Report: Supersonic jet maker could be ‘Project Thunderbird’ at Piedmont Triad International Airport

North Carolina

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Project Thunderbird has a name associated with it.

The News & Observer in Raleigh reported Wednesday that Boom Supersonic of Denver is in negotiations to open a facility at the Piedmont Triad International Airport. The newspaper said it had confirmed the report through five unnamed government and business sources.

The company would produce a supersonic passenger jet that is an update of the old Concorde SST, the newspaper reported. The News & Observer said the deal could close in 30 to 90 days.

A Boom spokesperson responded to an email query from WGHP to say, “Boom does not comment on speculation or rumors.”

PTI spokesperson Shannon Allen responded with a statement from November when PTI officials said “The airport has attracted the interest of a number of aerospace companies, which the local economic development community is actively pursuing. “

Various political and economic sources in the Triad did not immediately respond.

These are the tracts of land available at Piedmont Triad International Airport. (PTI.com)

The project has been shrouded under the codename “Project Thunderbird” since an economic incentive bill passed last week by the General Assembly and was signed this week by Gov. Roy Cooper to help lure an “airplane manufacturer” to the 1,000 vacant acres on the northern extension of his airport’s property.

The $106.75 million in a Job Development Investment Grant was said to be for “a high-yield project for an airplane manufacturer in Guilford County,” but officials kept very quiet the name of the company.

Qualifications for a JDIG, this project would mean about 1,700 new jobs and $500 million in investment, although the bill didn’t specify those numbers. They would make an average of $60,000 a year, the bill did stipulate.

Kevin Baker
Kevin Baker

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners also have discussed incentives and has scheduled a public hearing on Dec. 16 to review those.

Boom was founded in 2014 by CEO Blake Scholl, a former Groupon executive, and rolled out its XB-1 supersonic jet in October 2020. The company has a contract to United Airlines to provide jets.

The company says on its website that it builds jets that could fly from Paris to Montreal in 3 hours and 45 minutes instead of the 7:15 for commercial airliners.

“We believe in a world where more people can go to more places more often. Sustainable supersonic travel unlocks new possibilities for business relationships, prospects for vacation, and opportunities for human connection,” Scholl said on Boom’s website.

PTI has 1,000 acres in various stages of development on the north side of I-73 that is “ready for multiple users.”

“We have sections from 100 to 200 acres that are ready to go,” PTI Executive Director Kevin Baker said Tuesday. “Any project that comes around will depend on where it goes and the needs to finalize it.”

The parcel is connected by a taxiway constructed across I-73 – “It needs to be paved,” Baker said – and the legislature’s appropriation directs $15 million for site work at the airport, $35 million for roadwork through the NC Department of Transportation and $56.75 million for the airport to use “for the construction of one or more new hangars.”

Baker said a radar tower that had to be relocated south near Market Street is just about complete. “That’s already funded,” he said. “It will be done by summertime.”

The airport is home to about 50 companies, including HondaJet and Cessna, that, as of 2019, had an $8,641,160,000 economic impact, based on a report commissioned and published by the NC Department of Transportation.

The report says PTI employs 30,015 and generates $204.727 million in state and local taxes.

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