Richard Tracy, founder and chief technology officer of Aerion Corporation, said he "feels pretty good" that the firm will enter into a joint venture to develop a Mach 1.6 supersonic business jet (SSBJ) by the end of 2009, as a result of confidential discussions with potential business aircraft manufacturers.
Most technical issues have been resolved, he said, including validation of full-chord laminar flow over most of the aircraft's wing at speeds up to Mach 2.0 at full-scale Reynolds numbers in the European Transonic Wind Tunnel (ETW) in Cologne in August 2008. The ETW tests support Aerion's range, speed and fuel consumption predictions, thereby providing reference data to support a second round of scaled wing tests aboard a NASA F-15 at supersonic speeds later this year or early next year.
Tracy also is more confident about prospects for the program because of potential consensus between US and European regulatory authorities regarding supersonic flight over land. He said that last year FAA's Office of Environment and Energy moved towards creating a policy that would permit supersonic flight over land if "it can be deemed to be acceptable" with respect to mitigating sonic boom. Tracy said ICAO already has a policy that allows supersonic flight over land "if there is no unacceptable situation at the surface". Tracy believes the Aerion SSBJ can meet this requirement by flying its SSBJ at up to Mach 1.1 over land.
With a 4,000 nm range at Mach 1.6, the Aerion SSBJ can fly from New York to Paris in 4 hrs 14 min, saving 2 hrs 47 min off the trip time in a G650 cruising at Mach .90, Tracy asserts. He also claims the Aerion SSBJ can fly from New York to Tokyo in 9 hrs 33 min, including a one hour stopover in Anchorage for refueling. That would be 2.5 hours faster than a G650 flying non-stop at Mach .87 between New York and Tokyo, according to Tracy.
Speed isn't the Aerion SSBJ's only asset. Tracy also said his design has the smallest size, lightest weight and lowest drag of any competing SSBJ concept, thus it has the lowest environment footprint. That, too, should be appealing to a potential joint-venture partner.
- Aviation Week