The supersonic-jet maker Aerion is making plans to choose a manufacturing location during early next year as it aims to deliver the first faster-than-sound business aircraft by 2023.
The timeline was announced Monday and it laid out how Aerion and its partner Airbus Group SE intend to manufacture a civilian plane that is capable of trans-sonic travel, a little niche in the market left empty since the Concorde retired in 2003. The partners developed initial designs for a carbon-fiber wing structure, landing gear, fuselage and a fuel system in addition to other components.
Airbus Senior Vice President Ken McKenzie said in a company statement that, “We see clear and achievable technical solutions to the design of a supersonic jet, and a realistic road map for helping Aerion proceed toward construction and flight.”
In a statement delivered at the National Business Aviation Association trade show held in Las Vegas, the companies revealed that Airbus plans to provide the jet’s major components while Aerion will construct the final assembly. For an ideal manufacture site, Aerion needs a 100-acre space located near a United States airport with a runway no shorter than 9,000 feet. As of now, the plan is to start construction on the factory in 2018.
Aerion plans to get the AS2 in the air for its first flight in 2021. The project is a long time coming. It began in 2002 and was postponed in 2008 and 2009 due to the financial crisis.
Aerion’s collaboration with Airbus increases the chances of building a private jet capable of breaking the sound barrier. The AS2 is specified to fly at lower speeds over land due to flight restrictions with regards to sonic booms. Over the world’s oceans, the jet can accelerate to Mach 1.5 - which is 1 ½ times the speed of sound or 750 miles per hour.
For decades, military jets have had supersonic capabilities. But, the economics are quite daunting for civilian aircraft. After 27 years of service, the high ticket prices were just too much for potential Concorde passengers and it was forced to retire. Moreover, the Concorde used twice as much fuel as a Boeing jumbo jet but could carry only one-fourth the number of passengers.
Since then, potential supersonic jet developers looked to business aircraft in hopes of sticking new technology in a smaller frame in order to attract wealthy customers and frequent-flyer executives.
Aerion CEO Doug Nichols said in the statement that it will begin to choose suppliers and an engine maker early next year. “We will proceed with an engine that allows us to meet our performance goals with the minimum changes required. Solutions are in sight with today’s engine technology.”