There could be supersonic private passenger flights buy 2023 if Airbus and Aerion have their way.
The two companies this week expanded their existing partnership and detailed the results of their research – the AS2, a 170-ft. long needle-shaped, three-engine jet capable of hitting speeds over 1,200MPH – about Mach 1.5. The idea is to test fly the jet by 2021 -- which can handle about 12 passengers -- and have it in service by 2023.
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Also this week flight-share company Flexjet agreed to buy 20 AS2 jets which are expected to be built in the United States.
Aerion, which is financed by Fort Worth, Texas billionaire Robert Bass said the company has made significant development strides already including:
- A strong and light 10-spar carbon fiber wing structure;
- Fuselage and empennage structures;
- An innovative articulating main landing gear system that minimizes space requirements in the fuselage when stowed/retracted;
- A fuel system that is integrated with the digital fly-by-wire system for control of center of gravity;
- Flight control design that takes advantage of small, powerful actuators that can be housed in the AS2’s thin flying surfaces;
- A fly-by-wire system based on Airbus Group’s long experience with digital flight control technology.
- AIRBUS has built a sample titanium wing leading-edge section for evaluation and is testing composite material specimens to optimize material properties.
“We are targeting the first half of 2016 to select a propulsion system, which will enable us to formally launch the program shortly thereafter,” Doug Nichols, Aerion CEO said in a statement.Aerion has identified existing core engines suitable for adaptation to the needs of supersonic flight. “We will proceed with an engine that allows us to meet our performance goals with the minimum changes required.”
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Safety, cost of flying and sonic boom issues have largely kept supersonic passenger aircraft grounded since the last Concorde flew in 2003. Military aircraft have obviously been supersonic for years but are typically restricted from flying at that speed over the ocean or restricted areas.
NASA continues to research how to reduce sonic booms over the general population in an effort to bring supersonic passenger flights back in the future. The AS2 would fly below Mach 1 over land where it needs to, the companies said.
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