AS2 supersonic jet will get huge new Florida HQ

(CNN) – The race is in full swing to produce the first supersonic airliner to enter commercial service for more than 50 years.

American aircraft manufacturer Aerion, whose AS2 jet promises to fly New York to London in 4.5 hours, is building a huge new global headquarters in Florida ahead of the production of the supersonic vehicle in 2023.

This is a huge step forward for the company, which will use a portion of the $ 300 million it raised for capital investments to develop Melbourne’s 150-acre Aerian Park, adjacent to Orlando Melbourne International Airport.

The new headquarters and the integrated campus for research, design, production and interior fitting of the supersonic vehicle promise to create 675 new high-paying jobs in the region by 2026.

The 8 to 12 passenger AS2 business jet will fly at Mach 1.4 (more than 1,000 miles per hour), which means it can save three and a half hours less standard travel time from New York to Cape Town and more than four hours fewer journeys between JFK and Singapore and JFK and Sydney.

Aerion AS2 could fly from New York to London in 4.5 hours.

Courtesy of Aerion

New supersonic era

The last supersonic passenger jet to cross our skies was, of course, Concorde, which retired from service more than 17 years ago. Although it was an engineering marvel, the cost and environmental impact were high.

“Concorde was a brilliant machine, a noble experiment, but it created too much emissions into the environment, too much noise in our communities and was too expensive to run.

“What we’re trying to do is very different,” Tom Vice, chairman, president and CEO of Aerion Corporation told CNN Travel in 2020.

Aerion has already secured a domestic and international backlog of more than $ 6.5 billion and plans to deliver 300 aircraft over a period of 10 years. The AS2’s first flight is scheduled for 2024 and the company plans to launch the aircraft in 2026.

The vehicle is priced at $ 120 million, which the aircraft manufacturer believes is a price people will pay to save time.

Aerion’s ambitions are also that the aircraft will work well in the sky: “The world can hardly wait to become climate neutral by 2050. We have to do this today,” Vice told CNN.

“Lowest fuel consumption possible”

Aerion supersonic concept vehicle

A representation of what the AS2’s cabin could look like.

Courtesy of Aerion

Aerion’s AS2 program partners include GE, which makes the Affinity supersonic engine, and Spirit AeroSystems, which makes the pressurized fuselage of the AS2.

In the cockpit, Honeywell is revolutionizing the flight deck and using its expertise in supersonic military jets to design the AS2’s mission processors, displays, sensors and flight control systems.

“We had to develop an aircraft that was incredibly efficient and with the lowest possible fuel consumption. That’s why we spent 10 years thinking about advanced aerodynamics and fuel-efficient engines. We designed specifically for noise and emissions,” says Vice.

One of the things Concorde won’t have is afterburners, a system that sprays fuel into the engine’s exhaust and burns it to increase the thrust at start-up and acceleration.

“We ruled that out because it’s too loud and emits too much into the environment,” says Vice. “The second thing we thought about was our source of energy. We wanted an aircraft that didn’t depend on fossil fuels and could run on 100% synthetic fuels from day one.”

The company is also committed to a comprehensive reforestation program to provide carbon offsetting for every customer on every flight.

“Boomless Cruise”

Then there is noise. Vice told CNN in 2020 that the AS2 would meet Level 5 aircraft noise standards, the strictest noise regulations for landing and take-off. “We think we have solved this problem,” says Vice. “Our plane will be as quiet as other planes around airports.”

But perhaps one of the most innovative features of the AS2 is its “Boomless Cruise,” which allows the aircraft to fly supersonically over land without the boom hitting the ground. Instead, the sound is broken back into the atmosphere.

Aerion invented the “Boomless Cruise” because the alternative type of quieter, supersonic flight called “Low Boom” is less loud than Concorde, but still produces noises on the ground that resemble the rumble of a distant thunder.

Vice wants to prove that the new technology can work. “As soon as regulators see that we can do this reliably, we’ll have the first airplane in history that can fly supersonic over land and no one on the ground will hear the boom.”

Vice expects that “boomless cruise” combined with climate-neutral operations will offer potential AS2 customers compelling productivity advantages.

Supersonic family

Aerion AS2 press photos January 2021

Aerion has big ambitions beyond AS2.

Courtesy of Aerion

“We looked at how business owners fly. We looked at a company from New York that was flying business jets around the world. When we replaced them with an AS2 and rerun those flights for every person who flew on their plane , AS2 saved them 142 hours a year, “said Vice.

Aerion’s stated goal is to build a future in which humans can fly between any two points on earth within three hours. AS2 is set to be the first in a supersonic family, with an AS3 airliner in the pipeline and future plans for hybrid-electric supersonic aircraft.

Aerion has several competitors in the supersonic and hypersonic aerospace sectors, but the one that’s causing the most buzz right now is Boom.

In October 2020, the Denver-based startup made history with the introduction of its XB1 demonstration aircraft, the first independently developed supersonic aircraft.

The 71 foot long fuselage, named Baby Boom, is a 1: 3 scale prototype of Boom’s upcoming supersonic airliner overture with a top speed of Mach 2.2, which can fly London to New York in just three hours and 30 minutes.

Tamara Hardingham-Gill contributed to this report.

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