Aerion chairman Robert Bass said that the company remains committed to its supersonic business jet program “as long as we see progress in our discussions with OEMs. We are seeing progress,” he told attendees at the NBAA Convention late last month. “In fact, we are quite encouraged by our discussions. There is no question that the economic impact on the industry has slowed their decision-making progress, but it has not lessened interest in this program.”
What makes the Aerion design different is also what could help it succeed, according to Bass. The Aerion jet is as efficient as some existing business jets when flying just below the speed of sound, which still saves about an hour on a coast-to-coast flight. In ICAO countries under current rules the Aerion jet can fly between Mach 1.1 and 1.2, and once over the ocean and certain land masses, the supersonic jet can fly at its maximum cruise speed of Mach 1.6.
That efficiency is the result of the jet’s supersonic natural laminar flow wing, according to senior advisor John Holding. “There are no barriers to success. Technical risks are low, and the development of the jet is well within the capability of several manufacturers. It is therefore clear to us and to the OEMs with whom we are in meaningful and constructive discussions that the Aerion jet is the only practical path to supersonic flight by the middle of the next decade.”
Aerion says it has a backlog of about $4 billion in the form of letters of intent for the jet at a price of $80 million each. Two holders have asked for deposits to be refunded and have been replaced with new deposit-holders, according to the company. Aerion hopes the discussions with potential OEMs will lead to a nine- to 12-month technical assessment phase followed by launch of a five-year development and certification program.