Aerion is sticking to its 2015 target for putting its supersonic business jet into service, even though it has not yet sealed the necessary partnership deal with an OEM to produce the aircraft.

The start-up's chairman and backer Robert Bass said at EBACE that Aerion is in advanced discussions with "more than one manufacturer", but is bound by confidentiality agreements. The aircraft is likely to have to be formally launched within the next 18 months for the 2015 certification date to be achieved.

Aerion (stand 270), which has patented supersonic natural laminar flow technology for the aircraft, is partnering Pratt & Whitney to adapt its venerable JT8D engine. The company's orderbook stands at "around 50", roughly the same figure as this time last year.

Meanwhile, one of the handful of OEMs that could conceivably end up as Aerion's partner - Gulfstream - said at the show that it is continuing its supersonic research, but that it would not launch a programme until regulators in the USA and Europe relax long-standing rules prohibiting supersonic flight over land. The company has trademarked the name "Whisper" with US authorities, a title the application says describes an "aircraft featuring a design that reduces boom intensities during supersonic flight".

Help from the US government could possibly take the form of funding for a demonstrator to prove out sonic boom quieting technologies. The Federal Aviation Administration is testing the waters in advance of such a development. The agency recently held two public workshops where regulators and airframers, including Aerion, Boeing and Gulfstream, discussed potential new aircraft programmes with novel sonic boom mitigation techniques.

Gulfstream earlier worked with NASA to prove that a spike extending from the nose of an aircraft can shape and soften a sonic boom, now a patented technology that Gulfstream says other aircraft manufacturers have shown interest in licensing. Remaining work on the FAA's part will be to begin defining metrics for how people perceive sonic booms, both outdoors and indoors.

From a global perspective, the International Civil Aviation Organisation has established a supersonic technical group to investigate establishing noise and noise testing criteria for supersonic aircraft, including sonic boom shaping and the impact on people and structures on the ground.

At the show, Dassault chairman and chief executive Charles Edelstenne appeared to dismiss his company's potential involvement in any supersonic programme. "It may be something for the future, but not now," he said.

Source: Flight Daily News