Plans Moving Forward For Aerion Supersonic Jet

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Times might be tough right now, but apparently there are still plenty of people who hope to see a supersonic business jet on the market in the near future. The Aerion order book has held steady at $4 billion -- about 50 jets at $80 million each -- Aerion Vice Chairman Brian Barents said at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition this week, and OEMs have remained committed to pressing ahead with discussions despite economic uncertainty. The company expects to develop a joint Aerion-OEM proof-of-concept design study, which would last nine months to a year. After that, the partners would jointly decide whether to move forward with full-scale development and production. "We are confident we will reach an agreement with an OEM," said Barents. "The challenges are many, but there is a desire on the part of all parties to make this happen." The discussions are complex, he said, involving many technical and business issues, but "they are moving in the right direction."

Both customers and OEMs are looking beyond the current economic turmoil, said Barents. "OEMs understand that they need to think five to ten years ahead and have new products in the pipeline. And a supersonic jet is the most exciting product you can think of." Aerion has said that a successful proof-of-concept phase would be followed by a five-year development program culminating in certification and entry into service. That would put the certification date at 2015, a year later than the company said in October. The company also said this week that a series of flight tests and wind tunnel tests are planned for this year, using a NASA F-15B test platform and the European Transonic Wind Tunnel.