Discussions Under Way With Potential Partners
Aerion is pursuing a
two-track program in its efforts to bring supersonic flight back to
the commercial sector. Engineers continue to refine and test the
design, and have provided greater detail in technical briefings to
Meanwhile, the company continues to build its business case,
providing a more detailed financial picture of the costs, risks and
rewards involved in program participation.
The company has held talks with major aerospace firms as well as
government agencies on three continents. Discussions are ongoing,
and much will hinge on the refined business case presented by
Aerion, and on the available financial resources and strategic
objectives of potential partners.
Potential partners have expressed great interest in the concept
of supersonic laminar flow and the patented technology developed by
Aerion in this area, viewing it as a key enabling technology for
the development of an efficient supersonic aircraft.
As Aerion continues to build its team, it has hired James
Stewart as chief financial officer. Stewart was formerly chief
financial officer at Bombardier Aerospace and has extensive
experience in establishing the financial case for new aircraft
development programs. The company projects a five-year program from
the launch of the detailed design effort to certification.
discussions to continue into 2007, with the expectation that we
will reach agreement with major project partners in the coming
year," said Brian Barents(pictured, right) , vice chairman of
Configuration optimization: While performance and size
parameters of the aircraft have changed little in the last year,
optimization continues on such complex areas as engine inlets and
exhaust nozzles, as well as the nacelle/airframe integration. In
particular, the aft fuselage and nacelle external lines are being
computationally optimized for drag in the presence of the hot
exhaust flow. Tail size and geometry are also the subject of
optimization in conjunction with computational stability and
control evaluations based on previous wind tunnel tests. The net
result of this work is to improve the Aerion jet's supersonic and
transonic range performance.
Noise analysis: Aerion is using noise reduction
technology developed by Pratt & Whitney and more recently by
Aviation Fleet Solutions, which has certified the JT8D-219 to Stage
4/Chapter 4 on the MD-80 series. Joint studies with Pratt &
Whitney and Aviation Fleet Solutions indicate that the Aerion
supersonic business jet's noise levels will be well within Stage
4/Chapter 4 limits.
Systems: Aerion is working with several vendors
to develop systems architecture for fuel, electrical and hydraulic
power distribution, flight controls, pressurization, environmental
controls, anti-icing and landing gear.
Icing: Icing of the thin wing leading edge has
been evaluated at the Cox and Company icing tunnel in Manhattan,
New York. This test evaluated ice buildup on the wing outboard of
the strakes under the worst case icing conditions. The tests
indicated that icing does not have a significant effect on the
Aerion wing and tail surfaces. Other portions of the aircraft (for
example, nose, engine inlets and strakes) will require conventional
Structures: Work continues to optimize wing
thickness-to-chord ratio for strength and aeroelastic performance.
Sophisticated proprietary computational models are being used in
this effort. This study includes a high-order flutter analysis,
which continues to show adequate flutter margin at wing weight
within the overall weight predictions.
Aerodynamic testing: The company is continuing
its program of rocket sled testing for analyzing full-scale
aerodynamic effects. Three test runs have been made to develop test
equipment and techniques, the last up to Mach 1.5 and full-scale
aerodynamic conditions (Reynolds numbers). Rocket sled testing has
potential advantages over wind tunnel testing. Tests to date have
shown laminar flow consistent with earlier F-15 flight tests at
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. The rocket sled tests have
satisfied Aerion's goals in terms of speed, mechanical strength and
pressure-vibration instrumentation capability. However, the
sophisticated laser-tracked infra-red (IR) video system that is key
to monitoring transient surface temperature of the test wing has
been affected by the high level of heat radiation from the 30
"Super Zuni" rockets used for acceleration to Mach 1. Understanding
and resolving this problem is ongoing. Aerion may elect to use
additional methods of aerodynamic validation.
Cockpit development: Aerion has constructed an
engineering mockup of the cockpit to test physical clearances,
equipment layout and pilot comfort.
Certification: FAA headquarters officials were
briefed on the Aerion program. They were pleasantly surprised by
the Aerion jet's ability to operate within current FAA and ICAO
rules. They expressed confidence that airspace issues would not
pose problems for the aircraft. Follow-up meetings are planned.
"The aerospace community is seeing the seriousness with which we
are pursuing this program, and continues to express high interest
as we flesh out the details," said Barents. "The Aerion board has
funded the program through launch with external partners, and we
expect that to occur before the next NBAA convention."