Supersonic Aerion AS3 airliner could fly LA to Tokyo in three hours
(CNN) – Right now, many of us can’t even fly from their own countries, but if you believe Florida-based aircraft manufacturers Aerion, we’ll be able to fly between Los Angeles and Tokyo in under three hours by the end of the decade.
The Aerion AS3 is a Mach 4+ airliner that was announced on Monday. According to the manufacturer, 50 passengers can be carried with a range of 7,000 nautical miles.
“Our vision is to build a future where humanity can travel between any two points on our planet in three hours. Supersonic flight is the starting point, but that’s exactly the beginning,” said Tom, Chairman, President and CEO of Aerion Vice, in a statement. “We have to push the boundaries of what is possible.”
Earlier this year, Aerion expanded its ongoing partnership with NASA’s Langley Research Center with a particular focus on commercial Mach 3-5 flights.
To put it with laypeople, that’s 2,300 to 3,800 miles per hour or 3,700 to 6,200 km / h – or up to seven times as fast as a normal long-haul passenger aircraft.
Conceptual and drafting work is currently being carried out. More details will be announced later in 2021.
Work on Aerion Park, Aerion’s new headquarters in Florida, has begun.
Courtesy of Aerion
The AS3 is the second aircraft to be introduced in Aerion’s Jets family, and there are future plans for hybrid-electric supersonic aircraft as well.
The AS2, which promises to fly New York to London in 4.5 hours, is Aerion’s goal to become the first supersonic passenger jet to enter commercial service in more than 50 years.
The 8 to 12 passenger business jet will fly at Mach 1.4 (more than 1,000 miles per hour). Production of the supersonic vehicle will begin in 2023. The AS2’s maiden flight is scheduled for 2024, and the company plans to launch the aircraft in 2026.
Aerion AS2 could fly from New York to London in 4.5 hours.
Courtesy of Aerion
New supersonic era
The last supersonic passenger jet to cross our skies was, of course, Concorde, which retired from service more than 17 years ago. Although it was a marvel of engineering, the cost and environmental impact were high.
“Concorde was a brilliant machine, a noble experiment, but it created too much emissions into the environment, too much noise in our communities and was too expensive to run.
“What we’re trying to do is very different,” Vice told CNN Travel in 2020.
Aerion’s ambition is that its aircraft will work well in the sky: “The world can’t wait to become carbon neutral by 2050. We have to do it today,” said Vice.
“Lowest fuel consumption possible”
A representation of what the cabin of the AS2 could look like.
Courtesy of Aerion
Aerion’s AS2 program partners include GE, which makes the Affinity supersonic engine, and Spirit AeroSystems, which makes the pressurized fuselage of the AS2.
In the cockpit, Honeywell is revolutionizing the flight deck and leveraging its expertise in supersonic military jets to design the AS2’s mission processors, displays, sensors and flight control systems.
“We had to develop an airplane that was incredibly efficient and with the lowest possible fuel consumption. That’s why we spent 10 years thinking about advanced aerodynamics and fuel-efficient engines. We designed specifically for noise and emissions,” says Vice.
One of the things Concorde won’t have is afterburners, a system that sprays fuel into the engine’s exhaust and burns it to increase the thrust at start-up and acceleration.
“We ruled that out because it’s too loud and emits too much into the environment,” says Vice. “The second thing we thought about was our source of energy. We wanted an aircraft that didn’t depend on fossil fuels and could run on 100% synthetic fuels from day one.”
The company is also committed to a comprehensive reforestation program to provide carbon offsetting for every customer on every flight.
Then there is noise. Vice told CNN in 2020 that the AS2 would meet Level 5 aircraft noise standards, the strictest noise regulations for landing and take-off. “We think we have solved this problem,” says Vice. “Our plane will be as quiet as other planes around airports.”
But perhaps one of the most innovative features of the AS2 is its “Boomless Cruise” which allows the aircraft to fly over land without the boom hitting the ground. Instead, the sound is broken back into the atmosphere.
Aerion invented the “Boomless Cruise” because the alternative type of quieter, supersonic flight called “Low Boom” is less loud than Concorde, but still produces noises on the ground that resemble the rumble of a distant thunder.
Vice wants to prove that the new technology can work. “As soon as regulators see that we can do this reliably, we will have the first airplane in history that can fly supersonic over land and no one on the ground will hear the boom.”
Vice expects that “Boomless Cruise” combined with climate-neutral operations will offer potential AS2 customers compelling productivity advantages.
Aerion has big ambitions beyond AS2.
Courtesy of Aerion
“We looked at how business owners fly. We looked at a company from New York that was flying business jets around the world. When we replaced them with an AS2 and re-operated those flights for every person who flew on their plane , AS2 saved them 142 hours a year, “said Vice.
Aerion has several competitors in the supersonic and hypersonic aerospace sectors, but the one that’s causing the most buzz right now is Boom.
In October 2020, the Denver-based startup made history with the introduction of its XB1 demonstration aircraft, the first independently developed supersonic aircraft.
The 71 foot long fuselage, named Baby Boom, is a 1: 3 scale prototype of Boom’s upcoming supersonic airliner overture with a top speed of Mach 2.2, which can fly London to New York in just three hours and 30 minutes.