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Aerion's AS2 supersonic business jet gets extra engine and cabin space


May 20, 2014

The Aerion AS2 will now use a set of three smaller jet engines for quieter running, improved take-off performance, and longer range

The Aerion AS2 will now use a set of three smaller jet engines for quieter running, improved take-off performance, and longer range

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Aerion Corporation has upped the cabin size and added an extra engine to the first in its planned range of supersonic business jets currently on the drawing board. Designed with Supersonic Natural Laminar Flow (SNLF) wing technology that was tested in transonic wind tunnel tests and in NASA flight trials, the Aerion AS2 will now use a set of three smaller jet engines in place of its previous large two-jet design to provide quieter running, improved take-off performance, and longer range.

With its new three engine configuration, the AS2 is able to take greater advantage of the unique Aerion "unswept" SNLF (Supersonic Natural Laminar Flow) wing design. This sees the wing feature upper and lower surfaces that are slightly curved, ensuring a smooth flow of air across them that continues to travel in relatively undisturbed layers.

Aerion claims this results in a 90 percent reduction in drag over more conventional swept or delta wing designs and helps reduce total airframe drag by as much as 20 percent. As a result, it is expected that the AS2 will not only be fast, but super-efficient as well.

Aerion digital analysis of supersonic airflow patterns.

Capable of a maximum speed of Mach 1.6, the AS2 has been designed to travel at two optimal cruising speeds where range and efficiency are at their best: Mach 0.95 where supersonic flight is prohibited, and at Mach 1.4 where the SNLF wing characteristics will be at their most efficient.

Dimension-wise, the fuselage is 160 ft (48 m) long and maximum take-off weight is expected to be around 115,000 lb (52,000 kg). With these figures, the minimum projected range is predicted to be approximately 4,750 nautical miles (8,800 km), though the company is hoping to achieve an ultimate range of around 5,000 nm (9,260 km).

With a 30-ft (9.1-m) cabin in a two-lounge configuration, cabin dimensions widen from entryway to the rear seating area where height is about 6.2 ft (1.9 m) and cabin width around 7.2 ft (2.2 m). When fully fueled, it is expected that the AS2 will require a take-off length of roughly 7,500 ft (2,286 m), though this is expected to drop to only 5,000-6,000 ft (1,500-1,800 m) at take-off weights below 100,000 lb (45,000 kg), while still maintaining trans-Atlantic and transcontinental US capability. This should allow the aircraft to operate from medium-sized aviation hubs as and when necessary.

According to the company, the new AS2 configuration draws on worldwide operator input from a market study conducted by Aerion in the first quarter of 2014 to assess demand for a supersonic business jet.

"The message from many of today’s long-range business jet operators is very clear," says Aerion CEO Doug Nichols. "They want a supersonic jet sooner rather than later; a cabin comparable in comfort to today’s long-range jets; a range of 5,000 nm or better; and they are willing to pay more than US$100 million for such an aircraft. That is the supersonic jet we are working to deliver.”

Whilst the AS2 is still in the design stage, Aerion does have plans to form an industrial collaboration with aerospace firms capable of supplying engines and airframe structures before the end of 2014. The release date for entry into service, provided certification is achieved, is 2021.

Given that there are also a number of other supersonic business jet concepts on drawing boards around the globe – such as the Spike S-512 and the Hypermach SonicStar – which are also aiming at a takeoff date somewhere in the same time-frame as Aerion’s offering, the period up to 2021 promises to be a very interesting time for aviation watchers. And, if all comes to fruition, it's also an exciting time for those of us who look forward to the ushering in of a new age of supersonic travel.

Source: Aerion (PDF)

About the Author
Colin Jeffrey Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf. All articles by Colin Jeffrey

The Concord was not permitted to fly over mainland USA because of the sonic booms generated. How does this design address the sonic booms?

Noel K Frothingham

@noel : Since this is an US made plane that wont be a problem.

The US industry developed plans for supersonic planes, which never matured. Would they have made plans knowing it would not be permitted to fly with it over mainland ? So I think its not strange to figure out the rules were made just to make live worse for concord.

Ramon Verhoeven

@ Noel

The article states that the airplane flies at "Mach 0.95 where supersonic flight is prohibited..." so I guess that they fly below the "boom" level over the US mainland until they get over open ocean


The US didn't ban supersonic commercial flight until after they had decided not to proceed with their planned supersonic aircraft. The aircraft manufacturers then campaigned to ban supersonic flight over the continental US to scupper Concorde. So if it suits American graft and corruption then the ban will likely be lifted. America is all about the rich and powerful and what they want. Aircraft frequently fly supersonic over the US, people don't know what they are hearing or suspect and don't mind. Look up the "Aspen 20" anecdote from an SR-71 crew flying at near 2,000 knots ground speed over Arizona. Concorde was most intrusive at low level, climbing out of JFK or LHR on reheat. I wonder how loud one of these new 1% toys would be taking off over my house in Alameda.


My daughter & hubby took the last Concorde flight to Europe.. The only impressive was the Mach gauge on the bulkhead.

Len Simpson

You know...I was looking for something to replace my aging Piper Cub!


@ Ramon Verhoeven: I think they changed the rules after Concorde started flying and they got loads of complaints- the complaints were a surprise, to the FAA and U.S. manufacturers alike.


Like - why do they publish an article like this. I mean who can afford to fly private jet anyhow? Perhaps. 0.0000000000001 % of the world's population

Leigh Pierce

Hope they mass produce & make cargo variant.

Stephen Russell

The American manufactures were incapable of designing a supersonic passenger aircraft. So the congress took its money and banned it flying over US mainland. How convenient ! This is the normal operating method for the US. If they can't compete or it does not suit "seven sisters" or other similarly "meal ticket" corporation congress and senate are always there to oblige.

Just for my information how many air force jets are breaking the sound barrier every day in close vicinity of populated areas? Do these not affect anyone? Would one even hear the sonic boom on ground from an aircraft flying at 35,000 to 40,000 feet ?


@ chann94501

People complained about airplane noise when the weather was clear enough to see the Concord. when there was enough haze to hide her the noise complaints vanished as well.


I could care less about a plane I will never ride in. Good for the 1%, but I am interested in the method used to develop the SNLF wing design. Is this a breakthrough in reducing drag? Or is it just useful in near supersonic speed? Is it secret, e.g., could it benefit all aircraft?

Could the reduced drag design be used in cars?

I am interested most in what may impact my life.

Don Duncan

The Concorde did in fact fly in the USA at below m 1.0. Braniff flew it with in the USA to DFW then BA took it across.

Dennis Rutherford

This really seems to be a toy for the wealthy few who are attracted to it. The base cost of $100M+ is out of proportion to the benefit of additional speed. Furthermore, the per-trip operating cost likely will exceed that of sub-sonic private jets, even taking shorter transit times into account.


Is it only over the main land US that supersonic flight is not permitted? That might not be such a constraint to selling these toys. If Russia, China and India allow supersonic over flights that might be a bigger and expanding market. Exciting technology, and while only relevant to the top 0.001%, pretty cool for plebs like me to drool over.

Jim Walker

This design seems to have developed quite a bit since the last version published.

I'm surprised they just widened the fuselage, rather than reshaping the whole aircraft, as there are quite a few abrupt changes in the shape along its length which will have quite a drag penalty.

I'm also surprised they've added a third engine in an a s-duct (presumably to counteract the added weight) because s-ducts are notoriously draggy, especially at supersonic speeds. Why did they stick with the same engine and just add a third, rather than keeping the twinjet design and using bigger engines? Maybe it was related to the engine-out range.

In relation to sonic booms - a plane flying at 30,000 to 40,000 ft will not produce a perceptible boom until about mach 1.2 (depending on the atmospheric conditions) but above that speed, it will be heard no matter how high it flies. Concorde, for example, at mach 2 had a shock cone that spread out around 50 miles from the tip of the pitot tube, meaning that it could not fly high enough to stop the boom reaching the ground.

The Aerion's strength in this area would be its lighter weight (weight being the main factor in sonic boom severity) with a max takeoff weight of 52 tons compared to Concorde's 187 tons.

It seems a shame to go to all this effort to build something that only flies at mach 1.6 - about the practical limit of the wing design they're using IMHO. You'd produce the same boom at mach 1.6 as you would at mach 3.0.

I think offering something a bit faster would produce a totally different prospect, and make $100m seem worthwhile.

I've been working on a similar concept, but swing-wing and mach 2.9 capable, for nearly three years, and I think it could be done with current technology. I worked out some costs and flight times related to it - for example, Los Angeles to Tokyo - 3h 20m

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