Aerion CEO Tom Vice says the company is on track to fly supersonic in 2023.

Vice said that Aerion, working in close collaboration with Lockheed Martin and GE Aviation, had concluded the conceptual design phase for the AS2 supersonic business jet and embarked on preliminary design — a phase that will end in June 2020.

“We’re on track to fly in 2023, and before that year is out to cross the Atlantic at supersonic speed, which will be the first supersonic crossing since the Concorde’s retirement 20 years earlier.

“Aerion and our AS2 industry team, comprised of Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation and Honeywell, have solved many of the tremendous challenges in creating a supersonic renaissance,” he said.

Technical hurdles

Vice added: “We’ve overcome some huge technical hurdles and we’re confident we’ll meet Stage 5 take-off and landing noise requirements. We’ve made strides in structures and systems. We’re recruiting top-tier suppliers. And we’re attracting the best and brightest engineering talent to the program as we grow our organisation.”

Speaking at the NBAA-BACE event in Orlando, Florida, Vice also looked beyond the AS2 to subsequent technologies and aircraft.

He said: “The AS2 is the first step on a roadmap to making supersonic travel efficient, sustainable, and widely available. 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.”

He said, today Aerion is adapting off-the-shelf engine core technology, “which in itself is no easy task”.

For the next stage, new engine development will be required.

Towards hypersonic

Vice explained: “A next generation beyond the AS2, based on further adaptation of current engine technology, could take us from the AS2’s speed of Mach 1.4 to Mach 1.6, and could serve as a larger cabin, longer-range business jet and small airliner. Entirely new engine designs hold the potential to build larger aircraft able to fly at Mach 1.8 and above. This evolution will require considerable investment in new technology and will arrive in stages over the next several decades, and Aerion intends to be at the forefront of these developments. “

He concluded: “If hypersonic passenger planes are flying at some point beyond that, we expect they will say Aerion on the side.”

Replay the recent FINN Sessions panel debate on supersonic flight, featuring Ernie Edwards, Aerion and Vik Kachoria, Spike Aerospace.

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