Supersonic jet maker Aerion revealed a concrete timeline for the final stages in the development of its first supersonic business jet – the AS2 – saying it is “on track” for first test flight in 2023. 

Boeing and the startup seem confident that the AS2 “will be the first supersonic business jet to market” and will eventually “unlock supersonic air travel for new markets”. Aerion is now aiming to complete the preliminary design stage of the program in June 2020 and see the AS2 take off for its first flight in 2023, with certification expected in the following two years.

But the manufacturer has one major rival: the Boston-based Spike Aerospace, which is aiming to build an even faster (top speeds of Mach 1.6, approximately 1,200 mph or 1,931 km/h), “quiet” supersonic airplane. The 18-seat S-512 is expected to enter into service around the same time as the AS2. And according to Reuters, Spike already has two orders for the aircraft.

Three upstart companies – Boom Supersonic, Aerion and Spike Aerospace – seem to be edging closer towards the reintroduction of supersonic flight for civilians. Firm believers in the commercial success of transoceanic routes, all three companies have received orders for their aircraft and hope to start delivering them in the mid-2020s.

Lockheed Pulls Out

Among Aerion’s several big name partners was Boeing’s rival Airbus. In the early stage of the AS2 program, the startup had established an engineering collaboration with the European plane maker, which saw the two companies develop a preliminary design of wing and airframe structures, systems layout, and preliminary concepts for a fly-by-wire flight control system of the AS2.

Aside of the engine maker GE Aviation, Aerion is currently collaborating with Honeywell to provide avionics for the AS2. Until recently, it had also worked with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. According to a February 11, 2019 report by FlightGlobal, Lockheed has pulled out of its involvement with Aerion having decided not to renew its contract with the next-gen supersonic jet developer.

Some time back, on December 15, 2017, Lockheed announced it had signed an agreement with Aerion, under which,  the two companies would work together in developing the AS2. “Aerion and Lockheed Martin announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today to define a formal and gated process to explore the feasibility of a joint development of the world's first supersonic business jet, the Aerion AS2,” an official press release by Lockheed Martin reads.

The MOU was the result of extensive discussions between Aerion and Skunk Works, Lockheed Martin's division for Advanced Development Programs (ADP). As part of the agreement, over the following year, the two companies were to develop a framework on all phases of the AS2 program, including engineering, certification and production.

Illustration of Aerion's AS2 supersonic business jet (Aerion Supersonic)