Will Supersonic Business Jet Development Survive The Travel Slump?
Ask the Editors: The Aviation Week Network invites our readers to submit questions to our editors and analysts. We’ll answer them, and if we can’t we’ll reach out to our wide network of experts for advice.
Given the diminished outlook for executive travel, does it make sense to keep moving forward with development of expensive supersonic business jets?
Molly McMillin, Aviation Week’s managing editor of business aviation, responds:
The world has been intrigued by supersonic flight since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. The Concorde passenger jet was retired in 2003, but the fascination has continued. And the current level of interest from the business jet industry is strong.
Several companies are working on supersonic aircraft, including Boom Technology, Aerion Corp. and Spike Aerospace.
A supersonic business aircraft, however, does come with trade-offs. For one, it will be fast but expensive, notes Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia. Aerion’s AS2, for example, has a price tag of $120 million. “Will someone say, ‘I don’t care about the trade-offs—I want that speed’?” Aboulafia asks. “I have no doubt. There’s going to be some market. It has always been a good time to go ahead with it.”
Rolland Vincent, a consultant based in Plano, Texas, has performed detailed studies on the market potential of supersonic business jets every few years. Each time, the market has grown. His last study, performed six years ago, showed demand for 300 aircraft over a 10-year period. It is likely larger by now, he says. But because of delays to the engine program for the AS2 and cutbacks in the industry, Vincent pushed out his entry-into-service expectations to 2029 from 2027.
The Aviation Week Network’s latest forecast does not include deliveries in the supersonic business jet class for the next decade. Aboulafia expects one manufacturer to survive, with Aerion the most likely contender, while Vincent expects two or three manufacturers to endure.