The race to launch a supersonic aircraft continues as aerospace giant Boeing partners with Aerion to develop a plane that could bring back faster-than-sound premium travel, 15 years after Concorde was axed.
According to Boeing, it has made “a significant investment” in US start-up Aerion to accelerate technology development and aircraft design, with the goal to bring Aerion’s AS2 supersonic business jet to market. Joining Boeing is GE Aviation, who will supply the AS2 with an advanced Affinity engine, the initial design phase for which was completed last year. The aircraft is designed to fly at 1,000mph and is slated for its first flight in 2023.
Sameer Savani, head of innovation and engineering at Aerospace, Defence, Security & Space trade association (ADS), said to The Manufacturer, “There are challenges to overcome before supersonic aircraft can be commercially viable around the world, both with emissions and the economics. In economic terms, supersonic jets are a global market opportunity, with some estimates predicting 1,300 aircraft worth £193bn over a ten-year period to be operational.” British Airways’ Concorde made just fewer than 50,000 flights and flew more than 2.5 million passengers supersonically over 27 years, according to BA.
With a take-off speed of 250mph and a cruising speed of 1,350mph – more than twice the speed of sound – a typical journey from London to New York would take a little less than three and a half hours, as opposed to eight hours for a regular flight.
However, in 2003, British Airways withdrew Concorde, ending the world’s only supersonic passenger service due to rising costs and declining demand.
Savani commented: “The principal historic example – Concorde – did not achieve long-term financial viability, but companies exploring the potential of supersonic aircraft believe they can deliver a sustainable business model, at roughly business class ticket prices, and have secured significant investment.”
Rolls-Royce has landed a multimillion-pound order to supply its Derby-built Trent 7000 and Trent XWB engines to 84 Emirates Airbus aeroplanes.
The news comes as Airbus announced it is to end Airbus A380 deliveries in 2021.
Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, president – civil aerospace, said: “We welcome the news that Emirates is further extending its relationship with Airbus and Rolls-Royce. The addition of Airbus A330-900 and Airbus A350-900 aircraft to the Emirates fleet will make the airline one of the largest users of Trent engines in the world and we look forward to continuing to support them and their customers.”
Cholerton added: “The A380 is a world class feat of engineering, much loved by passengers, and we are obviously saddened that deliveries will come to an end. We are very proud to have supported the aircraft with our Trent 900 engine.
We look forward to supporting the fleet, as the A380 continues to delight travellers, for many years to come.”
Rolls-Royce is set to announce its full-year results on 28 February.
Up to 200 jobs could be affected by the decision to cease production of the Airbus A380 aircraft.
The pan-European manufacturer has announced that the last A380 will be constructed in 2021. Wings for the aircraft are made at the Airbus plant in Broughton, near Chester, which employs more than 6,000 staff. Wings are designed at the Filton plant, in Bristol, which employs 3,000 staff.
It is understood that between 3,000 to 3,500 positions could potentially be impacted over the next three years as production winds down, which could result in around 200 UK jobs being threatened. Airbus said it hopes to redeploy a “significant” number of affected staff to other projects.
The double-decker A380, which had its first commercial flight in 2007 with Singapore Airlines, was popular with passengers but was complicated and expensive to build. However, demand for the A380 from airlines dried up as the industry shifted away from larger planes in favour of smaller, wide-body jets.
The aircraft manufacturer had been working on a revamped A380 to make it more efficient, but needed sufficient launch orders to make the huge investment viable.
Development costs for the aircraft have been estimated at £19.4bn. The death knell for the model came when UAE carrier Emirates, the largest A380 customer, cut its order. The Dubai-based airline is cutting its overall A380 fleet size from 162 to 123.
Emirates said it would take delivery of 14 further A380s over the next two years, but has also ordered 70 of Airbus’ smaller A330 and A350 models. Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said the cut in orders meant production of the aircraft was not viable