Aerion is still hoping to convince an OEM partner to join it by the end of this year in its quest to build a supersonic business jet capable of sprinting from New York to London in just four hours. In the six months since the company began accepting orders for the sleek, $80 million twinjet, 40 would-be buyers have signed letters of intent backed by refundable deposits of $250,000.
A supersonic business jet (SSBJ), which many in the industry see as inevitable but just not in the near future, may have taken another step forward when Raytheon Aircraft partner Northrop Grumman unveiled its latest design for a supersonic military strike aircraft.
Economical, practical, environmentally friendly supersonic flight is the next big thing in commercial aviation. Or is it? From where aeronautical technology stands today, practical supersonic flight (and by “practical,” we do not mean the Anglo-French Concorde, which generates noise and atmospheric pollution levels that preclude all but the smallest volumes of operation) is far off.
The prospect of designing a supersonic business jet that meets market requirements and environmental noise constraints at a price that will attract buyers remains compelling, and research continues. The Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently signed an agreement to research SSBJ sonic boom mitigation with Rolls-Royce Deutschland and Gulfstream Aerospace.
After a flurry of interest late in the last decade that appeared to lose momentum in the wake of 9/11, there is evidence that progress toward defining a supersonic business jet continues quietly.
The good news is that a supersonic business jet (SSBJ) is almost inevitable. The not so good news is that it is probably at least a decade away. And securing the funding for research may be as problematic as the noise from any sonic boom.
Recent news reports that Gulfstream plans to build a prototype supersonic business jet (SSBJ) by 2013 are inaccurate, according to a company spokesman. “We’re still doing basic research on sonic boom suppression,” he said.
SSBJ UPDATE: Elsewhere in this issue (“In The Works,” page 78) is word of Sukhoi’s continuing work on feasibility studies on the S-21, a supersonic business jet that, according to the company’s general director of civil aircraft, could not appear before 2010 or 2012.
Gulfstream Aerospace hosted a NASA F-15 in Savannah, Ga., on February 14 for an aerial demonstration of its Quite Spike telescopic nose spike installation. If Gulfstream were ever to decide to launch a supersonic business jet, it would have to employ some means of suppressing the sonic boom while flying over land.
According to Aerion market research, there is sufficient demand to proceed with development of the company’s proposed supersonic business jet (SSBJ). The Reno, Nevada-based firm publicly unveiled its SSBJ program last October at the National Business Aviation Association Convention in Las Vegas, saying the natural-laminar-wing aircraft could be in service by 2011.