Supersonic Travel Set To Return With Aerion AS2 Project

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Travelers who miss flying the Concorde might have a chance of revival within the next 7-8 years as Aerion will push through with their project of the AS2 Supersonic Jet.

Aerion AS2The Reno, Nevada based Aerion has set a target of certifying the AS2 in 2021and introducing it into service short after.

A bit more than a decade ago the adventure of supersonic flying came to a sudden end when British Airways and Air France ended the Concorde flights. Regular customers soon began to miss these connections dearly but in the post 9/11 era the industry proclaimed that there was no way to operate these flights economically anymore, paired with the sentiment that the times for heavy subsidizes of such a prestige project were over as well.

Now there is hope that the Supersonic times will return to the skies, even though not through regular scheduled flights, Nevada based aerospace company Aerion (access their website here) which was founded back in 2002 has reportedly scored firm orders for 20 Aerion AS2 supersonic business jets.

Aviation Week (access here) reported about the deal which involves fractional ownership provider FlexJet who committed to the purchase this week.

Flexjet has placed a firm order valued at $2.4 billion for 20 Aerion AS2 supersonic jets, with delivery to begin in 2023. First flight is expected in 2021.

Flexjet CEO Kenn Ricci said the company will use the supersonic jet for overseas flights and also in China, which does not have restrictions on sonic booms. Customers are already excited about the jet, he said. They immediately began citing city pairs where they would like to fly. But no one wants to fly it subsonically, Ricci said. The AS2 can fly subsonically over land in the U.S., Europe and areas where the boom is restricted. But it won’t be cost-effective to do so.

The three-engine jet will burn a high amount of fuel, roughly 1,000 gal. per hr., and its long length will restrict its use at some airports, Ricci said. “It’s still going to be an expensive plane to operate,” he said. Still, with the aircraft traveling at Mach 1.2, its boom will not touch the ground, Ricci said. Because of that, regulators may be able to be convinced to allow the jet to fly supersonically across the country, he said. Even so, the aircraft can be placed at points on the Atlantic and Pacific for international travel.

These are the same problems so many infrastructure programs face in western countries. Even though something is technically possible, concerns about people on the underneath or along the path of said projects make many innovations redundant. The same goes for high speed trains in Europe that could go 300km/h but due to restrictions in urban areas are limited to 200 km/h or less.

Flexjet placed a down payment with the order. As the program progresses and milestones are met, it will put more money down.

The aircraft will carry eight to 12 passengers and have a top speed of Mach 1.5, which is 67% faster than the top cruise speeds of current or anticipated long-range subsonic jets, Aerion said. It will have a range of 4,750 nm at supersonic speeds, which will save three hours flying across the Atlantic versus subsonic aircraft and more than six hours on longer transpacific flights.

Back in 2014 it was reported that Aerion will cooperate with the European manufacturer Airbus in the design of the AS2 jet (see article here).

Conclusion

Firm orders, deposits etc are great but the project still has to come off the ground and most importantly the customers still have to be around by the time the jet is certified and ready to fly. Eight years is a substantial amount of time, let’s hope that all parties involved have the stamina to see this development through to the end.

If money was really a problem I guess Aerion could always find a foreign investor but cooperating with Airbus gives them a solid base as far as the expertise is concerned. Obviously the more reliable the engineering and design team, the less expensive delays are to be incurred.

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