Boeing today announced a partnership with Aerion Corp. and further made a “significant,” but undisclosed, investment in the Reno, Nevada-based supersonic business jet (SSBJ) developer that aims to “accelerate technology development and aircraft design, and unlock supersonic air travel for new markets.” This apparently replaces Lockheed Martin as Aerion’s aircraft manufacturing partner—a development that, when announced in December 2017, displaced Airbus from this central position. Under the new agreement, Boeing will provide engineering, manufacturing, and flight-test resources, as well as strategic vertical content, for Aerion’s AS2 SSBJ.
The move also resulted in a major shake-up of Aerion’s board of directors, with Boeing now holding two seats and the departure of billionaire backer, and now former chairman, Robert Bass. Boeing’s contingent on the board consists of Boeing Commercial Airplanes v-p of product strategy and future airplane development Mike Sinnett and Boeing Global Services v-p of supply chain Ken Shaw. Meanwhile, Tom Vice, who was elevated at Aerion to president and CEO, as well as a board member, in August, has added the title of chairman, effective today.
Notably, the change in manufacturing partners does not affect the timeline for the Mach 1.4 AS2, with first flight still slated for 2023, nor Aerion’s decision to use the GE Aviation Affinity engine to power the aircraft.
Business aviation analyst and JetNet iQ managing director Rollie Vincent said today’s announcement was “completely unexpected,” but added, “If you’re going to have a partner, there’s no one better than Boeing. If anyone has the resources to bear to bring a supersonic jet to market, it’s Boeing.”