AERION

February 27, 2016


Aerospace Defense and Technology, February 2016 publication, presented a fascinating article on joint engineering efforts provided by Aerion and the Airbus Group relative to a new supersonic business jet. This team has dedicated design and production planning since 2014, which has definitely been productive with a mid-November announcement from Flexjet ordering twenty (20) aircraft.  Aviation Week made the announcement as follows:

“Flexjet has placed a firm order valued at $2.4 billion for 20 Aerion AS2 supersonic jets, with delivery to begin in 2023. First flight is expected in 2021.

Flexjet CEO Kenn Ricci said the company will use the supersonic jet for overseas flights and also in China, which does not have restrictions on sonic booms.

Customers are already excited about the jet, he said. They immediately began citing city pairs where they would like to fly. But no one wants to fly it sub-sonically, Ricci said. The AS2 can fly sub-sonically over land in the U.S., Europe and areas where the boom is restricted. But it won’t be cost-effective to do so.

The three-engine jet will burn a high amount of fuel, roughly 1,000 gal. Per hr., and its long length will restrict its use at some airports, Ricci said. “It’s still going to be an expensive plane to operate,” he said. Still, with the aircraft traveling at Mach 1.2, its boom will not touch the ground, Ricci said. Because of that, regulators may be able to be convinced to allow the jet to fly supersonically across the country, he said. Even so, the aircraft can be placed at points on the Atlantic and Pacific for international travel.”

The digital photograph below indicates the basic airframe and shows the three engines designed into the fuselage.

Aeron AS2

Kelly Johnson, leader of the famous Lockheed “Skunk Works” stated years ago; “If it looks like it will fly, it will fly.  Well, this one looks like it will fly.

This biz jet will hold eight to twelve passengers and will have an intercontinental-capable range of 4,750 nautical miles at supersonic speeds.  At these speeds, three hours will be cut from traveling across the Atlantic and more than six hours on longer trans-Pacific routes.  It could get you from London to New York in 4 hours and 24 minutes. It takes a normal jet about seven hours to make that trip. The typical flight time from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia is about 15 hours and 30 minutes. On the Aerion AS2, the flight time would be just ten hours.

The AS2 will fly at a speed of Mach 1.5, using supersonic laminar flow technology.  The wing design will allow for lighter fuel consumption and increased travel ranges by reducing aerodynamic drag by twenty percent (20%).  NASA has issued a contract to model supersonic boom at ground level to ensure no issues result from supersonic flight.   New noise regulations coming in 2020 caused Aerion to change design from two to three engines to meet upcoming noise specifications.

The three-engine jet will make its first flight in 2021 and enter service in 2023.

As you can see from the digital below, the design is definitely cutting edge.  Other specifics are as follows:

 General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Capacity: 8–12 passengers
  • Length: 170 feet (51.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 61 feet (18.6 m)
  • Height: 22 feet (6.7 m)
  • Wing area: 1,350 ft² (125 m²)
  • Empty weight: 49,800 lb (22,588 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 121,000 lb (54,884 kg)
  • Powerplant: 3 × turbofans (low bypass ratio), 16,000 lb s.t.
  • Cabin size: 30 feet long, 6’2″ high, 7’3″ wide (9.1 * 1.9 * 2.2 m)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.5 (1140 mph) 1837 km/h
  • Cruise speed: Mach 1.4
    • Mach 0.95 at lower altitudes to minimize noise
    • Mach 1.1–1.2
  • Range: 4750 nautical miles  to 5300 nautical miles (8797 km to 9816 km)
  • Controls: Fly-by-wire flight controls
  • Structure: Ten (10) spar carbon fiber wing structure, fuselage and empennage structures.
  • Landing Gear: Articulating main landing gear system that minimizes space requirements when stowed.
  • Fuel System: A fuel system that is integrated with the digital fly-by-wire control system for control of center of gravity

Aerion and Airbus are presently working to specify the engines for the AS2 while keeping in mind the upcoming noise requirements.  Their goal is to provide acceptable fuel usage just below MACH 1.

Specifics

The interior is an absolute dream, as you can see from the next two JPEGs.  Talk about first class.

Interior

Interior (2)

This aircraft “ain’t “cheap but will serve a very specific function and is targeting a very small clientele.  Of course, there are no figures on how much this mean ride will cost relative to operating expense or maintenance but payback will have to result or there will be issues with cash flow and continued operation.  This one will be fun to watch.

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