Supersonic business jet: Boeing backs startup’s plan for 1,000-mph plane

Boeing Co. is joining with Aerion Corp., a startup founded by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, to help build a supersonic business jet that would cut trans-Atlantic flight times by three hours.

The U.S. aerospace giant will make a “significant investment” in Aerion to accelerate design and development, according to a statement Tuesday. Boeing will replace Lockheed Martin Corp., which had announced a partnership with Aerion in 2017, a spokesman for the supersonic-jet company said.

Boeing’s investment buoys Bass’ dream of restoring supersonic civilian flight, which was discontinued in 2003 with the final voyage of Europe’s Concorde amid noise restrictions and high operating costs. General Electric Co. in October said it completed an initial engine design for Aerion’s AS2 aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound while meeting noise and emissions rules.

“We have the right team to build the future of sustainable supersonic flight,” said Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing’s NeXt investment unit, citing Aerion’s supersonic expertise and his company’s scale and commercial-aviation experience.

Boeing said it would provide engineering, manufacturing and flight-test resources to bring the AS2 to market. The amount of the investment wasn’t disclosed.

The first flight for the plane � which, at about 1,000 miles per hour, will cruise 70 percent faster than today’s quickest business jets � is scheduled for 2023. Launch customer Flexjet, a fractional aircraft operator, has ordered 20 of the models. The 12-passenger aircraft has a list price of $120 million.

The investment is a reminder of Boeing’s roots in aircraft that travel well beyond the sound barrier. The Chicago-based manufacturer invested heavily in its own supersonic-transport program a half-century ago � the 747 jumbo jet was considered a side project to the so-called SST at the time � before the U.S. government ultimately canceled funding.

Boeing also is plowing funding into hypersonic aircraft that would travel faster than Mach 5, or more than five times the speed of sound. The company last year revealed development of a passenger prototype capable of cruising at 3,800 mph or more.

The company’s HorizonX venture capital arm also has invested in Reaction Engines, a U.K. company developing a propulsion system for both supersonic flights and space voyages at Mach 25.

Source: Civil Aviation Authority