Aerion (Booth L106), the U.S.-based developer of the AS2 supersonic business jet (SSBJ), remains on pace to make its first flight 60 months from today—in 2023—the company confirmed at EBACE 2018. It will build five flight-test vehicles en route to certification, projected for 2025.
Aerion also announced two units of TAG Aviation as sales consultants. TAG's UK division will handle Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while TAG Asia will cover China, Hong Kong, and other parts of southwest Asia. The company further promoted deputy chief engineer Peter Sturdza to v-p of flight sciences.
The company has added key personnel in recent months. In March, Tom Vice, former president of Northrop Grumman’s aerospace systems division, was named president and COO. In January, Bryan Moss, former president of Gulfstream and of Bombardier’s business aircraft division, joined the board of directors. Additionally, Brian Barents was promoted to executive chairman and CEO. Robert Bass remains chairman.
In December, Aerion signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to develop the aircraft, and the two companies’ teams of engineers are working together on a daily basis, the company said. Aerion last year announced an agreement with GE Aviation to develop engines to power the AS2, for which Aerion said it is spending $1 billion.
The engine will use the core of an unidentified existing GA Aviation engine in the 18,000-pound-thrust range. According to Aerion, the chosen powerplant has already accumulated some one billion hours of service, which indicates it is likely the CFM56. A low-bypass turbofan engine will be built around the core for the AS2.
Aerion is working with the FAA and ICAO on noise and emissions standards for future supersonic aircraft. The FAA recently paved the way for development of supersonic aircraft with the announcement it was working on a pair of rulemakings, the first a proposed noise certification and the second a clarification of procedures required to obtain special flight authorization to conduct supersonic flight testing in the U.S.
However, the proposed rules would not rescind the current prohibition on supersonic flight over land without special FAA authorization. But Aerion’s business plan is based on the assumption the aircraft will be prohibited from supersonic flight over the Continental U.S., so any relaxation of that prohibition would be an upside for the company.
According to Barents, the AS2 will have a fly-by-wire system, but Aerion is delaying the choice of avionics provider given the rapid pace of technological advances in the space. The AS2’s top speed has been dialed back to Mach 1.4 from 1.6 to minimize design complexities and keep the aircraft firmly within the envelope of current technological capabilities.
Airbus, with whom Aerion had signed an MoU for sharing of data, expects to continue the relationship on a contractor basis.