For the first time in 50 years after the Concorde, a supersonic aircraft is expected to fly through the skies. The Aerion company promises to connect “any two points on our planet in three hours”, while improving aircraft efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of supersonic flight.
The American aircraft manufacturer Aerion, based in Florida, presented its Mach 4+ commercial supersonic aircraft, the Aerion AS3, on March 29. It is expected to connect Los Angeles to Tokyo in 2.5 hours by the end of the decade, the company exposes in a video shared on social media.
The craft would be capable of carrying 50 passengers at a distance of 7,000 nautical miles (nearly 13,000 kilometers). “Our goal is to build a future where humanity can travel between any two points on our planet in three hours,” says Aerion.
“We have to push the limits of what is possible,” added Tom Vice, the company’s CEO, quoted by CNN.
It is between Mach 3 and Mach 5, i.e., from 2,300 to 3,800 miles per hour or 3,700 to 6,200 km/h, that he intends to see his planes fly. This is up to seven times faster than a long-distance airliner.
In addition to the AS3, the second aircraft revealed in Aerion’s jets family, the company is designing supersonic hybrid-electric aircraft.
A first for 50 years?
The AS2, which promises to cover the distance from New York to London in 4.5 hours, could become the first supersonic passenger plane to enter commercial service in 50 years. It would thus follow in the footsteps of the Tupolev Tu-144, a four – supersonic jet airliner developed in the USSR, which, along with the Franco-British Concorde, are the only supersonic civil aircraft to have reached the production stage.
The Russian aircraft entered service in December 1975, followed by the Concorde in 1976. The last supersonic jet to fly in the sky was the Concorde, whose commercial flights ended in 2003. It consumed too much fuel, too negatively impacting the environment, making too much noise, and operating too expensive.
The promised performance
The start of production of the AS2 is scheduled for 2023, its first flight for 2024. The company plans to put it on the market in 2026.
“We had to design an incredibly efficient aircraft with the lowest possible fuel consumption. So we spent 10 years thinking about advanced aerodynamics and fuel-efficient engines,” explains Vice. As for the noise, the new machine will be as quiet as the other planes, assures the company.
Seeking to be the first to replace the Concorde, Aerion competes in particular with the startup Boom Technology Inc. It has already unveiled at the end of 2020 its future XB-1 prototype, which should fly in the third quarter of 2021.