A carbon-neutral supersonic jet that follows form with function, Aerion AS2 is disrupting the business jet industry in a razor sharp way!
By: Somnath Chatterjee
Posted on: June 20, 2020
Supersonic jets are a part of aviation folklore and probably the most loved or the most controversial aspect of our aviation history. Of course, when you are talking about a supersonic aircraft, the name 'Concorde' conjures up in your mind. The fact that it is one of the most loved aircrafts in the whole world is not something which needs to be debated, but why it was confined to history books is certainly fodder for one.
Flying faster than the speed of sound with an iconic design and space-age craftsmanship, Concorde heightened the allure of supersonic travel. The celebrity aircraft of choice, only they could afford flying in one with the astronomical ticket price it demanded! However, one of the biggest issues of the Concorde was its inefficiency, while the crash of 2000 was the death knell. Concorde’s last flight was on October 24, 2003.
Thus one of the criticisms leveled at the Concorde or supersonic jets has been the thirst, expense, and of course, safety. Running Concorde was not possible due to the cost and other teething troubles. However, supersonic aviation is back in the reckoning again, and in fact, it will be in the skies sooner than you think, thanks to Aerion.
The Nevada-based American aircraft manufacturer has been flying the flag for supersonic jets since the noughties and is expected to begin flying its AS2 jet in some year’s time. For a private jet buyer, travelling supersonic within a few years will be a reality.
To say the AS2 is fast is an understatement as its party piece is a Mach 1.4 supersonic cruise (1,075 mph). You can expect to cover vast distances, i.e. fly to the other corner of the world, in a matter of hours. To put this into figures, you can fly from New York to Cape Town in near 10 hours - more than 3 hours faster than a regular jet. Similarly, you would save around 6 hours if you fly from San Francisco to Singapore.
Of course with the AS2, its promise to be the first commercial supersonic aircraft also hinges on the success of its design - much like the streamlined Concorde - and we would say that the AS2’s stunning design breaks new grounds in aviation. Sporting a sleeker shape, the jet is being built with space-age construction techniques and materials. In terms of its fire-power, the AS2 would be powered by the GE Aviation engines. Boeing is lending vital engineering support.
However, there is also another interesting aspect of the AS2, and that is crucial for its success. One of it issues with the Concorde was the sonic booms it made which was a hazard. Now the AS2 will not have any such thing as it would also be the first commercial aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds over land with no noise on the ground. It hopes to pass the stringent noise regulations which are critical for its success. Plus it also promises to be efficient - a bane of earlier supersonic jets like the Concorde.
A lot of this is due to the engine and the design plus the 'Boomless Cruise' technology which removes sonic boom. This piece of technology is patented and involves a complex process of deflecting the sonic boom from the ground so that you do not hear it. Aerion also claims the AS2 would be much kinder to its environment than its ilk and would be carbon neutral. That is due to the fact that it does not have an afterburner and it uses 100 percent bio fuels.
Of course, being a private jet, the luxury factor is something which also piques our interest. And while the design is leaning towards a more modern and minimalistic philosophy, it is all customizable. Aerion has hired an interior designer from Bombardier to take charge on the interior design. It showcases a sleek environment with a futuristic vibe oozing from the cabin. There is ample luggage space for the 12 or so passengers as Aerion wants to make sure that this is not going to be some cramped, expensive and impractical play thing of the super-rich. That said, due to the unique design, the space inside would be less than a ‘conventional’ private jet like a Gulfstream.
Of course with a price-tag which is expected to be north of a $100 million (120 to be exact), you could argue it would become the next 'must-have' for the billionaires of this world. There is certainly no shortage of them as Aerion has a decent order bank already with luxury private jet service provider Flexjet placing a strong 20 aircraft order. It seems the $4 billion pumped into the making of the AS2 would pay off rather quickly! While pre-orders are being taken now, you can expect deliveries by 2026, with a lavish production facility at the Florida International airport no less.
Time is the most valuable resource and the biggest luxury that even some of the wealthiest people on this planet cannot afford. Aerion looks to tap into the business jet segment and believes it is ripe for disruption. While a sky-high price-tag may not deter potential buyers, the complexities and getting the aircraft finally into production would be an uphill task, especially since the times we live in are different from the Concorde days - with stricter regulations and environmental concerns. However, on the face of it, Aerion seems to have found a niche within a niche. Supersonic aviation has indeed found a new chapter, and for aviation-enthusiasts’ sake, let’s hope this one flies higher than the Concorde!