How To Build A Supersonic Airplane
By Aerion Supersonic on Feb 03, 2020
4 min read
Aerion is now closer to soaring at supersonic speeds. With new suppliers, we are teaming up to make the first privately built supersonic jet, the AS2. GE, Spirit, Aernnova, GKN, Safran, and Potez have records of excellence in aerospace design and manufacturing, and we’re proud to be pioneering the future of supersonic flight with them. Most of these suppliers, and others not mentioned here, are working side-by-side with the Aerion staff at our headquarters in Reno, NV on a daily basis. We have built a world-class multi-organization team that is rapidly maturing the AS2 from design concept to reality.
We’ve tapped Spirit Aerosystems to handle the forward fuselage, the pressurized section of the aircraft that includes the cabin, cockpit, galley, and lavatories. The AS2’s cruising altitude will be significantly higher than your average commercial aircraft, but the passengers will experience a “cabin altitude” that is quite low. A low cabin altitude makes the ride more comfortable for everyone on board, but it comes with the added difficulty of designing a fuselage that can withstand much higher pressures.
Aernnova will support the design and development of the mid-fuselage, which is the section of the plane that ties together the forward fuselage, with the empennage, wing, and landing gear. One of the challenges that Aernnova faces is integrating the several complex systems and fuel tanks throughout this section. The cross-sectional area changes dramatically throughout the mid-fuselage to help compensate for the added volume of the wing & nacelles – this is a design phenomenon called “area-ruling” and is used on many supersonic aircraft to reduce wave drag.
GKN will design the empennage, electrical wiring, and interconnection systems (EWIS) for the AS2. These components will keep the aircraft stable while flying at supersonic speeds. The EWIS system is the central nervous system of the airplane, that includes all of the wires, ensuring that all the tech in the airplane can communicate. GKN has been working onsite at Aerion for over a year. Using their proprietary industry-leading tool suite GKN will ensure that there is sufficient space for wire separations, preventing safety or technical issues from arising in the future.
Continuing with the mid-fuselage, Safran is supplying two critical elements of the AS2 design. Safran Landing Systems is designing the complete braking and landing gear systems. There are few other full-service landing gear companies, and Safran understands the attention to detail needed to integrate the landing gear. Safran Nacelles are also on board to support the design of the nacelles for the AS2. Safran’s nacelle design will enable a quieter engine at takeoff and landing, allowing the AS2 to satisfy stringent Stage-5 noise requirements.
Coming back towards the front of the aircraft – it’s the often overlooked but critical details that can tell a mature aircraft program from one that is in conceptual design only. Potez, a smaller firm with world-class aerospace structures capabilities, will support the design and manufacturing of the AS2 doors. The importance of the doors can’t be overstated – the doors will be safe, functional, aesthetically pleasing, and will mate perfectly with the complex shape of our airplane.
Each supplier is bringing its own unique perspective, expertise, and history to the AS2, and GE is no exception. GE brings more world-renowned engineering to our program by supplying the electrical power system for the AS2 – a perfect complement to the propulsive power of GE’s Affinity turbofan engines. The system includes electrical power generation, distribution, conversion, and energy storage. In addition to powering all of the critical aircraft systems necessary for a safe flight, the electrical power system will also enable next generation technologies for passenger convenience and comfort.
Assembling a team of suppliers capable of designing robust systems and structures is step one, but bringing all of those companies together in a collaborative space for seamless integration is critical. David Ambrose, our airframe integration lead on the AS2 said it best: “The technical diversity of our team is what makes Aerion truly exceptional and unprecedented in the industry and is the driving force behind our innovation. We all come from different companies, projects, and even countries, so we all learn from each other’s vast experience. This also extends to our world-class partners and suppliers.” said David. “I have the opportunity to work with some of the best engineers and suppliers in the world. It’s like being in a super-advanced STEM event every day where we’re all teaching each other and learning from each other and a great product emerges as a result.”
Together with our global suppliers, we’re creating a faster, more connected future, significantly reducing the time and friction of travel. By surrounding ourselves with experienced professionals and innovative thinkers who come from different parts of the world, we will make history.