GE Aviation will partner with Aerion to design a supersonic engine that could power the AS2 business jet, meet stricter community noise regulations and potentially serve as a gateway to a commercial supersonic transport.

The agreement signed within the past month commits GE to define an engine that could meet the supersonic AS2's requirements, but stops short of a pledge to continue the effort into testing and production, says Brad Mottier, vice-president and general manager for GE Business and General Aviation & Integrated Services.

But GE's interest in the project is sincere after spending two years in discussion with Aerion over a wide range of propulsion concepts for the AS2, Mottier says, addressing a press conference on the eve of the EBACE convention.

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"We would not be going to the next step if we did not see applications for production," he says.

As part of a separate collaboration with Airbus Defence and Space, Aerion has "converged" on a preliminary design for aerostructures and for systems architecture, says Doug Nichols, Aerion chief executive.

A GE news release accompanying the announcement notes that Aerion's vision for the AS2's supersonic technology extends to the commercial market, which has lacked an aircraft with the capability to exceed the speed of sound since the retirement of the Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde in 2003.

Aerion has been searching for a new engine partner since scrapping an initial design for a supersonic twinjet in 2014, when new community take-off noise regulations that take effect this year ruled out the company's original selection of Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines. The AS2 concept was unveiled as a trijet with 4,800nm range at long-range cruise speed.

The aircraft should be capable of Mach 1.4 flight, but a US ban on breaking the sound barrier will restrict the top speed to M0.95 over land. In Europe, aircraft are restricted from creating a sonic boom, which may allow the AS2 more flexibility. Aerion claims the AS2's sonic boom will not be detectable on the ground below M1.2 due to atmospheric diffraction.

Featuring a supersonic natural laminar flow wing, the AS2 is designed to cruise efficiently at M0.95 and M1.4.

Aerion has previously described a requirement for a 16,000lb-thrust engine for the AS2, although with much greater acceleration power than normally found in a subsonic engine of that class.

Source: Flight Daily News