...Market Proven For Supersonic Bizjet...

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And while supersonic travel for the masses (relatively speaking) is getting a fresh look, Mach 1 or better for the privileged few is looking increasingly viable. Reno-based Aerion says there are enough deep-pocketed (and time-short) customers for its Mach 1.6 (over the ocean) bizjet that it can move forward with the project and potentially have aircraft in service by 2011. Before Aerion can tackle the sound barrier, however, it has to overcome the significant regulatory, technological and financial challenges of launching such a project. It's looking for "risk-sharing partners" among suppliers and manufacturers to get the plane to certification and production. Aerion is likely saving itself a lot of trouble by saying the plane will be subsonic over land and supersonic over water (although we don't know how that limitation can be enforced). Its only competitor in the supersonic GA market, Supersonic Aerospace International (SAI), is aiming for a "low-boom" design that it hopes the FAA will allow to fly supersonically over land. Lockheed's Skunk Works is a partner in the Quiet Supersonic Transport project. Aerion estimates development costs at up to $1.4 billion while SAI says it expects to spend up to $3 billion to develop aircraft for which there might be a market for only 300 to 400 planes. However, according to one industry analyst, money is no object to those who will buy the planes. "There's an extreme top end of the private aviation market," Richard Aboulafia told Composites.com. "They'll pay any price for that speed."