The long-held dream of a successor to Concorde just got a little farther away as one of the major contenders in the race to build a supersonic passenger jet appears to have run out of financial fuel.
Aerion, based in Reno, Nevada, had been developing the AS2 (pictured top), an 8-12 passenger business jet capable of flying at 1,000 mph. However, the company announced on May 21 that “in the current financial environment, it has proven hugely challenging to close on the scheduled and necessary large new capital requirements to finalize the transition of the AS2 into production.” It added that, “Given these conditions the Aerion Corporation is now taking the appropriate steps in consideration of this ongoing financial environment.”
It’s a colossal disappointment to business travelers who had hoped to fly supersonically in the near future. What makes it all so shocking is that the AS2 was already at an advanced phase of development, having recently concluded high-speed wind tunnel testing, clocking up hundreds of flight hours — the equivalent of 78,000 nautical miles flown — at the ONERA French aerospace testing lab in Modane, France. The AS2’s development was conceived of as a totally carbon-neutral endeavor, whereby Aerion used digital modeling techniques to save fuel and “negate the need for costly demonstrator aircraft and accelerate the program to the final stages of validation ahead of production.” Actual manufacture had been slated for 2023, with a plan to build 300 airplanes within a decade.
The AS2, said Aerion in an official statement, “meets all market, technical, regulatory and sustainability requirements, and the market for a new supersonic segment of general aviation has been validated with $11.2 billion in sales backlog.” The company also had the backing of Boeing — although the United States’ biggest planemaker currently has its own challenges to deal with, not least its 737 MAX woes. As recently as this January CNN Travel reported on the roll out of Aerion’s new clean energy HQ, Aerion Park in Florida, designed to combine the company’s operations with a campus for research, design, build and maintenance of the company’s aircraft.