It is becoming increasingly harder to keep up with all the latest developments in the industry-wide efforts to revive faster than the speed of sound air travel. Everyone wants to get hold of the lucrative market of future supersonic passenger flight: from plane makers, aerospace and defense companies to even national space agencies. Having recently made a “significant investment” in Aerion, Boeing is keen on bringing the AS2 supersonic business jet to market, while also working on its own hypersonic aircraft. Meanwhile, Aerion’s partner Lockheed Martin has decided not to renew their agreement, pulling out as it focuses on building NASA’s X-59 jet.

Boeing Jumps In

On February 5, 2019, Boeing announced it has made a significant investment in the supersonic business jet developer Aerion with the aim to accelerate the technology development and aircraft design of Aerion’s AS2 jet. For that purpose, the U.S. industry giant says it will provide the startup with financial, engineering and industrial resources.

Boeing will provide engineering, manufacturing and flight test resources, as well as strategic vertical content, to bring Aerion's AS2 supersonic business jet to market,” the two companies state in the official press release announcing their new partnership.

The partnership, terms of which have not been revealed, will see the involvement of Boeing NeXt, the division focused on next-generation mobility systems, including passenger-carrying hypersonic aircraft, in the AS2 project.

"This is a strategic and disciplined leading-edge investment in further maturing supersonic technology,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president and general manager of Boeing NeXt. “Through this partnership that combines Aerion's supersonic expertise with Boeing's global industrial scale and commercial aviation experience, we have the right team to build the future of sustainable supersonic flight.”

The 12-seat AS2 supersonic business aircraft is designed to fly at speeds of up to Mach 1.4 (approximately 1,000 mph or 1,609 km/h). For comparison, one the fastest subsonic business jets out there today, the 17-seat Gulfstream G650 can reach top speeds of Mach 0.925 (approximately 610 mph or 982 km/h).

Illustration of Aerion's AS2 (Aerion Supersonic)

According to Aerion, the AS2 would be capable of flying up to 70% faster than current business jets and should save approximately three hours on a transatlantic flight, while meeting environmental performance requirements. "The AS2 is the launch point for the future of regulatory-compliant and efficient supersonic flight,” says Tom Vice, chairman, president and CEO of Aerion.

Founded in 2003, the Nevada-based company had been working on developing new, more efficient aerodynamic technologies for supersonic aircraft. It first introduced the AS2 design in 2014, and concluded the conceptual design phase of the program in 2018. This phase involved the unveiling of the initial design of the first supersonic engine purpose-built for business jets, the GE Affinity turbofan, which will power Aerion’s AS2.