Aerion is a supersonic business jet manufacturer who’s just announced preliminary designs for its Mach 1.4 capable AS2, 12-seater supersonic jet. This design shows a clear intent for Aerion and partners Lockheed Martin, GE, and Honeywell in the commitment to shorten international travel.
Aerion CEO, Tom Vice, explains this progress:
“The AS2 remains on track to fly in 2023 and complete certification in 2025. But with the preliminary design phase for AS2 due to conclude in June 2020, and assembly of the test aircraft beginning shortly thereafter, Aerion already sees the initial business jet as a jumping-off point for a family of supersonic successors.
Today we are at the limits of available technology. We are starting with a business jet because the technology closes and the business case closes – we see a viable market for the AS2. It will be our springboard to larger and faster designs, both for business aviation and commercial airliners.”
Challenges With Supersonic Flight
The biggest challenge in the development of supersonic travel is meeting the stricter airline noise restrictions that go into effect in 2020, known as Chapter 14 internationally and Stage 5 in the U.S.
With this legislation overshadowing development of any supersonic technology that has the prospect for commercial travel, Aerion began redesigning the aircraft eight years ago. They pursued an upgraded engine to replace the Pratt & Whitney JT8D, which was originally the baselines for this project.
GE vice president, Brad Mottier stated
“In the last 50 years, business aircraft speeds have increased by less than 10%. Instead of going faster, cabins have increased in size and become more comfortable – and range has become longer. With large, comfortable-cabin, long-range aircraft in the marketplace, the next step is speed.”
The priority at the moment remains focused on the AS2, which is designed for a supersonic cruise speed of Mach 1.4 over water but (under additional restrictions) could be Mach 1.2 without the supersonic boom reaching the ground.
What’s a Supersonic Boom?
A supersonic boom occurs when an airplane speed exceeds the speed of sound which is 700 mph. Once an airplane exceeds this speed of sound, a loud “boom” occurs—the “wake” of the plane’s sound waves. All of the sound waves that would normally propagate ahead of the jet are instantly merged together so at first, you hear nothing, and then you hear the boom they create.
Boom ting. The Super Hornet. Christopher Pasatieri/Reuters