The divide between the digital world of AI and the physical one we inhabit still looms large in the consumer economy, but the industrial economy is bridging this gulf, harnessing AI through something called digital twin technology. One company, Aerion Supersonic, is now using digital twin in its most ambitious application.
The development of the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet has reached an important milestone in its development. The American manufacturer announced yesterday that it had completed the process of wind tunnel testing on the design.
Using Siemens Xcelerator portfolio, Aerion can use advanced design and simulation software to speed aircraft development, as well as achieve superior levels of performance in flight and excellence in operations.
Reno, NV & Falls Church, VA, 15 October 2020 – Supersonic aircraft company, Aerion, the leader in supersonic technology and global mobility, and Electra.Aero, a company leading the development of a new generation of electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft have agreed to collaborate on developing the global mobility solutions of tomorrow.
Aerion intends to develop a global mobility ecosystem, supported by leading global partners, that integrates and connects the point of departure to the point of destination, optimized for high-speed travel with different, innovative modes of transportation. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two companies, Electra will become one of the preferred partners of Aerion ConnectTM in the greater New York metropolitan area as well as other potential regional hubs to explore an integrated, high-speed experience.
Aerion CEO, President & Chairman, Tom Vice said: “Our intent at Aerion is not just to redefine speed and the experience of global travel but to build an entire ecosystem for point to point mobility.”
“We’re also clear that enabling this reinvented, faster ecosystem will require world-class partners to achieve success. Accordingly, I’m delighted to launch this partnership with Electra and their new generation of eSTOLs which with their large cabin, optimal range, speed and emissions capabilities, will integrate seamlessly into our vision of the future.”
“Aerion and Electra offer the perfect combination of speed and convenience” said Electra CEO John Langford. “Electra’s powered-lift aircraft can bring air service to areas of less than 100 feet. This will open new opportunities to connect urban, suburban, and remote areas.”
Electra.aero is developing a new generation of electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft that promise to help shape the future of regional mobility aircraft. The company’s innovative “powered lift” concept will enable Electra aircraft to operate in and out of space currently used for parking garages, helicopter terminals, docks, or barges.
In combining Electra’s eSTOL with Aerion’s AS2 supersonic business jet the two companies aim to advance development of urban and regional transportation networks, enabling a faster end-to-end journey and delivered in a seamless luxury experience through Aerion ConnectTM. The two companies are united in a belief that air travel should be an enjoyable, time-efficient and luxurious experience again – one that answers customers’ needs and lifestyles.
Aerion’s pursuit of faster point-to-point travel begins with the launch of the new AS2 supersonic private jet. Designed to be inherently environmentally responsible from first flight, the AS2 is the first supersonic jet designed to be powered by 100 percent synthetic fuel and will be capable of supersonic speeds of around 1000mph (Mach 1.4).
The AS2 will be the first aircraft to be assembled at Aerion’s new global headquarters in Melbourne, Florida – Aerion Park. The state-of-the-art development, powered by clean energy, will incorporate headquarters operations plus an integrated campus for research, design, build and support of the company’s new supersonic aircraft.
Reno, NV: 12 October 2020 – Supersonic aircraft company, Aerion, the leader in supersonic technology, today announced it has selected PPG, to provide the flight deck windshields and cabin window transparencies for the AS2 supersonic business jet.
A leading manufacturer of original equipment and replacement aircraft transparencies as well as paints, coatings and specialty materials, PPG has collaborated on the AS2 program since 2019. The company joins Aerion’s growing team of globally-renowned technical partners, as progress on the AS2’s development gathers pace ahead of manufacturing commencing in 2023 at Aerion Park. PPG brings more than 90 years of experience in design, certification and serialized production of advanced transparencies to aircraft OEMs and to the development of the AS2.
“Aerion Supersonic selected PPG to develop opportunities for product optimization and to help define the entire cockpit on the AS2 business jet due to our technical expertise in transparencies,” said Steve Kight, PPG global business director, civil transparencies, aerospace. “PPG is proud to support this important program, and we look forward to our growing relationship with Aerion.”
“PPG is a trusted and well-respected name known throughout the aerospace community that brings a comprehensive range of materials and solutions to the AS2 program” said Tom Vice, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are delighted to officially welcome PPG to the global AS2 team and look forward to our ongoing collaboration as we progress the AS2 to production in 2023.”
PPG’s global aerospace business offers coatings, sealants, transparencies, packaging and application systems, and transparent armour, as well as chemical management and other services.
Aerion’s pursuit of faster point-to-point travel begins with the launch of the new AS2 supersonic private jet. Designed to be inherently environmentally responsible from first flight, the AS2 is the first supersonic jet designed to be powered by 100 percent synthetic fuel and reach supersonic speeds without the need for an afterburner.
The AS2 will be the first aircraft to be assembled at Aerion’s new global headquarters in Melbourne, Florida – Aerion Park where the company will break ground this year. The state-of-the-art development, powered by clean energy, will incorporate headquarters operations plus an integrated campus for research, design, build and support of the company’s new supersonic aircraft.
Commercial flying at the speed of sound is closer to a comeback as rivals position themselves for the next era.
As the second era of faster-than-sound air travel nears, one of the niche industry’s pioneering players is looking further into the future—toward flights that are even faster.
Aerion Corp., the supersonic jet builder founded by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, plans to deliver its first AS2 business jet in 2027, with top speeds of 1.4 times the speed of sound, or about 1,074 mph (1,728 kph)—roughly double that of traditional commercial aircraft. Still, with rivals like Boom Technologies and others advancing their own supersonic plans, Aerion Chief Executive Officer Tom Vice is already anticipating the arrival of hypersonic travel.
“Our long-term vision is to allow people to travel between any two points on the planet within three hours,” Vice said Oct. 2 in an interview with Bloomberg News. To do so—and to avoid the physical rigors and technical complexities of suborbital space flight—Aerion’s next craft would have to cruise within the atmosphere at more than four times the speed of sound, or about 3,000 mph (4,828 kph).
Aerion, which is moving its headquarters from Reno, Nevada, to Melbourne, Florida—adjacent to its planned assembly center—is one of several firms in the nascent field of supersonic civil aviation, which has been heating up this year despite the economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. surprised some investors in August with plans for a Mach 3 aircraft seating as many as 19 people, an interim step on the company’s path toward eventual hypersonic point-to-point travel. Virgin’s supersonic project is being assisted by Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, which is also working with Boom on supersonic engine technologies.
And a fourth player, Boston-based Spike Aerospace, plans a 12-18-passenger supersonic jet that cruises at Mach 1.6 and has range to cover nonstop flights from London to Hong Kong and Dubai to New York. The company hasn’t offered a timeline for its development, however.
While many companies in this space have been big on pronouncements, the engineering obstacles to bringing a new generation of supersonic planes—let alone hypersonic planes—to market are nothing to sniff at. Aerion’s aspiration to hypersonic speeds comes almost five years before it even plans to build a production-model of its $120 million supersonic business jet, and seven years before the first delivery, assuming everything goes right.
Boeing Co. holds an equity stake in Aerion, while General Electric Co. is designing and building a new Affinity supersonic engine for the company.
Aerion said it plans further capital raises over the next three or four years and will add additional equity investors before it turns to the debt market for financing, Vice said.
Boom Technologies, meanwhile, plans a $200 million supersonic jet that can carry 65 to 85 passengers at more than twice the speed of sound, which it said will enter service by 2030. The company has orders for 30 jets from Japan Airlines Co. Ltd and Virgin Group.
Colorado-based Boom plans to introduce a one-third demonstration model on Wednesday, the XB-1, which will allow the company to begin flight testing in 2021 to glean data on the jet’s wings and fuselage. Boom plans to use three GE J85 engines to power the XB-1 and is evaluating engine designs with Rolls-Royce for the production aircraft, which Boom calls Overture.
Vice argues that Aerion has an advantage over supersonic competitors when it comes to engine development, pointing to its partnership with GE and its plan to build the first commercial supersonic power plant in more than five decades. The design is exclusive for Aerion, said Vice, who declined to disclose how much the engine development will cost or how it’s being financed.
“Somebody else wanting to build a supersonic business jet—they’re going to have to go find a different engine,’’ Vice said. Aerion “for sure” will be the first new supersonic commercial aircraft to market, he predicted. “We’ll get there years ahead of anybody else.”
Aerion said it scoured the world for an engine, including Russian designs that would meet noise restrictions, fuel-burn requirements and reliability over thousands of hours of high-speed flying. No existing engines fit the bill, though. Instead, the company turned to GE to build an engine with 20,000 pounds of thrust, special acoustic linings to reduce take-off noise and dual turbo-fans that don’t require fuel-guzzling afterburners.
GE’s Affinity engine will also be the first designed to run on traditional kerosene and synthetic fuel made in part by capturing carbon dioxide from the air. GE spokesman Nick Hurm confirmed the company’s “unique commercial agreement with Aerion” to build the engine, but declined to disclose financial terms.
Cruising at Mach 1.4, the AS2 would allow for a New York-London flight in four hours or London-Chicago in five hours, each two hours faster than conventional jet flights. The company said it has a $3.5 billion order backlog.
As if making supersonic work again wasn’t hard enough, some of these companies are also working toward what they say will be an environmentally responsible means of travel, without the extreme noise or emissions that accompanied the former Concorde.
Unlike that aircraft’s sonic boom, Aerion contends its “boomless cruise” technology will make the boom refract off a denser, lower layer of air, never reaching the ground. Aerion and Boom also plan to use new synthetic fuels to reduce carbon output.
At some point in the future, as supersonic develops into a viable mode for civil aviation, well-heeled travelers keen to save even more time may be able to turn to hypersonic flights—where cruise velocities can top Mach 5. Recently, hypersonic flight has been in the news as Russia, China and the U.S. invest enormous research and funds into new, nuclear-capable missiles and uncrewed drones. (Orbital space vehicles routinely re-enter the earth’s atmosphere at Mach 25, or 19,000 mph; meanwhile, several military fighter jets can top Mach 2, or 1,500 mph.)
“Supersonic business jets remain an intriguing idea. Supersonic airliners remain unlikely,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group. “Hypersonic travel remains a very remote prospect. If anyone can build a hypersonic weapon that functions (other than a rocket), then a few decades later we might see this technology commercialized.”
Nevertheless, pledges to reach such speeds for commercial travel have already been made. Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Virgin Galactic have said their eventual high-speed point-to-point aircraft service will operate above earth’s atmosphere, at hypersonic speeds, unlike envisioned supersonic aircraft that cruise at lower altitudes, around 60,000 feet (18,288 meters).
Vice said Aerion is focused on speeds around Mach 4.3 for the AS3 because of heating, shock waves and other tricky engineering issues that emerge at Mach 5 and above.
“I think it’s really exciting, frankly, that there are a number of companies now in this space thinking of high-speed flight,” Vice said. “I’m encouraged by that. There are a lot of really great folks who are trying to find different paths. But you’ve got to solve the engine issue.”
Toulouse (France), September 2020 – Liebherr-Aerospace announced that the supersonic aircraft company Aerion Supersonic, based in Reno, Nevada (USA) and Melbourne, Florida (USA), has commissioned Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse SAS, Toulouse (France), Liebherr’s center of excellence for air management systems, for the development of the integrated air management system for the AS2 supersonic business jet.
Aerion and Liebherr first began formal collaboration mid-2019, working on preliminary designs of the AS2’s integrated air management system. Following the initial technical discussions, Liebherr-Aerospace and Aerion converged on a next generation electrical pack with an integrated air management system.
The electrical air-conditioning pack, under development for several years at Liebherr-Aerospace, is a major step towards greener aircraft operation. In lieu of the traditional methods of utilizing bleed air from the aircraft’s engines, the innovative design selected by Aerion draws ambient air from an inlet located on the leading edge of the wing strake, enabling electrically powered compression. Fuel consumption due to the air-conditioning packs will thus be considerably reduced compared to current bleed air systems.
“Developing an air management system, which is to perform at supersonic speed comes with many challenges that we intend to work through with the Aerion team. Liebherr has a decades long experience on air and thermal management systems for both commercial and military platforms, that we can contribute for the benefit of the AS2”, explained Francis Carla, Chief Technology Officer of Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation SAS.
“We are seeking innovative, technology-led partners at the top of their fields who are passionate about accelerating the evolution of human mobility while at the same time being kind to our planet. I am confident that in Liebherr-Aerospace we have found such a partner who will support bringing the AS2 to production,” said Tom Vice, Aerion’s Chairman, President & CEO.
Aerion’s pursuit of faster point-to-point travel begins with the launch of the AS2 supersonic business jet that will commence production in 2023. Designed to be inherently environmentally responsible from first flight, the AS2 is the first supersonic aircraft designed with the ability to accept 100% synthetic fuel and reach supersonic speeds without the need for an afterburner.
The AS2 will be the first aircraft to be assembled at Aerion’s new global headquarters called “Aerion Park” in Melbourne, Florida (USA). The state-of-the-art development, powered by clean energy, will incorporate headquarters operations plus an integrated campus for research, design, build and support of the company’s new supersonic aircraft. Manufacturing of the AS2 is scheduled to commence in 2023.
UK aerospace company BAE Systems will develop the fly-by-wire flight-control system for Aerion Supersonic’s AS2 in-development high-speed business jet, adding another high-profile supplier to Aerion’s roster of partners.
The news comes shortly after BAE executives laid out plans to develop new flight control systems for a new generation of aircraft.
Under a contract with Reno-based Aerion, BAE will design, develop and integrate the fly-by-wire system for AS2, an 8-10-passenger jet that Aerion hopes will achieve first flight in 2024 followed by service entry in 2026.
BAE’s fly-by-wire system for AS2 will include “active inceptors, primary flight-control computers, actuator-control units and remote-electronics units.”
The active inceptors will provide the jet’s pilots “with static and dynamic tactile-force feedback”, BAE says.
“Unlike a passive system, the active inceptor includes electronic-controlled actuators that send tactile feedback to the pilot through the flight stick,” the company adds. “The feedback warns pilots of structural or aerodynamic operating limits – giving them improved situational awareness to maintain a safer, more-stable flight.”
BAE brings to the project more than 40 years of developing fly-by-wire systems, having developed such systems for military jets in the 1970s. The company makes fly-by-wire controls for Boeing 777s and the in-development 777X.
BAE’s control system for AS2 “builds on the company’s proven core technology, but uses smaller and lighter components to allow for integration on the AS2 aircraft”.
Aerion chief executive Tom Vice cites BAE’s “extensive industry experience and innovative product portfolio” as factors leading his company to choose the supplier.
Aerion intends to begin manufacturing AS2 in Melbourne, Florida – which will also be its future headquarters – in 2023.
Triple 20,000lb-thrust-class (89 kN) GE Aviation Affinity engines will power AS2, which Aerion has said will have a 4,200nm (7,780km) range at Mach 1.4 and 5,400nm range at M0.95.
Aerion is designing AS2 to be quieter than traditional supersonic aircraft by leveraging a phenomenon called “Mach cut-off”, which occurs when atmospheric conditions deflect booms up, not down. As a result, Vice has said AS2 will be able to fly at M1.2 without “any sound on the ground”.
The company has lined up a host of major aerospace partners to contribute to AS2.
Collins Aerospace will develop flight-control actuation systems for the leading edge of AS2’s wing, and for the aircraft’s elevons, horizontal stabiliser and rudder.
GE will also make AS2’s electric power systems, including technologies for generating, distributing, converting and storing power.
UK aerospace company GKN will design the jet’s empennage and electric wiring and interconnection systems, Safran Landing Systems will design AS2’s wheels, brakes and gear, and Safran Nacelles will make its engine inlets, fan cowl doors and thrust reversers.
Spanish company Aernnova will develop AS2’s mid-fuselage section, and French supplier Potez will design its doors.
Additionally, Honeywell will supply AS2’s avionics suite and connectivity technology.
Much of BAE’s flight control development is led by the company’s engineers in Endicott, New York.
BAE is also investing heavily in development of fly-by-wire systems for electric and hybrid-electric aircraft.
ENDICOTT, N.Y. & RENO, NV — BAE Systems has received a contract from Aerion Supersonic to supply the flight control system for its new AS2 supersonic business jet. BAE Systems will design, develop, and integrate a fly-by-wire flight control system, including active inceptors, for the new aircraft.
“We’re combining decades of expertise and cutting-edge advancements to provide discriminating control technologies that will enable the future of supersonic flight,” said Ehtisham Siddiqui, vice president and general manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems. “We are proud to collaborate with Aerion Supersonic on this next generation flight control system for the AS2 aircraft.”
The new flight control system adds to BAE Systems’ more than 40 years of experience developing and integrating fly-by-wire systems. The system builds on the company’s proven core technology, but uses smaller and lighter components to allow for integration on the AS2 aircraft. The system will be comprised of active inceptors, primary flight control computers, actuator control units, and remote electronics units.
“BAE Systems extensive industry experience and innovative product portfolio enables us to create a technologically advanced and reliable flight control system tailored to the unique needs of the AS2 supersonic business jet,” said Tom Vice, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer at Aerion . “We are delighted to expand our long-standing relationship with BAE Systems and for them to join our growing team of globally-renowned technical partners who will support bringing the AS2 to production.”
BAE Systems active inceptors will provide AS2 pilots with static and dynamic tactile force feedback in the palm of their hand. Unlike a passive system, the active inceptor includes electronic controlled actuators that send tactile feedback to the pilot through the flight stick. The feedback warns pilots of structural or aerodynamic operating limits – giving them improved situational awareness to maintain a safe and stable flight.
Aerion’s AS2 private jet is the first supersonic aircraft to use only synthetic fuel and reach supersonic speeds without the need for an afterburner. The 8-10-passenger business jet will enhance point-to-point travel with a maximum speed of Mach 1.4 – approx. 1,000 miles per hour – at 57,000 feet. The AS2 will commence production from the company’s new global headquarters and manufacturing and research campus – Aerion Park – in Melbourne, FL in 2023.
The flight control system development will be conducted at BAE Systems facilities in Endicott, New York and Rochester, U.K.
For more information, please contact:
Anthony DeAngelis, BAE Systems
Mobile: +1 603-714-3664