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Boeing is putting its weight behind efforts to develop a next-generation supersonic jet and start shuttling business travellers from A to B, fast.
The move marks Boeing’s return to supersonics since the ill-fated Boeing 2707, for which several airlines – including Qantas – placed orders before it was abruptly cancelled in 1971.
Almost half a century later, and twenty years after the renowned Concorde took its final bow, the 12-seater Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet is aiming for first flight in 2023.
The AS2 is designed to fly at speeds of up to Mach 1.4, or 1,728 km/h – up to 70% faster than today’s business jets, which delivers a saving of three hours on trans-Atlantic flights, while reportedly still meeting all environmental performance requirements.
The high-tech and high-touch cabin can of course be customised to the buyer’s taste.
The Nevada-based Aerion previously worked with Lockheed Martin and Airbus on the AS2, before Boeing came on board.
The new deal provides financial support as well as engineering and industrial resources to help Aerion accelerate the development of the aircraft, which is expected to come with a US$120 million (A$168 million) price tag.
While supersonic travel has the potential to save plenty of time, a major barrier to its re-introduction is the regulations surrounding the sonic boom and accompanying noise.
On paper, the AS2 is capable of reaching Mach 1.2 without producing a boom with the right atmospheric conditions – although this has yet to be certified by the relevant authorities – with a cruising speed of Mach 0.95.
There’s been a resurgence of interest in supersonic travel with numerous startups in the market now, including Boom’s ‘Overture’, which is slated to make its first test flight this year before being destined for commercial service. Spike Aerospace’s 18-seater S-512 is another contender against the Aerion AS2.