Aerion and Airbus announce new agreement, expanded collaboration

· More North American-based Airbus resources made available to bring the supersonic AS2 to market.

· Flexjet to become first fleet customer - places firm order for 20 aircraft.

With joint engineering efforts accelerating on the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet program, Aerion and Airbus Group, Inc. announced a new agreement that will expand North American-based Airbus Group, Inc. resources to the AS2 program.

Support from Airbus Group operations in North America will include engineering, procurement and supply chain management, logistics planning, program management, and government relations. These new resources will augment engineering support from Airbus Defence and Space (AIRBUS D&S) in Spain.

“The collaboration between Aerion and Airbus Group has been extremely beneficial and productive,” said Allan McArtor, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, Inc. “The further we proceed along the development path with Aerion, the greater our enthusiasm for this program and the deeper our commitment. Under our new agreement, our two companies are working as one to bring Aerion’s supersonic AS2 to the business jet market,” he added.

“This undertaking is completely in line with Airbus Group’s legacy of developing innovations in flight,” said McArtor, “such as our current

work on the Perlan Mission II glider - the world’s first engineless aircraft designed to reach the edge of space - which made its successful first flight recently, and the E-Fan technology demonstrator - which this summer became the first fully electric, twin-engine aircraft taking off under its own power to fly across the English Channel.”

“Airbus Group has a long history of supporting innovation, and Aerion’s innovative aerodynamic technology unquestionably offers long-term benefits to the industry in terms of performance and efficiency,” said Doug Nichols, Aerion CEO.

Engineering progress report

At the one-year anniversary of the Aerion/Airbus Group collaboration, the two companies drew back the curtains on engineering efforts that have proceeded quietly, but steadily, since the first joint engineering team meeting in 2014.

Airbus Defence and Space has made significant progress in the engineering of airframe structures, the AS2’s digital (fly-by-wire) flight control system, its integrated fuel system, and landing gear. Notable accomplishments include preliminary designs for:

  • A strong and light 10-spar carbon fiber wing structure;
  • Fuselage and empennage structures;
  • An innovative articulating main landing gear system that minimizes space requirements in the fuselage when stowed/retracted;
  • A fuel system that is integrated with the digital fly-by-wire system for control of center of gravity;
  • Flight control design that takes advantage of small, powerful actuators that can be housed in the AS2’s thin flying surfaces;
  • A fly-by-wire system based on Airbus Group’s long experience with digital flight control technology.

To supplement the design process, AIRBUS D&S has 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.

The flight deck is being designed to maximize situational awareness through a combination of advanced avionics, natural line of sight, and ergonomics. Aerion will craft the flight deck using fine materials and will devote considerable attention to day/night illumination, making the cockpit environment every bit as inviting as the cabin.

September joint design review highlights engineering progress

This past September, senior engineering staff from Aerion, AIRBUS D&S, Airbus Group, Inc., and other tier-one 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 results of this comprehensive quarterly review were nothing short of excellent,” said Ken McKenzie, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Corporate Development at Airbus Group, Inc. “We see clear and achievable technical solutions to the design of a supersonic jet, and a realistic roadmap for helping Aerion proceed toward construction and flight.”

“The take-away from the design review and the effort this past year,” said Aerion Senior Vice President for Aircraft Development Mike Hinderberger, “is that we have moved out of the conceptual design phase into commercializing Aerion technology.

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.”

Engine selection nearing

“We are targeting the first half of 2016 to select a propulsion system, which will enable us to formally launch the program shortly thereafter,” reported Nichols.

Aerion is planning on a first flight of the AS2 in 2021 and entry into service in 2023, following FAA certification. EASA certification would follow closely thereafter.

Aerion has identified existing core engines suitable for adaptation to the needs of supersonic flight. “We will proceed with an engine that allows us to meet our performance goals with the minimum changes required,” said Nichols. “Aerion is focused on an engine solution that meets Stage 4 noise standards while preserving long-range supersonic performance. This is a significant challenge with a low-bypass supersonic engine, but solutions are in sight with today’s engine technology.”

Aerion will bring to market a supersonic jet that operates efficiently within today’s regulatory environment, including rules regarding supersonic flight over land. This takes advantage of the ability of the AS2 to operate efficiently just below the speed of sound at Mach 0.95 to 0.98, and at speeds up to Mach 1.5 over water and other areas where supersonic flight is permitted.

Since entering into a collaborative relationship in 2014, Aerion and Airbus Group engineering teams have been deeply engaged in designing aircraft structures and systems. Airbus Defence & Space has taken the lead in the design of airframe structures, digital flight controls, an integrated fuel system, and the landing gear system. Aerion is responsible for all other systems, including avionics, environmental control, auxiliary power, hydraulics, electrical system, cabin systems, and more. The two companies share responsibility for aerodynamics and flight sciences.

win-win collaboration

In September 2014 Aerion and Airbus Group announced their technology collaboration. That relationship was conceived as a two-way street, with Airbus Group receiving exclusive access to Aerion high-speed technology as well as Aerion proprietary software for analyzing high-speed airflow and for airframe optimization. The collaboration brings a full spectrum of engineering disciplines to design, build, and certify the AS2 business jet. This latest agreement will expand that support beyond the engineering of the aircraft and into its commercialization for the business jet community.

“This is Aerion’s jet and Aerion’s program, with substantial benefits accruing to Airbus Group,” said McKenzie. “We gain new technology and tools, and through our collaboration will be expanding engineering knowledge and refining processes such as digital manufacturing. The AS2 program will be an incubator for innovation in design, engineering, and manufacturing.”

Airbus Group will provide major components and Aerion will conduct final assembly in the U.S. Both companies envision a long-term relationship for ongoing technical support.

Factory site selection process launched

Doug Nichols announced plans for the manufacture of the AS2 supersonic business jet.

“Aerion has begun a formal search for a U.S. manufacturing location,” he said. “We’re looking for a state-of-the art campus of more than 100 acres on a major airport with a minimum 9,000-foot runway, and other special geophysical requirements.” Among them will be a location within 200 nautical miles of a supersonic flight test area, most likely one offshore.

Aerion will evaluate numerous factors including: airport suitability; road and rail infrastructure; proximity to a deep-water port for shipped structures and equipment; local aerospace workforce; state and local regulations; quality of life; and regional educational institutions. The company expects to announce the location of the assembly site in the first half of 2016 upon formal launch of the AS2 program, and break ground in 2018.

First flight of the Aerion AS2 is planned for 2021 and certification by the FAA in 2023 with entry into service that year.

Airbus Group will provide major components and Aerion will conduct final assembly. Both companies envision a long-term relationship for ongoing technical support. Aerion will draw on expertise from Airbus Group for establishing the new Aerion production facility.

“Aerion’s new American home will set the standard for 21st century aerospace manufacturing,” said Nichols.

INAIRVATION selected to develop world’s first supersonic business jet cabin

INAIRVATION will develop innovative cabin interiors for the AS2, as well as manage their certification and production.

INAIRVATION GmbH, formed in 2014, is a joint venture between Lufthansa Technik AG and F. LIST GMBH, (commonly F/LIST) with preferred partners Design Q for interior design and SCHOTT for lighting. INAIRVATION is the first provider to offer completely integrated business jet cabin solutions.

In announcing the selection, Doug Nichols said: “INAIRVATION impressed us immensely for several reasons: the quality of their interior design thinking; their demonstrated commitment to innovation; their ability to integrate design, engineering, certification, and manufacturing; and the exceptional history of each individual company under the INAIRVATION umbrella.”

“The INAIRVATION organization itself is an innovation,” he added, “and represents an advance in the integration of cabin technologies from various suppliers. Also, we are absolutely impressed with the passion and creativity INAIRVATION brings to the Aerion program.”

Lufthansa Technik, headquartered in Hamburg, is well known for complex completion projects, cabin management systems, and cabin integration services. F/ LIST, based in Thomasberg, Austria, is a major supplier of cabin monuments, including galleys, cabinetry, side ledges, tables, and innovative, ultra-light wood and stone flooring. INAIRVATION is also based in Thomasberg and led by co- CEOs Dr. Philip von Schroeter of Lufthansa Technik and Werner Kartner from F/LIST. Preferred supplier SCHOTT is an industry leader in advanced cabin lighting systems, including LED and fiber-optic technologies. Design Q is a specialist in automotive and aviation design, and won acclaim in 2014 for a fullscale Global 7000 mockup created for Bombardier.

“The opportunity to participate in the design of a supersonic business jet thrills our whole organization,” said von Schroeter. “It is the kind of technologic and aesthetic challenge for which INAIRVATION was created. We are brimming with ideas for making the AS2 cabin the most exciting and desirable interior environment in business aviation.”

Already the INAIRVATION team has built a full-scale engineering mockup of the AS2 interior at Design Q’s studio in Redditch, England. Aerion and INAIRVATION are using the mockup to assess possible configurations for cockpit and cabin.

“The mockup provides an experience that is not possible looking at a 3D model on a computer,” said Nichols. “Stepping inside was instant confirmation that we would be able to offer the customer not only an incredibly fast airplane, but the ultimate passenger experience.”

Flexjet to become first fleet customer

In further news from NBAA, Las Vegas, leading fractional jet ownership and leasing company, Flexjet LLC, has placed a firm order for 20 aircraft, becoming the inaugural fleet purchaser of the AS2.

“Throughout its history, Flexjet has been on the leading edge of aviation technology, introducing advanced performance to our Owners. Today, we are proud to be at the forefront of the next revolution in business jets, supersonic travel. We are pleased to be the first fleet purchaser of the Aerion AS2 and to be able to offer supersonic, intercontinental flight capabilities to our Owners,” said Flexjet Chairman Kenn Ricci.

The Aerion AS2 business jet has a top speed of Mach 1.5, which is 67 percent faster than the top cruise speeds of current or anticipated long-range subsonic jets. Carrying eight to 12 passengers, the AS2 has an intercontinental-capable range of 4,750 nautical miles at supersonic speed, saving three hours across the Atlantic versus subsonic aircraft and more than six hours on longer trans-Pacific routes. The three-engine jet, now under development by Aerion in collaboration with Airbus Group, will make its first flight in 2021 and enter service in 2023.

“We have examined Aerion’s technology and the AS2’s remarkable performance capabilities, and see them as potential game-changers for business travel. Aerion and Airbus Group are moving forward impressively with the AS2’s development,” added Ricci.

Aerion and Flexjet will work together to design stunning and unique interiors for the AS2, continuing the tradition of premium interiors such as those in Flexjet’s recently launched Red Label fleet. Flexjet anticipates that many customers will, through its innovative Global Access program, use the AS2 in combination with other large-cabin Flexjet aircraft, taking advantage of the AS2’s speed to meet especially demanding travel schedules, such as intercontinental round trips in a single day.

“Kenn Ricci, and all of the Directional Aviation companies he oversees, have proven themselves time and again to be industry leaders and innovators,” said Aerion Chairman Robert Bass. “We share a passion for performance and for revolutionizing business aviation. This is indeed the beginning of a great relationship between our companies. I want to thank Kenn for his vision and his confidence in Aerion.”

BlueSky Business Aviation News | 26th November 2015 | Issue #345
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