Supersonic Private Jets. SuperFly!
The Concorde, once described as the jewel of the aerospace industry, was an iconic supersonic airliner that flew for 35 years. And now almost 50 years after the Concorde made its first flight a 12-seat supersonic business jet may be the first civilian airplane to break the speed of sound since the Concorde’s last flight in 2003, following a crash caused by human error, and also due to it losing colossal amounts of money.
Aerion Corp., based in Reno, Nevada, has plans to build the Aerion AS2 supersonic private jet, a new plane capable of Mach 1.5 - one-and-a-half times the speed of sound. The AS2 has been available to order since 2015 although test flights are not expected to begin until 2019. Aerion has set a target to achieve FAA certification in 2021 and enter service in 2023. Key engineering support is provided by the Airbus Group.
Such is the interest in supersonic passenger planes that Aerion has some challengers breathing down its neck. Big names like Lockheed Martin and projects backed by Airbus and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are making noise about supersonic planes that’ll shrink the world to a point that a flight from New York to London will take around 3 hours, rather than the usual 7.
Branson has teamed up with Denver start-up Boom Technology, which plans to make supersonic, trans-Atlantic travel available through commercial carriers for the cost of a business class ticket, at around $5,000. Virgin last year said it has an option to buy Boom’s first 10 planes.
Rival Lockheed Martin is also working with Nasa on supersonic technologies for a small business aircraft carrying between five to 10 people called the N+1, but it is focused more on the sonic boom problem – an extremely loud sound that is heard when a supersonic aircraft passes overhead, caused by shock waves from the aircraft travelling through the air faster than the speed of sound.
Even though the idea of building faster and more efficient passenger planes has intrigued aerospace companies since the days of Howard Hughes, at present commercial aircraft aren't much faster than they were in the 1906os. Even the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 flagships top out at 560 mph and cross the Atlantic in about seven hours, compared to the Concorde's three. But aeronautical advances and progress in fundamental aerospace technology that make the 787 20% more fuel efficient than similar jets could hasten the return of supersonic air travel. Aircraft engineering has improved significantly since Concorde. Lighter materials, more efficient engines, better computer modelling, and more experience mean there’s nothing to stop development of new aircraft faster and far more affordable than Concorde.
Most in the industry agree that supersonic planes will probably not expand beyond the business jet market, at least for the foreseeable future. There would need to be a compelling business case that conventional air travellers are willing to pay more for a seat on a speedier plane. Already, some airlines have cut back on first-class seats, and some carriers such as Southwest don’t even offer first class.
Some people will argue that nobody really needs a supersonic private jet or even has the right to impose such noise pollution on others. But then again nobody needs a Harley-Davidson either. Enough said. In the meantime, Flexjet, the fractional jet-ownership and leasing company has orders for 20 AS2s at a cost of $120 Million for plane.
SuperFly Aviation is a private jet charter specialist and whilst we cannot yet organise a charter in a supersonic private jet, we can bring you the next best thing. The Cessna Citation X was certified by the FAA at mach 0.935, or 617 mph, officially making it the world's fastest civilian aircraft. Contact us to discuss chartering a flight on a Cessna Citation X safe in the knowledge that you're flying on the fastest available jet. Bon voyage!