Following his father into the aerospace sector, Richard Lugg's experience on supersonic programmes led him to found HyperMach, where as chairman and chief executive he leads development of the SonicStar business jet.

Where did the idea for SonicStar come from?

The origin for my idea really came from having been exposed to several US- and international-based supersonic programmes that I worked on. It was around 2001/2002, when I was still in industry, that the concept first germinated, although some time ago, one example of such a programme was Supersonic Transport, and another was the Quiet Supersonic Platform (QSP), which was a US government-funded programme. The thinking behind QSP was that being lighter-weight and smaller, it would be more efficient and have a lower sonic boom. It also had to have a truly hybrid propulsion system, which was a requirement at the time because of environmental concerns such as pollution, emissions and noise.

What is your own background in aerospace?

My father was certainly a big influence in my aerospace career; like me, he was British, despite my American accent! He worked with RCA in Canada before ­becoming a civil servant in 1963/64 with the US government, managing aerospace and defence policies. For myself, I have over 25 years' experience in the aerospace industry, chiefly in programme management and design engineering of high-speed propulsion and civil and military aircraft systems. I have worked all over the world, mainly in the US and Europe, although I was stationed in Malaysia and the Philippines in 1975 when I worked for the US government's ballistic missile defence department.

Why are you convinced there's a market for a supersonic business jet?

To start, we've received many enquiries regarding the VVIP 20-36 seat luxury business aircraft and we already have more than ten enquiries of interest in purchasing a SonicStar business jet; more than we anticipated. However, in addition to the business segment, we've also been approached by more than three airlines asking if we'd consider a 90+ seat hypersonic regional aircraft, possibly equating to more than 150 aircraft combined. In addition, we've been in discussions with two large air cargo companies that are very interested in a freighter version.

What is special about the technology you have developed?

The hypersonic H-MAGJET engine is a true hybrid and operates part electrically and part burning hydrocarbon or jet fuel. It also delivers large amounts of electric power so we can manage the airflow into the engine electrically. On top of that, we use three things that are revolutionary and different: electric power to generate the plasma; sonic boom drag-reduction technology; and a plasma field around the aircraft. We also use the high-power electricity produced to combust or burn fuel and draw fuel efficiency by ­delivering electric fuel injection in the combustor, which itself is brand new technology that's not been done before. Finally, we have a very unique supersonic laminar wing design that's been taking shape over the last three years.

Planned launch is almost a decade away. What is your working week like now and how do you split your time between engineering and raising funds?

Right now it's pretty hectic. My work week runs to some 100 hours over 6 days. We have approximately 20-25 staff distributed across the UK and US conducting all the engineering work, which is demanding and non-stop. We're also about to undertake laboratory tests for new simulations in Seattle with some of our technical teams. In terms of my time, I'd say that 50% is spent on capital investment and industry partnerships, split between 15% on partner development and 35% on raising capital. The other 50 per cent is spread evenly between engineering and intellectual property and managing the business.

Source: Flight International