Aerion AS2 Hopes to Bring Back Supersonic Passenger Flights

Aerion AS2 6 photos
Photo: Aerion
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A company called Aerion is one of several who have committed to bringing back supersonic commercial flight. The dream of pioneers more than 50 years ago might once again become a reality, should Aerion manage to launch the AS2 passenger aircraft.
Traveling faster than the speed of sound. That has always been an object of true desire in the minds of many engineers and flying enthusiasts. Covering huge distances in just a few hours, transatlantic cruising at your wish, as well as going at such speeds that the mind cannot conceive may very well become reality when the gents at Aerion are done with this one.

Back in the day

What does actually mean to travel at supersonic speeds? Well, in simple terms it means going faster than Mach 1. That is the term used to designate the speed at which the sound propagates through the air. It is in close relationship with the air temperature and atmospheric pressure. For reference, at sea level and 15 °C (59 °F) temperature, sound waves should travel at about 1,225 km (760 miles) per hour.

Historically, the first attempts at supersonic flight date back to 1947, when the U.S. Air Force led an experimental test-flight using a rocket engine-powered research plane called Bell-X1. It reached a top speed of 1,126 km (700 miles) per hour. Officially, the first supersonic transport aircraft was one of Soviet making, called Tupolev Tu-144, which flew from 1969 to 1975.

Enjoying a greater public recognition, the most famous passenger-carrying commercial airplane was a joint British-French engineering project named Concorde, which debuted in 1973 and was in service until 2003, employed by British Airways and Air France. The Concorde could reach a maximum speed of 2,179 km (1,354 miles) per hour, which would translate into an impressive Mach 2.04.

Aerion AS2
Photo: Aerion

Aerion AS2

And now Aerion is determined to take things one step further. In the future seen through their eyes, people should be able to reach any point on Earth within three hours, on account of the fact that, for us humans, time may just be the most precious resource we can have in this world.

The Aerion AS2 is planned as the first supersonic commercial aircraft to enter service in the last 51 years. It will premiere a lot of new technologies never seen before in the industry, the most important of which being a state-of-art Boomless Cruise capability, the fact it will run on synthetic fuel and, not least, will have a carbon-neutral design from day one.

Boomless Cruise

One of the biggest advancements in supersonic flight is the capability to mitigate the sound that reaches the ground, thus empowering the aircraft to be at its quietest and still travel at speeds between Mach 1.0-1.2 in places where regulations allow supersonic flight without a sonic boom. Otherwise, the aircraft can reach top speeds of Mach 1.4 (1,000 miles per hour).

The phenomenon that is the basis of this revolutionary feat is the ability of the sonic boom sound waves to get refracted when reaching denser and warmer layers of air. In order to turn physics to its favor, Aerion will work closely with Spire Global, who can provide weather tracking and predicting using satellites. In other words, Spire Global will integrate high-fidelity weather models into the plane, and the flight planning software of the AS2will compute the best route, optimized especially for supersonic travel.

Aerion AS2
Photo: Aerion
Aerion has desgined a special interior for the plane, with an emphasis on luxury. The passengers will be taking advantage of the so-called WhisperQuiet cabin and Purityclimate control system. No matter the mind-blowing travel speed or altitude, the tech-savvy will be treated toe high-speed connectivity. The cabin will bathe in full spectrum OLED lighting, and a kitchen will be on board with what we're told is an appliance suite never seen before on an aircraft.

As said, the plane will run on 100% synthetic fuels created through direct air carbon capture and coming from Carbon Engineering. The Aerion Park facility, the place where all these engineering wonders will be made possible starting from 2023, is also a facility entirely powered by sustainable technology.

We're told the Aerion AS2 underwent extensive wind tunnel testing using physical modeling, summing up to 78,000 nautical miles flown during low and high-speed studies, and gathering more than 200,000 in-flight data points. Plans are to have the plane ready for production in 2023.

Although we've seen plans to bring commercial supersonic flight back countless times until now, no actual supersonic plane for passengers has been launched yet. We can only hope that will eventually happen, be it at the hands of Aerion, or others.

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About the author: Dan Marinescu
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Since his early childhood, Dan developed an avid passion for cars and, now he sees himself as a genuine petrolhead. His enthusiasm comes from his father, an automotive engineer. They love to reminisce about the days when his dad showed him the inner workings of an engine and why everything does what it does.
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