The world's first private supersonic jet could take off in as little as six years. The AS2 plane will be capable of supersonic travel, allowing passengers to travel between London and New York in just three hours, and Los Angeles to Tokyo in six. Airbus and Aerion say they hope to choose a US manufacturing site for the jet during the first half of next year. If all goes to plan, test flights will take place in 2021, with the first commercial flights for businesses beginning in 2023.
The Aerion AS2 business jet will fly at a top speed of 1,217 mph (1960 km/h), which is almost as fast as Concorde, which flew at 1,350 mph (2,170 km/h). The team has so far made initial designs for a carbon-fiber wing structure, fuselage, landing gear and a fuel system. Design features include wings which reduce overall drag by 20 per cent, allowing for lower fuel consumption and longer range and a luxurious 30ft-long cabin that will seat up to 12 passengers. 'We see clear and achievable technical solutions to the design of a supersonic jet, and a realistic road map for helping Aerion proceed toward construction and flight,' said Airbus senior vice president Ken McKenzie.
Airbus will provide all the major components and Aerion – a company backed by Texas-based billion Robert Bass - will complete the final assembly. The companies say they are now looking for a US production site, which has 100-acre (40-hectare) space, located near runway at least 9,000 feet (2,700 meters) long.
They are hoping to break ground on the factory in 2018, and the cost of the entire project is expected to reach more than $100 million (£60 million). Aerion has now begun to choose suppliers and plans to pick an engine maker during the first half of next year, CEO Doug Nichols said. 'We will proceed with an engine that allows us to meet our performance goals with the minimum changes required,' Nichols said. 'Solutions are in sight with today's engine technology.' Billionaire Bass has been open about his personal mission to offer the first business jet to fly faster than the speed of sound, a project begun in 2002. Dubbed the 'Son of Concorde, AS2 will fly at lower speeds over land because of flight restrictions related to sonic booms. The US forbids civilian planes from reaching the sound barrier - about 750 mph (1,200 km/h) - while flying overland due to noisy sonic booms. But over Europe the AS2 can fly at supersonic speeds without detection. After 27 years of service, British Airways retired the Airbus' Concorde airliner - which travelled at more than twice the speed of sound - in October 2003, signalling the end of the supersonic passenger jet. Modern commercial long-haul jets typically cruise at speeds between 480 mph (770 km/h) and 560 mph (900 km/h).