...Aerion Speeds Things Up...

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As AVweb reported last month, a new group this week announced its plans for a supersonic business jet, or SSBJ. Aerion Corporation, a Reno, Nev.,-based company styling itself as an "advanced engineering group formed to reintroduce commercial supersonic flight," this week made good on its promise to bring it high-speed plans to NBAA with a business jet design it says could enter service as soon as 2011. The company was formed in 2002 to acquire, advance and commercialize the supersonic technology of ASSET Group. Aerion's Chief Technology Officer, Richard R. Tracy, headed that company. In addition to Tracy, Aerion’s board includes Brian E. Barents, former president of Galaxy Aerospace and Learjet. "The Concorde may have been relegated to museums, but the world has not slowed down. Indeed the reverse is true," said Barents. "The world’s major businesses and governments have a clear need for faster travel. Aerion’s engineers have been at work for many years developing the fundamental technologies to make this possible." According to Aerion's press release, its planned SSBJ will incorporate patented technology designed to use laminar-flow principles to substantially reduce drag at high subsonic and supersonic speeds, allowing it to use existing powerplant technology: two Pratt and Whitney JT8D-219 turbofans, early versions of which date back to the Boeing 727 and DC-9. Aerion says the aircraft's range will be roughly the same at both subsonic and supersonic speeds: in excess of 4,000 nm. Most important, however, for its viability in the marketplace, the aircraft has a low sonic-boom signature and will be designed to cruise at up to Mach 1.1 without a boom. Its maximum cruise speed will be Mach 1.6. Presently, the company says it is in "advanced development" and has completed in-flight testing of a supersonic natural laminar flow wing section, engine/airframe integration studies and initial systems design. Aerion says it projects a five-year development program with two ground-test articles and three flight-test aircraft. The company expects the price of the aircraft to be competitive on a price/performance basis with today’s largest business jets. We'll see.