Supersonic aircraft developer Aerion Corp. on May 21 confirmed that it is ceasing operations of its AS2 business jet program after years of development, citing difficulty in raising the capital needed to complete production. Employees were told of the development the same day.
The $120 million, planned Mach 1.4 AS2, scheduled for initial production in 2023 and first flight in 2024, counts Boeing and Spirit Aerosystems as investors and has been in development by Reno, Nevada-based Aerion for a decade. The company had plans to invest $300 million to build a final assembly facility in Melbourne, Florida, and in March landed a commitment from NetJets for up to 20 AS2s.
In 2015, Flexjet confirmed a firm order for 20 AS2s, valued at $2.4 billion.
“The AS2 supersonic business jet program meets all market, technical, regulatory and sustainability requirements and the market for a new supersonic segment of general aviation has been validated with $11.2 billion in sales backlog for the AS2,” the company said in a statement provided to The Weekly of Business Aviation.
“However, in the current financial environment, it has proven hugely challenging to close on the scheduled and necessary large new capital requirements to finalize the transition of the AS2 into production,” the statement added. “Given these conditions, the Aerion Corp. is now taking the appropriate steps in consideration of this ongoing financial environment.”
In March, Aerion released an image of a planned AS3 follow-on airliner concept designed for entry into service around the end of the decade. It would cruise at higher Mach speeds closer to the hypersonic region, the company said.
The AS2 was designed to fly at supersonic speeds over water and tailored for high subsonic, or transonic flight around Mach 0.96 over land, where in most countries no sonic boom is allowed. The original design morphed from a twinjet to a trijet in 2014.
Brian Barents, former executive chairman at Aerion, said May21 that hearing the news was “obviously disappointing.” The project has made a lot of progress, said Barents, who retired from Aerion in 2018.