After advances in technology and aircraft design led to the evolution of planes that could fly faster than the speed of sound, the air passenger service industry of the time thought of the possibilities for introducing supersonic airliners for commercial flights. Only two designs became feasible enough for the work: the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 and the British-French Concorde. The former served as an airliner for three years (1975-78) before being reduced to cargo and scientific use, while the latter was active from 1976 to 2003. There were issues regarding both planes, ranging from unhealthy sonic booms to fuel emission fallout.
While no aircraft manufacturer has delved seriously into new large-scale supersonic transport ideas since, American company Aerion is scaling down the concept with the intent to create business jets that fly faster than sound. CNN tells us that in order to step up their development of the AS2 supersonic business jet that is the cornerstone of their business, they are starting work on their new global headquarters, Aerian Park located in Melbourne, Florida. Aerion Corporation plans to complete enough of their HQ in time for the start of production for the AS2, slated in 2023.
At more than 110 acres, Aerian Park is a combination campus for research and design, plus manufacturing and interior completion hub. With its close proximity to Orlando Melbourne International Airport, any aircraft rolling out of Aerion’s factory will be ready to fly, and by 2026 the company hopes to provide no less than 675 high-paying jobs at Aerian Park in the local area. Construction costs are estimated at around $300 million, gathered via capital investment.
The crux of Aerion’s existence is the AS2, originating in 2004 as the SBJ (literally “supersonic business jet”) design, before being updated to its current form by 2014. With a capacity of 8-12 passengers, the AS2 can reach supersonic speeds of up to Mach 1.4 (above 1,000 mph). At that speed, it could cross the Atlantic from New York to London in 4 and-a-half hours. Each aircraft has a $120 million price tag, with Aerion already having a production backlog of 300 AS2 orders to be delivered in 10 years.
According to Aerion chairman, president and CEO Tom vice, the hefty asking price for their AS2 supersonic jet will pay itself in terms of time saved in shorter flights plus lower fuel-burn thanks to its highly-efficient General Electric Affinity engines. There will be no environmental damage at the level of Concorde’s operation years ago. Aerion sees the AS2 flying for tests by 2024, with market availability following next by 2026.
Image from Space Coast Daily