Aerion expects partners on SSBJ by NBAA 2007

 - November 9, 2006, 4:50 AM

Would-be supersonic business jet (SSBJ) maker Aerion (Booth  No. 5311) continues to “optimize” aircraft and systems designs while adding to its business staff and holding talks with potential partners.  The company recently hired former Bombardier Aerospace CFO James Stewart, and Aerion co-chairman Brian Barents said the company has “the expectation that we will reach agreement with major project partners in the coming year–before NBAA 2007.”

Barents said this agreement is not contingent on waiting for the conclusion of potentially competing or validating research from the European supersonic consortium, HiSAC (high-speed aircraft), a 37-member European Commission-funded group that includes airframe makers Alenia, Dassault and Sukhoi.

On the engineering side of the house, during the last year Aerion performed additional work on configuration optimization, noise analysis, systems development, icing, structures, aerodynamic testing and cockpit design.  

“We probably have better performance on the airplane than we had a year ago,” said Aerion COO Michael Henderson.  “The detail shapes have changed a lot but the basic layout has not,” he said.

The Aerion’s estimated mtow remains under 90,000 pounds and its range is still 4,000 nm.

Design optimization is geared at improving supersonic and transonic range and covers areas including engine inlets, exhaust nozzles and nacelle/airframe integration. Data from previous wind tunnel tests is being used to optimize tail size and geometry.

Aerion continues to seek ways to validate some of its key design data on supersonic natural laminar flow, according to Henderson. “Older wind tunnels cannot be used for transition research,” said Henderson, “because the high noise produced by the boundary layer on the walls destroys the laminar flow.”

Aerion is attempting to gather the necessary data using rocket sleds that go from zero to 1,000 mph in 1.8 seconds. Tests to date have shown laminar flow consistent with earlier F-15 flight tests at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

Joint studies with Pratt & Whitney and Aviation Fleet Solutions indicate that the Aerion’s JT8D-219 engines will fall within Stage 4/Chapter 4 limits. “The noise levels are lower than we thought,” said Henderson.

The company is working with several vendors to develop systems architecture for fuel, electrical and hydraulic power distribution, flight controls, pressurization, environmental controls, anti-icing and landing gear.

Aerion claims icing tunnel tests indicate that icing does not have a significant impact on the wing and tail surfaces. This test evaluated ice buildup on the wing outboard of the strakes under the worst case icing conditions. Other aircraft surfaces will require conventional anti-icing systems.