Aerion, the Reno, Nevada, company formed in 2002 to reintroduce supersonic flight to commercial aviation, has found a collaborator for its work who needs no introduction to the aerospace sector: global powerhouse Airbus Group.
Aerion has been working to bring to market by 2021 the AS2, a 115,000-pound, Mach 1.4 business jet with a 5,000-mile range and a $100 million price tag. Those specifications were shaped by a market survey that envisioned demand for 600 of the aircraft.
"This is a major step forward for Aerion," said Robert M. Bass, Aerion’s chairman and principal investor. "It puts us solidly on track toward our objective of certifying the world’s first supersonic business jet in 2021."
The agreement to share "technologies associated with the future of high-performance flight" will further both companies’ objectives through exchanges of "knowledge and capabilities in design, manufacturing and certification," Aerion said in a Sept. 22 news release.
Airbus Group’s Defense and Space Division, which generates about 14 billion euros in revenue annually for Airbus, will provide technical and certification support, with some senior engineering staffers being assigned to Aerion’s Reno office, Aerion said.
Aerion will furnish "proprietary technology and assistance" to Airbus’s high-performance aircraft technology development "over the long term," including design tools and aerodynamic designs, it said.
Jean Botti, Airbus Group’s chief technical officer, said Aerion’s contribution in the collaboration of exclusive access to its research will have "broad applications" for performance and efficiency of designs.
The announcement—and the expanded engineering resources for Aerion—arrive as Aerion enters "a design phase in which propulsion systems, structures, avionics and equipment are specified and sourced," Aerion said, projecting a timeline for a first flight of the AS2 around 2019.
“The largest immediate challenge will be specifying an engine for the AS2,” said Jeff Miller, Aerion’s director of marketing and communications. “Together with Airbus, we are engaged in analyzing modern engine cores from the major engine suppliers. We'll need to adapt one of these for the supersonic environment, which means eliminating the high-bypass fan and reconfiguring as a low-bypass engine.
“This will be a significant challenge, but there are a number of suitable cores and our joint effort will be focused on selecting the best one and working with the engine manufacturer to adapt it,” he said.
The collaboration "provides validation from the industry leader in aerospace innovation," said Aerion CEO Doug Nichols in the company's news release.
And, "It decisively kicks the program into high gear."