Boom Supersonic’s Greensboro Plant Could Produce 65 Aircraft By 2030s
Ahead of its XB-1 subscale demonstrator flight, targeted for the third quarter of this year, Boom Supersonic has revealed more details to Aviation Week about its planned Overture Superfactory near Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Denver-based company in January already confirmed that it expects to break ground later this year on the new site at Piedmont Triad International Airport. The 400,000-ft.2 facility will be built on a new 65-acre campus in an undeveloped area on the northeast side of airport, and Boom hopes to move in by the first quarter of 2024. Preparation for production, including tool installation, will follow.
- Boom in discussions with legacy aerospace Tier 1 providers
- Aircraft design leaning toward composite fuselage, wing
At the Aviation Week A&D Manufacturing Conference in Greensboro in May, Chris Taylor, Boom vice president for manufacturing, said the company was on the cusp of announcing its design-build contractor. But one goal Boom already was committed to was for the Greensboro site to be a net-zero-carbon facility.
“Everything from materials to the kind of energy that we burn and even the landscaping will be designed to get us to a net-zero-carbon facility,” he said.
Meanwhile, Boom is working with unidentified tooling integrators to figure out the build operations. “Generally speaking, we will have positioning systems that will position major pieces of structure together so that we can join them,” Taylor said. “The drilling will be automated. We’re staying away from the automated fill for the moment. We will be using automation to drill the splices, [to attach] the wings to the fuselage, and to drill the fuselage splices together.”
A separate metrology system will be set up to analyze wing symmetry, the executive said. “One of the other key components is that we’re going to have to manage the wing symmetry very, very carefully,” Taylor added.
The “long, skinny building” will allow a four-station, open-bay build operation. Those operations will complete everything from joining the fuselage sections, joining the wing sections, positioning the wing to the fuselage, installing the empennage and landing gear, outfitting the flight deck entirely as well as building, testing and installing all systems.
The factory will have overhead cranes, but Boom plans to use them “only in an emergency,” Taylor said. Otherwise, the site will use automated guided vehicles to move parts and whole aircraft around.
Interiors probably will be relegated to a separate building on-site “sometime later.” For now, Boom expects to install an interior in one of its flight-test units. That will probably be doable on the Greensboro line, “but eventually that would be a separate function,” Taylor said. The campus also will eventually include a structural test hangar.
The company aims for a six-day move rate in manufacturing. The Greensboro line should produce 30-35 aircraft a year. By the early 2030s, Boom expects it will have to duplicate that rate. “Our production plan is that we need to get to over 65 by 2032, so that is what we’re trying to get to,” Taylor said.
As Boom’s first Greensboro hire, Taylor is responsible for developing the manufacturing facility and processes as well as delivering the first completed Overture for testing in 2026. Rollout of the prototype is currently set for 2025, executives said in January (AW&ST Feb. 7-20, 2022, p. 25). Entry into service is forecast by 2029.
Boom has not yet chosen a manufacturing execution system for the Greensboro plant, but expects to do so this year, Taylor said. The company will use model-based system engineering software from Dassault Systems. Design activity will remain a Denver responsibility, but there will be design “representation” at the factory.
“The plan is to have a completely paperless factory,” he said. “We would be relying on computer-based planning systems, computer-based data collection, [and a] radio-frequency-identification-type environment for material movement around the facility so that we know where everything is.”
The manufacturer has stressed that both the close proximity of Greensboro to numerous Tier 1 aerospace suppliers and the Piedmont airport’s relatively close proximity of about 200 mi. to the East Coast will facilitate supersonic flight testing over the Atlantic. Honda Aircraft has established a production site for the HondaJet business aircraft at the airport, which has three long runways—two of which run in parallel and are 9,000 ft. and 10,000 ft. long, respectively.
Boom is in discussions with Collins Aerospace, a unit of Raytheon Technologies, as well as Safran, Parker Hannifin, Honeywell International and other major aircraft systems providers, according to Taylor. The company also is talking with traditional aerostructures providers in the U.S. and Europe, he said, without providing more details.
“There is nobody new out there that we are talking to or that we plan to talk to on the structure side,” Taylor added. The fuselage will be composite, “and it looks like the wing is trying to be composite as well.
“We’ll be looking to suppliers who are already well-versed in large composite structure,” he said. Boom will “very shortly” issue its first related request for proposals for fuselage pieces.
Taylor acknowledged that the announced timeline for Overture’s certification and entry into service is aggressive, but not necessarily because of technology. “Our plan is that every piece of technology that goes into this airplane is already certified, and some version of it is already flying somewhere,” he said.
Instead, Taylor anticipates that the biggest hurdle to the planned product rollout could be supply chain challenges. “For us, the supply chain is going to be the more critical thing,” Taylor said.
“Whether it’s a structural supplier, engine supplier or landing gear supplier, you have theoretical timetables out there, and we have got to march to them and manage to them,” he said. “If we have a slip, we’ve got to be able to deal with that.”