Business Aviation Interviews

An Interview with Aerion Supersonic

An Interview with Aerion Supersonic

Aside from time savings, are there any other benefits of supersonic jets over normal business jets?

For our part, the bigger target is to see some of the technologies that we pioneer in delivering a new era in supersonic flight make their way into widespread adoption. The AS2 will incorporate the first propulsion system capable of operating on 100% Synthetic Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and with the wider adoption of SAF’s throughout the industry, supersonic aircraft will lead the way in offering a new, environmentally sustainable means of powering flight.

We think this is essential for the future of the aviation industry. As a relative start-up in the space, we have the advantage of starting with a blank sheet of paper where we can question everything and look at our impact on the environment holistically – not just the fuel source for the aircraft. We will build the AS2 in a new manufacturing facility powered by clean energy, incorporate recycled materials in the construction of the aircraft wherever possible, work with suppliers who have an environmental approach that mirrors our own and even consider what happens to the aircraft when it comes, many years from now, to the end of its time in service.

With current business jets already reaching maximum speeds of just over mach 0.9, is there really a need for supersonic jets?

We believe so, because supersonic flight that is done sustainably can overtake standard commercial flights in the future by not only reducing travel time but doing so in a way that is better for the planet. Equally, we see an opportunity to rethink the entire journey, from the point of departure to the point of destination, not just the core flight where any time saved can be lost by other inefficiencies in the total journey. Through Aerion Connect we will bring together the currently fragmented elements of the journey into a singular experience that integrates with our customers’ needs and lifestyles in an ecosystem that is optimized for speed.

Our plans are supported by the market – we see a growing appetite for sustainable supersonic flight – following a recent agreement with NetJets our order backlog now stands at $11bn+ which gives us great confidence in the market demand. Our expectation is a continued growth in private aviation and increased desire for people to spend less time traveling and more time doing the things they love. The AS2 will be the first in a family of supersonic aircraft that will enable humanity to significantly reduce travel time and spend more time doing the things they enjoy.

What are the major operational difficulties faced by supersonic jets as opposed to normal business jets?

The AS2 will be consistent with the operational requirements of other ULR business aircraft. The AS2 will require a BFL of 7,500, having industry-leading reliability and warranty commitments and offer DOC’s that are in line with other ULR aircraft when you consider the reduced flight times on a trip-by-trip basis.

What are the attitudes of different government bodies on supersonic jet travel?

We support any regulatory advancements that enable supersonic flight. The FAA’s recent Final Rule marks a significant milestone in the development of a new era in civil supersonic flight. We are encouraged that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration issued a final rule that streamlines and clarifies procedures to obtain FAA approval for supersonic flight testing in the United States. As we approach production and flight testing of the AS2, this rule provides our company the ability to test the AS2 aircraft over land in addition to the overwater testing currently planned.

The AS2 will be the first aircraft to operate at Mach speeds overland without a sonic boom striking the ground using our Boomless Cruise technology. Aerion supports permitting supersonic flight over land so long as no sonic boom is perceptible on the ground.

We have been and will continue working with the relevant authorities, including the FAA and EASA, as we continue to advance the AS2 and remain hopeful on further modifications in global regulatory standards for civil supersonic flight.

When do you think supersonic business jet travel will become a reality?

It is closer than ever. In the 50+ years since the birth of the jet age we have gone backwards in terms of speed. People are ready for change and for change that is possible in a sustainable way. In parallel there is a convergence of technologies that enable sustainable supersonic flight in a way that was not possible before such as the viability of SAFs and the first new supersonic engine in 55 years – the Affinity Supersonic turbofan by GE – which has been developed to power the AS2. First flight of the AS2 is scheduled for 2025.

When will we see the first flight of the AS2?

We made significant progress last year having finalized our design, completed wind tunnel validation and selected a site for our future global headquarters and manufacturing base (Aerion Park).

Our timeline is to start production of the AS2 at Aerion Park in Melbourne, FL in 2023 with first flight in 2025.

How do you solve the problem of the sonic boom?

Our core belief is that the only acceptable supersonic boom is no boom at all so rather than focus our energies on trying to quieten or soften the boom, our intent is to remove it, as far as those in the flight path on the ground are concerned.

Boomless Cruise takes advantage of an atmospheric phenomenology known as Mach Cut Off where the sonic boom, when created, refracts off denser, warmer layers of air. To use this phenomenology, you need the right combination of key ingredients – speed, aerodynamics, mass, the avionics suite available on the aircraft to name a few. Then, crucially, we need incredibly accurate atmospheric tracking and predictability. Traditionally this would have come from weather balloons, but we are working with Spire Global and their proprietary constellation of satellites that will provide high fidelity weather models in real time from space and allow us to compute an optimized flight plan on board the AS2.