Supersonic Bizjet Launch Inches Closer, Says Analyst

 - March 26, 2018, 11:28 PM
Aviation analyst Brian Foley is optimistic that a formal launch of a supersonic business jet is coming closer. Aerion Corp. has been developing key technologies for its AS2 design for more than a decade. (Photo: Aerion Corp.)

“We’re much closer to a supersonic business jet (SSBJ) being formally launched” as costs and persistent risks related to regulatory, engines, and sonic boom noise are “progressively mitigated,” according to aviation analyst Brian Foley. “The final impetus will be from the realization that to command this relatively small but high-value market requires being early to capture finite sales.”

One primary regulatory risk has been defining what constitutes an acceptable sonic boom noise over land, “which can be quite subjective,” he said. The FAA is currently re-examining the supersonic flight over land ban, which Foley hopes will result in “much needed guidance and design latitude” in the coming months.

Another challenge he cited is a powerplant able to operate in the supersonic regime while still offering reasonable times between maintenance overhauls. It also comes down to an issue of money: “Who pays for the development of a new or derivative engine that meets these unique performance and durability requirements?” he asked.

An SSBJ platform needs both a civil and government market component to be successful, Foley noted. “Once the race is on with teams formed and proper funding, the concept could leap forward. While I now view a formal SSBJ launch as being more conceivable than ever, it’s still moving at the very subsonic speed of technology, regulation, and money.”