Aerion, based in Reno, Nevada, USA, was in the process of developing the AS2 model, a business jet that can accommodate between 8 and 12 passengers, and has the ability to fly at a speed of 1,000 miles per hour.
However, on May 21, the company announced, “In the current financial environment, it has proven extremely difficult to close the significant new scheduled capital requirements necessary to finalize the AS2 transition to production.”
“Under these circumstances, Aerion is now taking appropriate steps in this ongoing financial environment,” it added.
The statement comes as a huge disappointment for business travelers who were hoping to fly supersonic in the near future. What makes it so shocking is that the AS2 prototype was already in an advanced stage of development, having recently completed a high-speed wind tunnel test and logged hundreds of flying hours, equivalent to 78,000 nautical miles, at ONERA, a test lab. Air France in Modane.
Envisioning the development of the AS2 model was a completely carbon-neutral endeavor, Aerion used digital modeling techniques to save fuel and “eliminate the need for costly display aircraft and accelerate the program to the final stages of pre-production verification”.
Actual manufacturing is set for 2023, with a plan to build 300 aircraft within a decade.
In an official statement, Aerion said the AS2 model “meets all market, technical, regulatory and sustainability requirements, and the supersonic market segment has been validated by $11.2 billion in backlog.”
The company also has the backing of Boeing, although the largest US aircraft maker currently has its own challenges to deal with problems with its Boeing 737 Max model.
And in January of this year, CNN reported Aerion’s launch of its new clean-energy headquarters, Aerion Park in Florida, designed to integrate the company’s operations with a campus research, design, construction and maintenance of the company’s aircraft.
setback for aircraft group
This is frustrating for customers of luxury private jet providers, AS2’s main customer Flexjet, which was surely hoping to experience the thrill of breaking the sound barrier while cutting precious minutes from business travel.
However, Flexjet President Ken Ritchie appears to be taking the news philosophically. “Flexjet ordered the AS2 from Aerion in 2015, and the company has been supportive of the program ever since,” he says, adding that “while we feel Disappointed when we hear from the company that it has ceased operations, we understand the huge investment that such programs would require to achieve their results and the inherent risks involved.”
Competitors are on the right track
Meanwhile, Denver, Colorado-based Boom Supersonic is pressing ahead with its plans to develop the 65- to 88-passenger Overture aircraft, which is intended for use on ocean-going routes and operates at more than twice the speed of sound, making it capable of flying. The New York to London route traveled in just three hours and 15 minutes.
The company claims the aircraft’s flight test prototype, the XB-1, will be 100% carbon-neutral and is expected to make its maiden flight later this year in Mojave, California. If all goes as planned, the Overture is scheduled to fly in 2026, and commercial operations to begin by 2029.
The program was backed by Japan Airlines with a strategic investment of $10 million and the option to purchase up to 20 aircraft from Boom through a pre-order arrangement.
Elsewhere, Boston-based Spike Aerospace says it is collaborating with Tech Mahindra, an India-based company that specializes in composite airframe design, stress analysis and optimization, to develop the Spike S512 Supersonic Jet, which seats 12-18 passengers. In quiet luxury, at Mach 1.6.
In the long term, Exosonic is building a presidential aircraft at Mach 1.8 with a range of 5,000 nautical miles, decked out with luxury hardware. However, incumbents in the White House will have to wait until the mid-2030s before Air Force Two takes to the skies.