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Bass-backed Aerion gives roadmap to supersonic goal with Lockheed, GE partnerships

🕐 4 min read

At a press conference on Oct. 15, Aerion Corp., the Robert Bass-backed company that is working to produce the first civil aircraft to fly at supersonic velocity since the Concorde, said it had concluded the conceptual design phase for the AS2 supersonic business jet and had embarked on preliminary design—a phase that will conclude in June 2020.

In press conference remarks , Aerion CEO Tom Vice said the company, working in close collaboration with Lockheed Martin and GE Aviation.

“We’re on track to fly in 2023, and before that year is out cross the Atlantic at supersonic speed, which will be the first supersonic crossing since the Concorde’s retirement 20 years earlier.

“Aerion and our AS2 industry team, comprised of Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation, and Honeywell, have solved many of the tremendous challenges in creating a supersonic renaissance,” he said.

“We’ve overcome some huge technical hurdles and we’re confident we’ll meet Stage 5 takeoff and landing noise requirements. We’ve made strides in structures and systems. We’re recruiting top tier suppliers. And we’re attracting the best and brightest engineering talent to the program as we grow our organization.”

Vice said the AS2 is the first step toward creating a revolution in global mobility.

“The AS2 is the first step on a roadmap to making supersonic travel efficient, sustainable, and widely available. Today we are at the limits of available technology. We are starting with a business jet because the technology closes and the business case closes—we see a viable market for the AS2. It will be our springboard to larger and faster designs, both for business aviation and commercial airliners.”

Vice said a next generation beyond the AS2, based on further adaptation of current engine technology, could take the company from the AS2’s speed of Mach 1.4 to Mach 1.6, and could be used on longer-range business jets and small airliners.

“Entirely new engine designs hold the potential to build larger aircraft able to fly at Mach 1.8 and above,” he said. “This evolution will require considerable investment in new technology and will arrive in stages over the next several decades, and Aerion intends to be at the forefront of these developments. If hypersonic passenger planes are flying at some point beyond that, we expect they will say Aerion on the side,” he said.

GE Aviation also announced Oct. 15 that it has completed the initial design of the first supersonic engine purpose-built for business jets. This new engine class, revealed as GE’s AffinityTM turbofan, is optimized with proven GE technology for supersonic flight and timed to meet the Aerion AS2 launch.

GE’s Affinity is a twin-shaft, twin-fan turbofan controlled by a next generation Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) for enhanced dispatch reliability and onboard diagnostics. It is purposefully designed to enable efficient supersonic flight over water and efficient subsonic flight over land, without requiring modifications to existing compliance regulations. The engine is designed to meet Stage 5 subsonic noise requirements and beat current emissions standards.

GE’s Affinity features: • Efficient performance throughout the full flight envelope with a high-altitude service ceiling of 60,000. • An advanced twin-fan with the highest bypass ratio of any supersonic engine. • A special, non-augmented supersonic exhaust system. • A proven engine core adapted from GE’s commercial airline portfolio with billions of successful and reliable hours of operational service. • A durable combustor with advanced coatings for sustained high-speed operation. • Advanced acoustic technology designed to meet or exceed regulatory requirements. • GE’s additive design & manufacturing technologies to optimize weight & performance.

“In the last 50 years, business aircraft speeds have increased by less than 10 percent,” said Brad Mottier, GE Vice President and General Manager for Business and General Aviation & Integrated Services. “Instead of going faster, cabins have increased in size and become more comfortable – and range has become longer. With large, comfortable cabin, long range aircraft in the marketplace, the next step is speed . . . made possible with GE’s Affinity.”

After two years of a preliminary study, GE Aviation and Aerion launched a formal process in May of 2017 to define and evaluate a final engine configuration for the AS2 supersonic business jet. A GE Project team, supported by a dedicated Engineering team, continue to work with Aerion in a formal and gated process. The next design review is targeted 2020, signaling beginning of detailed design and test article production. Aerion is collaborating with GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin and Honeywell to develop the AS2

Aerion and Honeywell Aerospace are collaborating to bring a revolutionary new cockpit to the Aerion AS2 – the first supersonic business jet in history.

“Honeywell will deliver a comprehensive connected aircraft solution that will enable operators to reach their destinations faster than ever before, maximizing their productivity while providing an exceptional travel experience,” said Carl Esposito, President, Electronic Solutions at Honeywell. “This is a fantastic opportunity to pioneer a new segment of aviation with Aerion.

In August, Aerion named Vice as CEO and president, replacing retiring executive chairman and CEO

Brian Barents.

Vice is the former president of Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector.

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