Airbus, Aerion Eye Supersonic 'Finish Line'

Executives toast AS2's hoped-for success.

Aerion Toast NBAA 2014

Aerion Toast NBAA 2014

Airbus Group Chairman Allan McArtor and Aerion founder Robert Bass toasted their companies' new collaboration to bring a supersonic business jet to the market, raising champagne glasses together on the NBAA Convention show floor in Orlando, Florida, yesterday afternoon.

Asked by a journalist in attendance how far Airbus plans to take the sleek Aerion AS2 jet, McArtor responded with a smile, "To the finish line."

What that precisely means remains to be seen, but the finish line Airbus has in mind might not involve ever building supersonic private jets. Rather, Airbus has joined the program to validate and prove Aerion's concept, and in return to receive access to Aerion's aerodynamics research.

Still, the backing by one of the world's largest aircraft producers provides added credibility for the Aerion jet, which was announced a decade ago as a technology study into patented natural laminar flow wing technology and has evolved since then from a two- to three-engine design.

Airbus's Defence and Space division, which will be joining Aerion in the collaboration in Reno, Nevada, is keenly interested in learning more about the AS2's performance and probable flying characteristics. Input by Airbus engineers could also lead to further AS2 design changes, McArtor predicted.

Bass, a billionaire businessman, said the partnership with Aerion puts the company solidly on track to certify the Mach 1.6 trijet by 2021. Aerion will begin discussions with engine makers about a potential powerplant choice for the speedy jet. Bass said the collaboration with Airbus will accelerate those talks.

As part of the agreement between the companies, Aerion will provide proprietary technology and assistance to Airbus Group in its high-performance aircraft technology development. The technologies include Aerion's research, its proprietary design tools and patented aerodynamic designs.

Still unannounced, however, is where and by whom the AS2 will be built. Airbus hasn't come out and said it plans to produce the jet, and Aerion, a technology company, isn't in a position to do so.

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