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. But what exactly did this process entail? And how much closer does that bring the world to seeing its first supersonic commercial aircraft since Concorde?
What is the Aerion AS2?
Aerion is an American aerospace manufacturer based in Reno, Nevada. With its proposed AS2 design, it hopes to launch the world’s first privately built supersonic commercial aircraft. The airline industry has not seen supersonic commercial air travel since 2003, when British Airways and Air France retired their iconic Concorde aircraft. Concorde was the product of a collaboration between Aérospatiale and BAC, and could fly between London and New York in just three hours.
The AS2? It's all about the details. From our partners aiding in the design of the cockpit to the leather of the seats, no expense is being spared to create a new standard of luxury travel experience.
— Aerion Supersonic (@AerionCorp) November 6, 2020
As Simple Flying reported earlier this year, however, the AS2 differs from Concorde in multiple ways. For example, it will not match the sheer speed of the aforementioned Anglo-French collaboration. Its projected cruise speed is Mach 1.4 (1,729km/h or 1,074mph), resulting in a New York-London flight time of four hours.
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While not as fast as Concorde, this still represents a significant saving compared to current subsonic airliners. Aerion claims that the present average on this route is around six hours. Much like Concorde, the AS2 primarily targets the business market, although its capacity is significantly lower. The exclusive and luxurious cabin is designed to seat just 8-12 lucky passengers.
What really makes Aerion stand out, however, is its commitment to sustainability. The company’s environmental commitments include:
- Carbon neutral emissions from the very first flight onwards.
- 100 million trees planted by 2036.
- Aircraft run on 100% sustainable aviation fuels (leading to an 80% net carbon reduction).
- Extensive carbon offsetting program at no cost to customers.
- Reduction in noise pollution through “boomless” supersonic flight.
Rigorous wind tunnel testing
AIN Online reported yesterday that Aerion had concluded its wind tunnel testing on the AS2. This rigorous process represented the equivalent of 78,000 NM flown over hundreds of hours of simulations. These took place at facilities in both North America and Europe. Engineers assessed and validated over 200,000 data points on the aircraft using test results and digital modeling. AIN Online states that:
“The tests involved an evaluation of the full operational envelope of the AS2, including takeoff and landing, subsonic cruise, “boomless” supersonic cruise, and dive speed. In addition, the AS2 design was tested for operational conditions, including the deployment of landing gear and wing icing, along with handling qualities.”
The next steps
The testing aimed to validate the AS2’s aerodynamic shape for the commencement of component manufacturing in 2022. Aerion hopes to subsequently begin assembly in 2023. The manufacturer claims that this extensive research will accelerate its development by removing the need for a demonstrator aircraft.
Bloomberg reported last month that the first AS2 delivery is planned for 2027. Whether there is a place in the present airline industry for supersonic aircraft remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it will be fascinating to see how the project continues to develop over the coming years. The thought of a new supersonic commercial aircraft taking to the skies by the end of the decade is certainly an exciting one.
What do you make of this latest milestone in the development of the Aerion AS2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.