A customised Aerion AS2 supersonic private jet

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  • Overview Details

    There’s nothing new about supersonic flight. Military aircraft exceed the speed of sound every day, and until 2003, civilian passengers could travel on the Concorde fleet. But building a next-generation transport jet to replace the Concorde has proven a frustrating quest, thanks to the high price of fuel, the astronomical cost of bringing a new aircraft design from drawing board to market, and the noise restrictions that forbid supersonic flight over the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world. These factors don’t favour a positive cost-benefit analysis.

    Nevertheless, the Aerion Corporation is determined to build the first supersonic business jet. The Nevada-based company has patented a wing design that promises top-of-class efficiencies. It has secured deep-pocket financial backing from billionaire Robert Bass. And it has formed a partnership with Airbus that provides access to its engineering expertise.

    Aerion was established in 2002, and two years ago it began developing the AS2. It expects to fly the aircraft for the first time in 2021 and begin deliveries in 2023. It already has at least 20 aircraft on order and backed by refundable deposits. Those jets are reserved for the fractional-ownership company Flexjet, which placed the order in 2015.

    The AS2’s designers are aiming for a maximum speed of Mach 1.5 (about 990 mph) and a 10,000km range. When flying over most land areas, the pilots will have to throttle back to subsonic speeds, but the hours gained over water or less-restricted parts of the world could shorten flight times substantially. For example, a flight from Washington, D.C., to Paris will be 3 hours shorter, and you’ll save more than 6 hours flying from San Francisco to Singapore.

    Aerion is working with DesignQ, an automotive and aviation design consultancy based in England, to develop additional options for the 30-foot-long cabin. The standard configuration seats eight in club seating, but the designers want to maximise the choices so each cabin can suit the preferences of the buyer.

    DesignQ CEO Howard Guy says it’s a challenging project because the cabin is relatively small compared to those of non-supersonic ultralong-range jets such as the Gulfstream G650 and Dassault Falcon 8X, and it tapers slightly from front to back. But, he says, “there are no excuses—everything has to be the best.”

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