Greensboro chosen for supersonic jet plant

Kathy Savitt hands Governor Roy Cooper a model airplane during the Boom Supersonic announcement that they will be building Supersonic aircrafts to consumers to fly around the world at PTI in Greensboro, NC on Wednesday January 26, 2022. PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL

RALEIGH — Boom Supersonic, a high-profile aviation company building commercial supersonic airliners, will build its manufacturing and final assembly facility in Greensboro. Gov. Roy Cooper made the announcement at the Piedmont Triad International Airport on Wednesday. The project is anticipated to create more than 1,750 jobs by 2030 and bring an investment of more than $500 million.

“It is both poetic and logical that Boom Supersonic would choose the state that’s first in flight for its first manufacturing plant,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “Like the success of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, this innovative company will succeed by transforming passenger air travel with speed and sustainable energy.”

Named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2021, the Boom XB-1 demonstrator aircraft rolled out in 2020, and its carbon neutral flight test program is underway. The company’s manufacturing plant in North Carolina, called the Overture Superfactory at Piedmont Triad International Airport, will house the company’s first final assembly line, test facility, and customer delivery center.

State and local governments have offered $230 million in financial incentives to make the project a reality, including money for airport improvements, which the legislature approved in November, and other sweeteners approved Wednesday.

In a news release Wednesday, the company said the new factory will begin production in 2024, with the first Overture aircraft rolled out in 2025, flying in 2026 and carrying its first passengers by 2029.

“Selecting the site for Overture manufacturing is a significant step forward in bringing sustainable supersonic air travel to passengers and airlines,” Boom Supersonic CEO Blake Scholl said in the release. He said North Carolina’s ready aerospace workforce, easy access to technical schools and proximity to aerospace suppliers were factors influencing the company’s decision to locate here.

The Piedmont Triad airport is already the headquarters of Honda Aircraft Co. and the production site for its seven-passenger HondaJet Elites.

Gov. Cooper and other elected leaders and recruiters gathered in Greensboro for the announcement. It came less than two months after Toyota said it would build an electric vehicle battery plant in the region, which is a roughly 90-minute car trip west from Raleigh.

Boom is one of several companies trying to revive supersonic passenger travel, which died with the grounding of the Concorde nearly two decades ago. Boom has built a one-third-size demonstrator aircraft called the XB1, but now it faces the daunting challenge of bulking that up.

Boom boasts of “pre-orders” from several potential customers. United Airlines also announced last year an agreement to buy 15 copies of the Overture and take options for another 35. United, however, said any orders hinge on Boom meeting certain financial and operational targets, which it declined to describe in any detail.

Skeptics say that if supersonic passenger travel were really feasible, Boeing and Airbus would be building the planes instead of leaving the market to startups like Boom.

The Concorde flew over the Atlantic and was barred from many overland routes because of the sonic booms, and any new supersonic planes will face the same hurdles. Another factor that helped kill the Concorde was its high cost of operation. Scholl has said technology will help solve both of those challenges, and tickets should be in the range of current-day business-class fares.

The state approved additional support to help with final site preparations at the Piedmont Triad International Airport as part of the recently passed state budget (North Carolina House Bill 334). The legislature appropriated $106.7 million to the Department of Commerce to be used for site and road improvements and the construction of one or more aircraft hangars.

Salaries for the new jobs will vary by position, but taken together will average $68,792, increasing the regional payroll by more than $120 million every year. The Guilford County average annual wage stands currently at $53,994.

“Boom Supersonic’s decision to build its new campus in North Carolina proves once again that we are a top state for job creators and have a deep pool of talented workers,” Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) said. “Over the past decade we’ve turned North Carolina into a jobs-friendly state with low taxes, reasonable regulations, and a world-class education system. Today’s announcement is a result of that transformation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.