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NASA and Aerion will test larger airfoil at supersonic speeds

Supersonic Business Travel

Singapore. Aerion is evaluating preliminary results of a new global market survey indicating strong appeal of the Aerion supersonic business jet design.

The study is the first by the company in five years and was undertaken as part of its ongoing dialogue with potential OEM partners.

“It was time to take a fresh look at the potential for the Aerion supersonic jet, taking into account the globalization of the business jet market,” said Aerion Vice Chairman Brian Barents. “The Asian market, for example, was barely considered in our last study five years ago. Today, the region is a major source of demand for long-range jets.”

The new study is being conducted by Alden & Associates, a respected firm in the area of business jet market research. Preliminary data confirms Aerion’s earlier research which projected a ten-year market for about 300 supersonic jets.

Although there is no timeline yet for the production of the aircraft, it has some takers in India also.

Says Jeff Miller, spokesman for the company: There is no set date for a first flight. Timing depends on Aerion establishing a joint venture with a major aircraft manufacturer to produce the airplane. Aerion is an aeronautical research firm with proprietary supersonic technology, but requires the partnership of a large manufacturing organization to proceed with production. Aerion envisions a five-year development program culminating in certification once a partnership is established.

There are also customers in India but Aerion does not release these details without customer permission.

“The preliminary data validate our business assumptions,” said Barents on the eve of the Singapore Air Show. “Considering the effects of the global economic downturn on purchasing psychology, these results, coupled with our current backlog, demonstrate the strong desire for supersonic transportation.”

Alden & Associates will make a fuller report to Aerion in the coming weeks. Aerion Chairman Robert Bass commented: “As we move forward in our discussions with potential OEM partners they are encouraged and we are encouraged by this clear indication of pent-up demand for supersonic transportation as defined by the Aerion jet.”

New flight tests

As Aerion continues its discussions with OEMs, it is also pursuing tests to gather more data on its supersonic natural laminar flow design. Supersonic natural laminar flow (SNLF) is the enabling technology allowing the Aerion jet to provide efficient transportation at speeds from Mach .95 to its maximum cruise speed of Mach 1.6. SNLF was demonstrated in flight tests with NASA in 2000 and 2006 and more recently in transonic wind tunnel tests.

Aerion is planning a new series of flight tests in conjunction with NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, and will use, as before, a NASA F-15B as a test platform.

The objective of the new flight test series is to collect data from a larger airfoil section than was tested previously. Those earlier tests confirmed robust supersonic laminar flow on a small airfoil section. The new flight test wing model will allow the collection of data at high Reynolds numbers much closer to a full-scale Aerion wing at cruise altitude. The new wing model will also allow Aerion to assess the required manufacturing tolerances to assure robust laminar flow.

“We continue to see a validation of our CFD models and SNLF prediction capability in flight and wind tunnel tests,” commented Aerion Chief Technology Officer Richard Tracy. “This provides high confidence in our design and performance, and allows us to begin turning our efforts to refinement of required manufacturing tolerances. We are therefore very pleased with the progress of the testing program.”

Aerion Corporation of Reno, Nevada, is an advanced engineering group formed in 2002 to reintroduce commercial supersonic flight.

Aerion continues research begun more than 20 years ago, with the current focus on the design of a practical and efficient supersonic business jet employing patented natural laminar flow technology.

Aerion’s board includes: Robert M. Bass, Chairman of Aerion and President of investment group Keystone Group, LP; Brian E. Barents, Vice Chairman of Aerion and former president and CEO of Galaxy Aerospace and Learjet; Dr. Richard R. Tracy, who has pioneered the supersonic natural laminar wing concept and serves as Aerion’s Chief Technology Officer; Michael L. Henderson, COO of Aerion and Boeing’s former program manager for high-speed civil transport; Robert Morse, a Partner at Oak Hill Capital Management; and James Stewart, CFO at SR Technics. John Holding, previously Bombardier Aerospace’s Executive Vice President, Integrated Product Definition and Planning, is Senior Advisor to the company.

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