Aerion Corporation announced this week that it is expanding its partnership with Airbus Group to construct a supersonic passenger jet. If all goes smoothly, Aerion's AS2 program will formally launch in mid-2016 when the company selects a location for a new manufacturing plant somewhere in the U.S. They will break ground on the assembly site in 2018, with the goal of completing the first flight of the Aerion AS2 in 2021, and the first commercial flight with FAA certification in 2023.
These are ambitious goals, but they seem much more attainable than some other supersonic jet concepts. With Texas billionaire Robert Bass backing Aerion Corporation, the project is unlikely stall due to funding alone. Airbus' involvement is also a major boon to the project, as the company can help Aerion streamline the construction of the new manufacturing facility in addition to providing all of the major components for Aerion to assemble.
The AS2 design also seems more realistic than other concepts. With a planned top speed of around 1,200 mph, the AS2 actually would be a bit slower than the Concorde, which topped out at 1,350 mph. Due to flight regulations that prohibit sonic booms over land, the AS2 design accounts for efficient speeds around Mach 1.1. Aerion predicts the AS2 can shave about two and a half hours off a flight from New York to London, down to a total flight time around 4 hours.
"We see clear and achievable technical solutions to the design of a supersonic jet, and a realistic roadmap for helping Aerion proceed toward construction and flight," says Ken McKenzie, Airbus Senior Vice President for Strategy and Corporate Development.
Unfortunately, the design plans include a luxury cabin that has a maximum occupancy of 12 passengers, so catching a flight on the first one might prove rather difficult. Perhaps future models of the aircraft will accommodate more passengers. You can check out the specifications and performance objectives for the AS2 .