Supersonic Airliner Developer Boom Technologies Selects An Engine Provider


Supersonic hopeful Boom Technologies has named its choice for an engine supplier for its 88-seat Overture Mach-busting airliner project. Florida Turbine Technologies, acquired in 2019 by San Diego, California-based Kratos Turbine Technologies, is best known for drone engines. It will be joined on the project by General Electric’s GE Additive division, a specialist in additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing.

Other supersonic aircraft efforts have selected modified versions of existing turbofans. Rolls-Royce stepped away from the Overture project earlier this year and there has not been demonstrable interest from other established airliner turbofan producers.

Boom has suggested that a clean-sheet design is best. Facing down industry skepticism, Boom CEO Blake Scholl said, “This is the first engine designed from scratch for sustainable commercial supersonic flight. I understand that people say Boom’s got its work cut out for us.” He added that he hopes to welcome skeptics on board for a flight on the Overture in the future.

The four-engine Overture design is expected to fly at Mach 1.7. Market hurdles include regulations that currently ban supersonic flight over land in the U.S., limiting operations to overwater routes. Boom said it has received unspecified deposits for the Overture from American Airlines and United. The Overture is slated to be built in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. It would be incorrect to describe FTT as an “Engine Provider”.

    They have never provided an engine to anyone. Their bread and butter is overhauling PT-6As, and they describe themselves as an engine consultant
    According to their web site, their “big ticket” projects are two US military proof-of-concept development awards totaling $60m. Which might sound like a lot until you compare it to the GEnx program, which is from a company that actually knows how to certify an engine and has half a century of experience using a relatively mature technology. That program had $6+ billion in development and certification costs.

    They are working on a prototype engine for drones and low cost cruise missiles which seems like two different applications, but they are saying they will be lighter than 200lb (half the weight of a Lycoming 6cyl).

    So why in the world anyone would seriously think they can make a prototype, much less get certified a supersonic engine, defies logic. As the Chinese and Russians have found out, it’s not 1959 where you can get 8 engineers and start an turbine engine company, it’s really complicated to achieve the perfection of industry leaders. They’ve learned it’s hard to make a high-bypass turbofan that get anywhere near competing with reliability and efficiency of P/W, GE, R/R, or even Safran. And they have huge governments to back them up and can steal most of the design knowledge

    GE Additive is an interesting “partner”, but they seem to be just getting started themselves with a stated primary mission to support GE Aerospace. In any event, by their own description, they are manufacturing tech, not development. This is a long long way from manufacturing.

    Rolls Royce backed out of this with good reason, and their replacement is not confidence inspiring.

    As always, I sincerely hope somehow they can get this going and don’t like to rain on anyone’s dream of innovation, but to trumpet this is a huge milestone seem like delusional thinking

    • I was thinking essentially what you’ve posted (virtually all of the GEnx cert docs crossed my desk, as I’m in the tech publishing support end of things). I see the Catalyst cases and GE9X injectors 3D printed, not entirely without issues, and suspect that GE’s involvement goes no further than a parts supplier. But someone must design these engines, and the number of people who can do that that aren’t handcuffed to a major engine manufacturer must be quite small.
      The “low boom” technology is what will probably kill this project, if “low boom” means “thunderstorm” level of noise.

  2. I totally agree….this is no project for an amateur show or a start up…..It is a Billion dollar project and will require a major player….I think Pratt may be the best possibility as they have as much or more current experience with powering supersonic aircraft then anyone else…GE has just gone through a major restructuring and is not cash soaked nor do they need a bunch of R&D credits……Rolls has the import duty government issues……..Someone with both the Money and guts….Like Elon Musk could do it with a major stake in Pratt without hurting himself and has absolutely demonstrated he can make projects like this dance…….Space X for instance……and he can afford the risks with very little real pain and huge rewards……..The first Supersonic Passenger plane should and will probably be the Gulfstream 1000….If Musk pays for the Engine development…General Dynamics can and will afford the Airframe…they are almost there now…….

  3. Taking on clean-sheet development costs will certainly be reflected in the purchase price or leasing cost paid by the operators – which will be reflected in the ticket prices paid by passengers. The more I read about current SST development, the more I suspect that if the market was really there, Boeing or Airbus or anybody else with experience designing, engineering, and manufacturing aircraft with similar mission profiles (NAA Rockwell = B-1) would be pretty far along with their own projects. Unless all the Bigs are waiting for the Smalls to eat the development costs so they can buy out the IP and prototypes and say “There! Look what I did!”

  4. In my lifetime I have seen many proposals for Supersonic Airliners. The only one that came to even flying was Concorde. A beautiful plane that could not make money. This thing will suck up a lot of money and time and end up producing nothing.

  5. Not surprised they need to design their own. Concorde had huge problems with its air intake design, they had to slow down the air or it would flame out the engines. Not sure how a turbo fan from a sub-sonic jet would ever manage.

    • This issue has been a challenge to resolve for all supersonic aircraft. Even the SR71 had a complex air inlet setup to slow airflow to subsonic.

    • The rendering shows an extremely low bypass ratio. The SR71’s J58 required two operating modes to cover the flight regime.
      I foresee zero conforming aircraft being built in my lifetime.

  6. This whole announcement drops just enough name and buzzwords to make me think it’s nothing but VC-bait. Hardly worth the effort in analysis and expertise that the previous posters have expended, imho.

  7. This is looking like yet another aviation version of the current bitcoin fiasco.

    Perhaps they should hire Vern Rayburn, he must have some time on his hands these days?

    That way they can start issuing press releases a la the original Eclipse Aviation about how they have solved all those pesky manufacturing problems with their disruptive, friction-stir welding technology, all those idiots at Cessna, Lear, and Bombardier were just a bunch of tyros! We will show them!

    Remember when the Eclipse was announced the sales price was supposed to be $875K?

    And they originally started out with engines derived from drones [cruise missiles] too….

    I suspect the parallels will not stop there.