Aerion SSBJ Design Becomes Trijet With Larger Cabin, More Range
Aerion Corp. (Booth 3634) is redesigning its proposed supersonic business jet (SSBJ) with a larger cabin and more range, reflecting feedback from a recent operators survey. The new aircraft–dubbed AS2, for Aerion supersonic second design–has three engines versus two on its now-scrubbed predecessor. It still retains a supersonic natural laminar-flow wing, which it calls “the key enabling technology behind practical and efficient supersonic and high-subsonic flight.”
Despite the configuration changes, which are being formally announced here at EBACE this week, Aerion anticipates that its supersonic business jet will still be certified in 2021. First flight is expected in late 2018 or early 2019, followed by a 24-month certification program.
“The message from many of today’s long-range business jet operators is very clear,” said Aerion CEO Doug Nichols. “They want a supersonic jet sooner rather than later; a cabin comparable in comfort to today’s long-range jets; a range of 5,000 nm or better; and they are willing to pay more than $100 million for such an aircraft. That is the supersonic jet we are now working to deliver.”
Inside, the aircraft’s larger cabin has a cross-section dimension nearly identical to that of the Gulfstream G550, sharing the same 6-foot 2-inch height although the AS2’s width is just one inch narrower, at 7 feet 3 inches. The 30-foot-long cabin, which is 17 feet shorter than the G550’s, will feature a two-lounge layout, galley and both forward and aft lavatories, plus a baggage compartment that is accessible in flight.
Outside, the AS2’s fuselage is 160 feet long, some 25 feet longer than the originally conceived SSBJ, and it has a wingspan of 70 feet.
Maximum takeoff weight is 115,000 pounds, up from the original aircraft’s 90,000 pounds. While the minimum projected range is 4,750 nm, Aerion is aiming for 5,300 nm. This is up from the original SSBJ’s projected 4,000-nm range.
According to Aerion, the AS2’s balanced field length is 7,500 feet at mtow. However, this can be lowered to 6,000 feet at takeoff weights below 100,000 pounds to allow for operations at airports with shorter runways or weight restrictions while retaining a transatlantic range of 4,000 nm. This would permit the AS2 to operate from Teterboro Airport, which has a 100,000-pound mtow restriction, as well as other major business aviation hubs with 5,000- to 6,000-foot runways.
As with the smaller, original Aerion SBJ, the AS2 will have two cruise “sweet spots,” where range and efficiency are at a maximum–one at about Mach 0.95, for efficient cruise where supersonic flight is prohibited; and one at about Mach 1.4. At both speeds, total operating cost will be comparable to current ultra-long-range business jet offerings, Aerion said. The AS2’s maximum speed is Mach 1.6, the same as its predecessor.
Its trijet configuration yields better runway performance and a lower noise profile, which is “especially important with Stage 5 noise requirements looming,” Nichols told AIN. The company is currently in discussions with “leading engine suppliers” to find the optimum core engine for adaptation to supersonic requirements. The selected engine core will be in the 15,000-pound-thrust range–a list that includes the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800, GE Passport and Rolls-Royce BR710. Aerion plans to announce the winning engine at the NBAA Convention in October.
The requirement to adapt a current engine core for the AS2 and to structure a joint collaboration among several industrial participants has prompted Aerion to sponsor and self-fund the full-scale development program. “For program participants, we can take the financial risk largely off the table,” said Nichols. “We intend to make this program happen and to maximize our return on investment. By assuming financial sponsorship of the program, we can accelerate commercialization of Aerion’s technology and intellectual property, and make practical and efficient supersonic flight a reality in just a few years.”
While discussions with potential OEM partners continues, Aerion is going forward with the advanced design of the AS2, with detailed design slated to be completed in the middle of next year. It is also continuing testing and recently concluded a series of low-speed wind-tunnel tests at the University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory that assessed various high-lift flap configurations. Aerion will also do further wind-tunnel tests on other configurations over month or so.
According to Nichols, Aerion plans to conduct another round of natural laminar-flow wing robustness testing on NASA’s F-15B testbed this summer or fall, depending on aircraft availability. To date, Aerion has invested more than $100 million to develop proprietary enabling technologies and optimization design tools to enable development of an SSBJ, it said.
Meanwhile, Aerion has put a pause on new orders for its SSBJ because of the configuration change and the price increase. Even though the price has escalated to more than $100 million, Nichols noted, “This really isn’t more than the $93 million CPI-adjusted price for the original SSBJ, meaning customers get more range and cabin space for a few million more.”
Customers with deposits on the original SSBJ have the option of converting their order to the AS2 or obtaining a refund. Nichols told AIN that the majority of deposit holders already contacted are opting to go with the AS2. “Aerion is absolutely committed to making the supersonic business jet a reality,” said Nichols. “We have every intention of having the first SSBJ to market. We will get there first.”
Aerion AS2—performance objectives and specifications
Maximum operating: 1.6 Mach
Long-range cruise, supersonic: 1.4 Mach
Boomless cruise: 1.1 - 1.2 Mach
High-speed subsonic cruise: 0.99 Mach
Long-range subsonic cruise: 0.95 Mach
Approach: <135 kt (250 kph)
IFR – 7,500 ft BFL: >5,000 nm (9,260 km)
IFR – 6,000 ft BFL: >4,000 nm (7,408 km)
Mtow: 115,000 lb (52,163 kg)
BOW: 49,800 lb (22,588 kg)
Exterior: Length - 160 ft/ 49m
Height - 26 ft/ 8m
Width/wingspan - 70 ft/ 21m
Wing area - 1,350 sq ft (125 sq m)
Height (max) - 6 ft 2 in (1.9 m)
Width (max) - 7 ft 3 in (2.2 m)
Cabin length - 30 ft (9.1m)