircraft manufacturing industry is quickly becoming at home on the East coast of the USA.

But for all the positivity around Boom, questions still remain.

As of yet, Rolls Royce has not created a powerplant that will meet the company’s goals of being “100% net-zero carbon” and powered by sustainable aviation fuels. With a goal of 2025 for the first Overture rollout, time is ticking.

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The problem of the sonic boom hasn’t gone away, but Overture is somewhat smaller than Concorde.

The laws of physics say that the larger an object punching through the sound barrier is, the more intense the pressure wave will be that causes the sonic boom.

Therefore by its very nature, the boom left by Overture should be less than that of Concorde, however, it likely still won’t be enough to allow overland flights.

This means range to cope with overseas routes is vital. 

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Being an American manufacturer, perhaps it is unsurprising that Boom’s launch customer looks to be United; an American airline.

Transatlantic is a proven route, although with a capacity of 56-68 the viability of this aircraft for British Airways to order may rest on its ability to operate in and out of London City Airport rather than Heathrow.

Concorde passengers would still have had a journey via train into Central London that added time to the journey that Overture could shave off by landing in the airport that’s primary function is to serve the financial district.

Other European carriers such as Air France-KLM or Lufthansa may also see the benefits of bringing New York within easier reach.

Trans-Pacific is a different matter. Asia-Pacific airlines will require a good range to make South East Asia to West Coast USA with only one fuel stop.

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The proposed range is 4,250nmi (7,870km) compared with Concorde’s 3,900nmi (7,220km).

This means that Hong Kong to Honolulu is not achievable, and Shanghai to Honolulu is on the very limit, which will put off the Chinese operators.

Tokyo to Honolulu is well within range, which opens up a Japanese supersonic link to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and a range of possibilities.

Unfortunately for Australians, the range would not allow for a one-stop supersonic trip to the USA, so unless Qantas can find demand for Perth to be supersonically linked to Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne, or possibly New Zealand an order is unlikely.

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There is a market for supersonic travel.

There is prestige that surrounds it. Boom should be commended for their work so far, and even more so should they succeed where BAC and Aerospatiale failed by holding onto their orders.

The advancements in technology now compared to when Britain and France combined in the 1960s should give a good footing to this particular Boom, and the people of North Carolina searching for work in aviation will certainly hope so too.

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Charlie Carter

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