Aerion AS2 / SBJ (Supersonic Business Jet)
Supersonic Business Passenger Jet
The Aerion SBJ is set to introduce supersonic speeds into mainstream business flying once more.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The Aerion AS2 is a supersonic business jet product being forwarded by American billionaire businessman and philanthropist Robert Bass under the Aerion Corporation brand label (founded in 2004 out of Reno, Nevada). The aircraft follows the proven supersonic concept put forth decades ago by the famous Aerospatiale-BAC "Concorde" supersonic performer to which the AS2 project intends to produce a more viable end-product for civil airspace operations. The aircraft initially appeared under the name of "SBJ" rather appropriately signifying "Supersonic Business Jet" and was to be powered by two turbofan engines while it has since been redesigned with a three-engined configuration. The product remains in development as of June 2014 with flight testing tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2019 resulting in an actual operational service year sometime after 2020.
Retired in 2003, the original Concord was born of innovations found in the 1960s. Its then-groundbreaking capabilities never truly ushered in the expected era of supersonic passenger flight for the average flyer and proved a rather expensive product to operate in large numbers while be prohibited from flying through many airspaces of the world due to its violent sonic booms produced. The Aerion AS2 concept looks to achieved a "boom-less" Mach 1.0+ approach to help mitigate the threat of a ground-based sonic boom over densely populated areas. Several approaches to the design of the aircraft are seen as sonic-boom reducers - including its more compact size when compared to the Concorde and modern advanced avionics to track potential booms. The AS2 is seen as a aircraft that can reach speeds of up to Mach 1.2 without producing a telltale boom signature heard on the ground giving it the necessary leeway to traverse the airspaces over many parts of the world today. The phenomena is recognized as "boom cutoff" where sonic booms at speeds just above Mach 1.0 do not reach the ground, diffused at about 5,000 feet into a subsonic pressure wave.
Outwardly, the AS2 will carry a slim design form with its cockpit conventionally set aft of a long nose cone assembly (unlike the Concorde, the nose of the AS2 will not tilt to provide improved ground viewing). The wings will be short in span, unswept, of an all-modern laminar flow contour and low-mounted for the specific purposes of supersonic flight - indeed the wings are officially titled as "Supersonic Natural Laminar Flow" (SNLF). The passenger cabin will make up a portion of the tubular fuselage, tapering to the empennage at rear to which a single vertical tail fin will be affixed. The tail planes will be high-mounted on the aircraft in profile though low-mounted on the vertical tail fin itself. The undercarriage is to be expectedly retractable and of a tricycle arrangement, utilizing a single-wheeled nose leg and a pair of twin-wheeled main legs. The engines will be externally mounted at the rear of the design for maximum airflow efficiency as well as required noise control on approaches and during take-off. One engine will straddle each side of the aft fuselage with the final engine installed at the base of the tail fin a rather classic "tri-jet" configuration. Overall dimensions include a length of 160 feet, a wingspan of 70 feet and a height of 26 feet. Construction of the aircraft will include use of carbon fibers (fuselage, wings, engine nacelles, tail), aluminum, steel and corrosion-resistant titanium (wing leading edges).
Internally, the aircraft will be crewed by two pilots and feature seating for up to eleven passengers depending on seat configuration. The cabin space will measure some 30 feet long, comparable to the competing Gulfstream G450 line. A galley will be integral to the comfort of the passengers as will two lavatories, one found forward and one located aft of the passenger cabin. A dining/conference table will be found aft as well. The cabin itself will sport amenities expected from the business jet crowd with a full 6.2 foot ceiling height and 7.3 feet wall-to-wall width in a single aisle arrangement. Rounded rectangle windows will provide ample viewing to the outside as well as natural lighting on daytime flights. Four of the passenger seats will be configurable to sleepers for long-range ventures. The baggage stores will be of a walk-in design. The cockpit will feature an all-modern Fly-By-Wire (FBW) approach to control seen in many aircraft today, including military types as well as full-color Multi-Function Displays (MFDs).
Estimated performance specifications include a maximum speed of Mach 1.6 with a long-range cruising speed of Mach 1.4 with full-fuel range expected to be 5,000 nautical miles. The AS2 performance will be such that a typical fourteen hour flight is reduced to just nine hours, meaning round-trip, cross-Atlantic journeys will be accomplished in a single business day (for example, Chicago-to-Frankfurt becomes a 5 hour jaunt, the journey reaching 51,000 feet in altitude and operating through transonic, supersonic and subsonic envelopes to achieve the desired results). Fuel efficiency will be improved over that of the preceding Concorde by allowing the AS2 to burn its fuel at the same rate whether in subsonic or supersonic flight envelopes. Maximum Take-Off Weight is listed at 115,000lb with an empty weight of 49,800 feet.
Currently U.S. federal aviation laws prohibit the use of supersonic flight in air travel. However, restrictions are somewhat relaxed internationally and the technological success that the AS2 may find may, in turn, relax U.S. overland travel restrictions in the coming decade.
Flight over water is not restricted, allowing the AS2 to operate at "full throttle".