The AS2 will have an intercontinental-capable range of 4750 nmi at supersonic speed, saving three hours across the Atlantic vs. subsonic aircraft and more than six hours on longer trans-Pacific routes.
Their first firm order in 2015 was for 20 planes from Flexjet.
Airbus Defense and Space out of Spain has made progress in the engineering of airframe structures, the AS2’s fly-by-wire flight control system, its integrated fuel system, and landing gear. Some of the company’s accomplishments include preliminary designs for a 10-spar carbon fiber wing structure, fuselage and empennage structures, an articulating main landing gear system that minimizes space requirements in the fuselage when stowed/retracted, and a fuel system that is integrated with the digital fly-by-wire system for control of center of gravity.
The aircraft’s flight control design will take advantage of small, powerful actuators that can be housed in the AS2’s thin flying surfaces. To supplement the design process, Airbus D&S built a sample titanium wing leading-edge section for evaluation and is testing composite material specimens to optimize material properties.
Aerion is the lead for other systems, such as avionics, electrical, environmental control, hydraulics, and auxiliary power. In conjunction with Airbus D&S, Aerion had made preliminary space allocations for every system with weight and balance considerations in mind. Candidate suppliers have been identified and the supplier selection process has begun.
In September 2015, senior engineering staff from Aerion, Airbus D&S, Airbus Group, and other Tier 1 equipment suppliers gathered at Aerion headquarters in Reno for a four-day technical and program review, covering engineering accomplished to date on all structures and aircraft systems.
“The take-away from the design review and the effort this past year is that we have moved out of the conceptual design phase into commercializing Aerion technology,” said Aerion Senior Vice President for Aircraft Development Mike Hinderberger, “We are doing the engineering work today that will allow us to build and fly a supersonic jet at the turn of the next decade.”
Since its founding in 2002, Aerion has invested more than $100 million in R and D, much of it in conjunction with NASA and other prominent aerospace research organizations, to develop concepts for a family of efficient supersonic jets. Over that time, it has developed, flown and proven supersonic natural laminar flow airfoils that reduce wing friction drag by as much as 80 percent, and overall airframe drag by as much as 20 percent.
The Aerion AS2 is a fundamentally different aircraft in that it is efficient in both subsonic and supersonic flight, has greater range, and is more flexible in airport operations. This considerable difference is made possible by three critical advances: a new wing concept; new composite material technology; and advanced software, proprietary to Aerion, that permits analysis of complex transonic airflows.
The Aerion airframe will be constructed largely of carbon fiber composite structures, with titanium used for leading edges and some internal structures. The use of carbon fiber in major structures has become commonplace. The Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 XWB are largely constructed of this material. Its properties and construction processes are well understood. The AS2 will benefit from the low weight and high strength of carbon fiber, as well as the ability to craft composite materials into the precise and complex shapes required for superior aerodynamics. But of equal importance, carbon fiber wings will be extremely stiff, a requirement for holding the precise shape required for laminar flow and efficiency.