The race is heating up to produce the first supersonic passenger aircraft to enter commercial service in more than 50 years. The AS2 will be 'boomless' and will not use fossil fuels.
US planemaker Aerion, whose AS2 jet promises to fly New York to London in 4.5 hours, is building a massive new global headquarters in Florida ahead of production beginning on the supersonic craft in 2023.
It's a big step forward for the company, which will use some of the $300 million it has attracted in capital investment to develop the 110 acre Aerian Park in Melbourne, right next to Orlando Melbourne International Airport.
The new HQ and integrated campus for research, design, production and interior completions of the supersonic craft promises to bring 675 new high-paying jobs to the area by 2026.
The 8-12 passenger AS2 business jet will travel at Mach 1.4 (more than 1,000 mph), which means it could shave three and a half hours off standard journey times from New York to Cape Town, and more than four hours off trips between JFK and Singapore and JFK and Sydney.
The last supersonic passenger jet to traverse our skies was, of course, Concorde, which retired from service more than 17 years ago. While an engineering marvel, it was high on costs and high on environmental impact. "Concorde was a brilliant piece of machinery, a noble experiment, but it put too much emissions in the environment, too much noise into our communities, and was too expensive to operate.
"What we're trying to do is very different," Tom Vice, chairman, president, and CEO of Aerion Corporation told CNN. Aerion has already secured a domestic and international order backlog which now tops $6.5 billion and it plans to deliver 300 aircraft over 10 years of production. The AS2's first flight is slated for 2024 and the company intends to take the plane to market in 2026.
The craft has a price tag of $120 million, which the planemaker thinks is a price that people will pay because of the time savings. But Aerion's ambitions are also for the aircraft to operate benignly in the skies: "The world can't wait until 2050 to become carbon neutral. We have to do this today," Vice told CNN.
"We had to design an aircraft that was incredibly efficient with the lowest fuel-burn possible, so we spent 10 years thinking about advanced aerodynamics and fuel-efficient engines. We've designed specifically around noise and emissions," says Vice.
"We wanted an aircraft that wasn't dependent upon fossil fuels and that could operate on 100% synthetic fuels from day one."
One of the AS2's most innovative features is its "boomless cruise" which allows the plane to fly supersonically over land without the boom striking the ground. Instead, the noise gets refracted back up into the atmosphere.
Vice reckons that "boomless cruise," coupled with carbon-neutral operations, will deliver compelling productivity advantages for prospective AS2 customers.
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