Paris: Aerion, a Reno, Nevada-based company, says it is "aggressively pursuing the development of a supersonic business jet (SSBJ)." If successful, this will be the world's first business jet.
The company currently remains in the early stages of developing its engineering and business plans, and their presence this week at the Paris Air Show is aimed at working with potential suppliers and promoting their project.
Aerion said it anticipates a five-year development programme after formal launch, and a development cost of $2 billion. This, it hopes, will be borne by manufacturing and financial participants in the project, including what it calls "risk-sharing suppliers."
Aerion aims to reintroduce commercial supersonic flight by leveraging current advances in aerodynamics and other technologies. Its current design and planning phase, it says, is fully funded by an investor group led by Robert Bass.
As presently envisioned, the Aerion SSBJ will fly below Mach 1 over the US. Elsewhere, the company expects the airplane to cruise at about Mach 1.1 to 1.2. According to Aerion, though its jet will create shock waves, at low supersonic speeds they will dissipate before reaching the surface.
Recent redesign efforts include:
- Substantial reshaping of the forward fuselage to provide a larger, ergonomically enhanced cabin, as well as improved cockpit and windshield design. These will also help in trimming drag.
- Cabin height has increased to a constant 6.2 feet from 6 feet, maximum cabin width to 6.5 feet and maximum width of the flat cabin floor to 5 feet.
- The Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 engine that will power the Aerion jet has also been selected for the US Air Force JSTARS programme, ensuring long-term production availability. The JT8D-219 is a state-of-the-art derivative of the JT8D engine, with many new components.
- Structural design studies on the aircraft include those of cabin, mid-and aft-fuselage, wing outboard panels and carry-through structures.
- The aft fuselage has been lengthened and the tail surface area reduced, providing improved takeoff performance, reduced weight and lower cruising drag.
"The level of interest we are seeing from OEMs - and from fleet operators such as fractional programmes and aircraft management firms - suggested to us it was time to raise our profile at Paris," said Aerion vice chairman, Brian Barents. "Participation at the Paris Air Show is a major commitment for any company. We expect in the course of this week to move the Aerion aircraft much closer to reality."