Q: WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO DO?
A: At Aerion, we are building the next generation of global mobility networks. We're taking multiple modes of transportation, including a supersonic business jet, and just condensing the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B. What we're looking for is the quickest solutions from the different points.
Q: IT OBVIOUSLY COMES WITH HIGH CAPITAL COSTS AND LONG LEAD TIMES AND IS ON THE THRESHOLD OF POSSIBILITY.
A: In some ways, it is a moonshot. But you have to set those kinds of goals to achieve them. We look at the AS2, a supersonic business jet, as the first start. We recently announced the AS3, which will be a 3,000-mile-an-hour airplane. What's unique about that airplane is it will make West Coast to Asia a day trip: It'll do L.A. to Tokyo in less than three hours. It is a 20-plus-year road map that we have, but we think it's very doable.
Q: WHY DID PROGRESS ON SUPERSONIC TRAVEL GO AWAY FOR A WHILE?
A: Any discussion on supersonics is really going to start around the Concorde. It's hard to find somebody who flew on the Concorde and doesn't think about it nostalgically.
[But] the Concorde was very noisy. It used afterburning engines. It was very expensive to operate. It required state subsidies. And ultimately, only 14 were ever put in revenue service. We look at some of those lessons to understand that to be successful, supersonic flight has to be sustainable.
Q: WHEN DO YOU EXPECT THE AS2 AND AS3 TO REACH THE MARKET?
A: We recently broke ground on a facility where we'll be building the AS2, in Melbourne, Fla. Pieces come together 2023; first flight 2025; and first delivery to a customer 2027. The first flight for the AS3 will be this decade and enter into service early 2030s.
We've been really pleased with the market acceptance of the airplane. We currently have an approximately $11 billion backlog. We're still several years away and have almost 100 orders. It really shows how eager the market is.
Q: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING A SUPERSONIC AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURER AND BEING A GLOBAL MOBILITY NETWORK?
A: We almost look at it as speed as a service. We want to integrate a larger ecosystem and take people from where they are to where they want to be. It's not necessarily airport-to-airport. It's downtown Manhattan to Mayfair [in London]. We want to optimize all of that around speed and efficiency.
Q: WHAT SEPARATES YOU? IS THERE ROOM FOR MORE THAN ONE PLAYER?
A: There are a lot of relatively new entrants into the space, which speaks to the strength of the market and the convergence of technology that now make this much more doable than just a few years ago. We feel like we're in the lead, and it's based on strong investors, strong suppliers and strong market support.