The prospects for a supersonic business jet got a big nudge in May when the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it was working on two new rules that would pave the way for test flights and noise level certification of supersonic civil ...
The prospects for a supersonic business jet got a big nudge in May when the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it was working on two new rules that would pave the way for test flights and noise level certification of supersonic civil aircraft in the U.S.
The month before, NASA awarded a $247.5 million contract to Lockheed Martin to build a Low Boom Flight Demonstrator, or LBFD, aircraft to be used to test technologies designed to mitigate the impact, primarily noise signatures, created by sonic booms. Plans call for the LBFD to fly beginning in 2021 at speeds up to Mach 1.4 at 55,000 feet.
The ground noise signature and community response to it will be measured over a variety of different locales with the long-term objective of providing data that could be used to persuade lawmakers to lift the longstanding ban on civil supersonic flight over land. Removal of that ban is critical to the handful of companies working to bring a supersonic bizjet to market.
Those companies include Aerion, Boom, HyperMach, and Spike. Current bizjet builders Gulfstream and Dassault also are funding supersonic “research” programs but will say little about them. Of the bunch, Aerion has been the most commercially visible to date, teaming with GE to build its engines and Lockheed Martin’s famed “Skunk Works” on whole aircraft development of its AS2 trijet design. Aerion plans to fly its first airplane within five years.
As configured, the $120 million AS2 is designed to fly at Mach 1.4 with a supersonic range of up to 4,200 nautical miles and seating for 11 passengers. (Range increases to 5,400 nautical miles when speed is reduced to Mach 0.95—subsonic but still faster than today’s speediest business jets.) The AS2’s speed/range curve means that you can fly from New York to London, conduct the better part of a day’s worth of meetings, and still make it home for dinner. That saves two hours of travel time each way over a conventional business jet.
Unlike the cramped seating in the supersonic Concorde airliner of old, the AS2 will provide a normal size super-medium class business jet cabin that measures 6-foot-2 in height, 7-foot-6 in width”wide, and 30-feet long, with a full forward galley, aft lavatory, and baggage hold.
In 2015, fractional operator Flexjet signed an order for 20 AS2s that it plans to offer to its Global Lease customers who need supplemental and expedited transoceanic lift.
Aerion spokesman Jeff Miller told Penta last week that the company sees a market demand for as many as 300 AS2s over the aircraft’s first decade of production. Aerion doesn’t think it needs to wait for laws to be changed for its airplane to be commercially viable, pointing out that its design flies efficiently at subsonic speeds and also that it is engineered so that its sonic boom does not reach the ground at reduced supersonic speeds between Mach 1.1 and 1.2, a feature it calls “boomless cruise.”
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