Aerion’s dogged 10-year ambition to bring the first supersonic business jet to market early in the next decade has taken a leap forward, after the aerospace firm joined forces with Airbus to “collaborate on technologies associated with the future of high-performance flight”.
The duo say they will “exchange knowledge and capabilities in design, manufacturing and certification” to “further their mutual objectives”.
Under the agreement, Airbus’s Defence & Space division will provide technical and certification support – which includes assigning senior engineering staff to Aerion’s expanding facility in Reno, Nevada.
“This is a major step forward for Aerion,” says company chairman and principal investor Robert Bass. “It puts us solidly on track toward our objective of certifying the world’s first supersonic business jet in 2021.”
Over the longer term, Aerion will provide proprietary technology and assistance to Airbus in its high-performance aircraft technology development. These technologies include Aerion’s extensive research, its proprietary design tools and patented aerodynamic designs.
The collaboration is a major breakthrough for Aerion as it enters a design phase in which propulsion systems, structures, avionics and equipment are specified and sourced, it says, but are yet to be disclosed.
Aerion is targeting first flight of the $100 million-plus AS2 trijet in the 2019 timeframe.
“This agreement accomplishes two major objectives,” says Aerion chief executive Doug Nichols. “It provides validation from the industry leader in aerospace innovation, and it decisively kicks the programme into high gear. Each company will benefit. Aerion moves quickly toward building a supersonic jet, and Airbus gains exclusive access to more than a decade of successful research and proprietary high-performance aircraft technology.”
The AS2 was launched in May as a larger, reimagined version of Aerion’s 10-year-old SBJ twinjet design. The aircraft has a target supersonic cruise speed of Mach 1.6 and a supersonic natural laminar-flow wing, which Aerion calls “the key enabling technology behind practical and efficient supersonic and high-subsonic flight”.
The AS2 has a projected maximum take-off weight of 52,200kg (115,000lb) and a minimum projected range of 4,750nm (8,800km).