World's First Supersonic Business Jet
The flight paths of our airport may once again be lined with spotters as the Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB) becomes the home of one of the most dazzling advances in commercial aviation since the supersonic transport jet Concorde took flight over 50 years ago.
Enter the Aerion
AS2 supersonic business transport.
Unlike the Concorde, which could break windows as well as bird eggs with its boom, when the AS2 breaches the sound barrier, the characteristic clap of thunder is reflected up not down, making the jet as “quiet as it is technologically advanced.” Also, it is considered the next step in the evolution in sustainable supersonic flight due to the carbon neutral “Affinity” engines from GE Aviation.
Supersonic Design, Mach Speed
Aerion could literally reshape the general aviation industry with the AS2, the first privately built supersonic commercial aircraft ever. The innovative design enables it to reach speeds of Mach 1.4 (over 1,000 mph) with the ability to accept 100% biofuels.
The 12-passenger aircraft with natural laminar flow wing for a minimum projected range of 4,750 nm (8,800 km), will also have the fastest subsonic cruising speed of any aircraft. It has an anticipated $4 billion development cost, for a market of 300 aircraft over 10 years and 500 overall, with a $120 million price point per jet. American aerospace leader Boeing has come on board as one of Aerion’s strategic partners, bringing its engineering, design and manufacturing expertise to the project.
“We are building the next generation of high-speed transportation networks that will revolutionize global mobility without leaving a carbon footprint on our world,” Tom Vice, Aerion Supersonic chairman, president & CEO said in an MLB statement.
“Our AS2 business jet—the world’s first privately built supersonic aircraft—is the first stage in that exciting endeavor. Having evaluated a number of potential locations for our new home, we are excited to partner with Florida and the Melbourne community to create a sustainable supersonic future.”
Vice, an aerospace veteran, retired from Northrop Grumman after nearly 31 years of service with the company before taking the helm at Aerion Supersonic. While at Northrop Grumman, he served as President of Aerospace Systems, overseeing an $11 billion global advanced technology business with 23,000 employees.
Another Quantum Leap for MLB
The announcement of Aerion Supersonic’s selection of MLB for its worldwide headquarters and integrated campus for research, design, build and maintenance of the company’s aircraft was announced in late April.
Greg Donovan, Executive Director of MLB said in an announcement, that although the Covid-19 pandemic was closing much of America, “We are incredibly honored and thrilled to bring this news to our community at a time when it’s needed the most. We are proud to be the location of the future where Aerion will innovate, create and introduce new technologies and products to the aviation industry worldwide.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis added, “The Space Coast has become a hub for the aviation and aerospace industry, and my administration. We are thrilled that Aerion has selected Melbourne for its new global headquarters and will create 675 new jobs here in Florida.”
The timely announcement was the culmination of efforts that airport officials have been pursuing since December 2018, with collaboration among several economic partners including the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, Enterprise Florida, Inc., Space Florida and the City of Melbourne.
Hub of Aerospace Innovation
MLB has evolved as the southeast’s hub of aerospace innovation, being home of Northrop Grumman’s Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence, Brazilian executive jet builder Embraer, and the headquarters to some large scale technology organizations such as L3Harris Technologies, among others.
As part of a multi-year $300 million investment, Aerion Park will house manufacturing of the company’s new AS2 supersonic business jet, with plans to create at least 675 new jobs by 2026. The development will take place on more than 60 acres of vacant property located at the northwest corner of the MLB airport.
MLB literally set the stage, or landing strip, for Aerion Park with an extensive series of renovations, having completely rehabilitated their three runways and added a new air traffic control tower. Additional taxiway and roadway improvements are being planned to accommodate Aerion’s operational plans, with funding support from Florida Department of Transportation.
Melbourne Airport Authority Chairman Jack L. Ryals summed up the impact: “Aerion is an excellent addition to our tenant base, affirming MLB as a global epicenter for the aviation, aerospace and defense industries. They will also add an entirely new dimension to our airfield with leading-edge technology,” he said. •