Supersonic Aviation

Supersonic State-of-the-Union: Where do we Stand on Supersonic Jets?

In the past few years, supersonic jets have become the most anticipated prospect in the aviation industry. But it’s an emerging market, meaning it’s subject to change, disruption, upheaval, and regulatory uncertainty. And it’s changing fast — 2021 has seen major developments and at least one significant failure. Where does the supersonic market stand? Who are the major players? What’s in production? And when can we expect supersonic results?

The supersonic jet market is grappling with a year of uncertainty, but there are positive developments indicating supersonic commercial air travel may not be as far off as it once seemed.

2021: A year in review

Earlier in the year, supersonic prospects took a big blow as Aerion, the leading startup in the supersonic space, abruptly ceased operations. The company cited a lack of financing as the reason for closing shop, despite being the industry’s frontrunner for technology and high-profile partnerships. The closure had a massive effect on other aviation giants. GE Aviation suspended its work on the Affinity engine they were developing for Aerion’s jets.

But it’s not all bad news. Other capable companies — including Denver-based Boom Supersonic — stepped in to pick up where Aerion fell short. In June 2021, United Airlines announced a purchase order for 15 of Boom’s Overture jets. Boom expects certification for the Overture by 2029 and commercial flight by 2030. The promising move shows resilience on the part of the supersonic industry and confidence in its forthcoming technology.

A look at the supersonic players

In addition to Boom Supersonic, other players are also making waves in the supersonic industry.

With Aerion out of the picture, Boom’s technology is the most refined and closest to achieving a testable product. That said, it’s still a startup and faces many of the same struggles as its defunct competitor. Boom is up against established companies and well-funded private competitors.

Virgin Galactic, which recently made headlines with a successful trip to the edge of space, announced last year it would be dedicating some of its engineering talent to supersonic projects set to fly at Mach 3 speeds. Meanwhile, Boston-based Spike Aeronautics’ S-512 is set to begin test flights as soon as next year. The jet is a private, luxury entry into the supersonic space — described by many as a “mini-hotel” in the sky.

Regulation and legislation considerations

There are other signs to confirm the aviation industry is heading in the right direction for supersonic travel. Last year, the Kansas Department of Transportation and the FAA agreed to establish a supersonic corridor intended to test aircraft up to Mach 3. NASA noise trials with Lockheed Martin’s X-59 are anticipated by 2024.

Overseas, Russia and Japan are exploring entries into the supersonic market as well, with Japan talking about a jet able to cross the Pacific in just two hours. Long, tedious flights could be a thing of the past worldwide. It’s only a matter of time before international competitors and technology contributors arise, raising the bar for supersonics in a big way.

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Which Supersonic Startup Will Fill Aerion’s Shoes?

The big news in private aviation this year is the abrupt closure of Aerion Corporation. The darling of supersonic jet technology was here one day and gone the next. It shuttered its doors in May, citing lack of funding as its reason for closing shop. Aerion’s biggest financial backer, Boeing, has been equally tight-lipped, but details have begun to emerge about a loss of confidence in Aerion’s technology and the viability of its jet. Boeing has chosen to shift focus and throw its considerable weight behind other next-gen transportation projects, including electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technology. The pervading question is this: What happens to supersonic aviation now?

Here today, gone tomorrow

Since the revival of the supersonic jet sector, Aerion has been the odds-on favorite to lead the resurgence. The company received early backing from Boeing, and its AS2 concept was one of the first introduced. Aerion also laid the groundwork for supersonic jets powered by sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs).

But 2020 proved too crippling to overcome. In a statement by the company, Aerion cited the pandemic and mounting development costs as its primary reasons for closing its doors, “In the current financial environment, it has proven hugely challenging to close on the scheduled and necessary large new capital requirements to finalize the transition of the AS2 into production.”

For lack of a better metaphor, the Aerion simply ran out of runway. Even with initial backing from Boeing, the costs of next-gen supersonic technology development proved too high.

Demand for supersonics isn’t going away

While it may have been the primary player in the reemerging supersonic market, Aerion wasn’t the only company set on satisfying demand for faster air travel. Now, companies like Boom Supersonic and Archer Aviation have moved into the spotlight.

Boom has been around nearly as long as Aerion, and its XB-1 prototype is now the closest thing to a tangible supersonic jet. Like Aerion, the company is focused on leveraging SAFs and boomless technology to create a supersonic future that’s fast and environmentally friendly. With a recent order for 15 jets from United Airlines — and an additional 35 optioned — Boom is quickly stepping into the void left by Aerion.

Archer Aviation is also capitalizing on turbulence in the supersonic market. While the company is primarily focused on eVTOL technologies, supersonics could be on the horizon as a diversification play. The company swooped in and hired a substantial number of displaced workers from Aerion, signaling an apparent interest in supersonic tech.

Right now, Boom stands alone in its sole focus on supersonics. But with Aerion’s disappearance, it’s not likely to enjoy a monopoly for long. Companies such as Boston-based Spike Aerospace and Exosonic are making moves to refine their technologies and garner investor interest.

Startups embrace their role as disruptors

Which supersonic jets will dominate the skies a decade from now remains uncertain. What is certain is startups will pave the way. Big players like Boeing aren’t interested in producing supersonics. They prefer to sponsor their development instead, as illustrated by their backing of Aerion. Why? For now, the more lucrative future rests with eVTOLs. Nothing demonstrates this quite like Boeing’s decision to break with Aerion and concentrate more resources on Wisk, its eVTOL project.

As bigger players keep their distance and observe the supersonic market, opportunities abound for startups to break into the skies at Mach 2. And with the industry darling no longer in the picture, it’s anyone’s market.

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Commercial Airlines are Driving Supersonic Demand

The supersonic future is coming. And while there’s been plenty of talk in private aviation about who’s going to be the first to make it to the skies, a new player has taken the field — from the commercial aviation market.

United Airlines, with more than 4,500 flights per day to 338 airports on five continents, has thrown its hat into the ring. The company recently placed an order for 15 supersonic jets from Boom Supersonic, with the option to purchase another 35 in the future. It’s a significant statement of confidence in the future of supersonic aviation in technologies still in development after Aerion’s sudden departure from the race.

The first commercial stake in supersonics

While the buzz about new supersonic technology has been a focus of private aviation for years, commercial operators have remained on the sidelines — until now. Following the example of NetJets preemptive bid to become the first supersonic charter operator, United brokered a deal with Boom Supersonic to get its foot in the door as the first commercial airline to push Mach 2.

While the specifics of the deal remain under wraps, it’s clear that United plans to test demand for commercial supersonics with an initially small fleet of 15 jets. The option for an additional 35 jets is contingent on, among other factors, the ability of the supersonic jets to “meet United’s demanding safety, operating, and sustainability requirements.”

United’s focus on the future

While the shuttering of Aerion probably played a role in expediting United’s decision to sign on with Boom Supersonic, talks likely began prior to that event — and almost certainly hinged on the sustainability prospects of Boom’s Rolls-Royce manufactured Overture engine.

United has been firm in its commitment to sustainability in the coming years. Thanks to the Overture, Boom’s XB-1 jet is set to run solely on sustainable alternative fuels (SAF). The concept of a 100% carbon neutral supersonic undoubtably played a major role in attracting United’s interest; “The world’s first purchase agreement for net-zero carbon supersonic aircraft marks a significant step toward our mission to create a more accessible world,” said Blake Scholl, Boom Supersonic founder and CEO, “United and Boom share a common purpose — to unite the world safely and sustainably.”


The first of more orders to come?

United’s interest in commercial supersonics will likely spur orders from other airlines soon. United has set the bar for next-gen commercial air travel, and there’s more urgency now that the supersonic market has consolidated. Aerion’s disappearance shifts the burden of pioneering to Boom, which means there’s one less company to meet supersonic demand. As supersonic jets get closer to market, the bottleneck for deliveries is projected to grow.

But there’s still time. Boom doesn’t expect to begin production until 2022, and the XB-1 is unlikely to enter service until 2025 or 2026. Even this timeline is subject to scrutiny. For context, Aerion’s AS2 never made it to the prototype phase.

While it’s important to temper expectations about supersonics, United’s interest is exciting. It’s the first concrete evidence of commercial operators planning for a future of faster air travel. Interest from one of the world’s largest commercial airlines is a vote of confidence to encourage other supersonic manufacturers into competition with Boom to meet anticipated demand.

The expert jet brokers at L & L International are here to help you acquire the perfect jet. Need to sell your jet? We can assist with that, too. Contact the private aviation professionals online, at, or at +1 (305) 754-3313.

Aerion Halts Operations in Big Blow to Supersonic Prospects

Supersonic air travel has been the darling of headline news for the better part of 18 months as the prospect of next-gen jets gains steam. Leading the charge is startup superstar Aerion, with its sights firmly set on a supersonic future. At least, that was the case prior to May 21, when the company abruptly issued a statement ceasing all operations, effective immediately. The news remains an enormous shock — and a significant setback for the supersonic future we envisioned.

Aerion’s departure from the industry?

Aerion’s closure signals the end of the AS2 jet, an event with heavy implications for aviation. Industry leaders had expressed confidence in Aerion’s product, with some submitting large orders and/or letters of intent (e.g., Flexjet, NetJets). Other public signs of faith in the AS2 came in the form of strong supplier relationships, such as the firm commitment from engine maker GE Aviation.

So, why did the company abruptly close its doors? The details remain shrouded in mystery. Publicly, Aerion has cited a lack of available financing as the primary cause of its sudden cessation, but the initial announcement is absent further explanation. With few concrete details — and so many signs pointing to a bright future for the AS2 — industry experts are puzzled.

Source: Aerion

Skies left wide open for the competition

Aerion wasn’t the only company poised to bring supersonic travel back, but it was the favorite. For the industry, it defined the cutting edge. Its suspension of operations is a significant blow to supersonic progress, but there are others primed to step in, namely Spike Aerospace and Boom Supersonic.

Boom’s project shows particular promise. The company has a conceptual aircraft — the XB-1 — ready for its first flight. But whether either of these companies can fill the void left by Aerion, or garner its high-profile support, remains to be seen.

Rippling ramifications of a changing landscape

Aerion’s suppliers are also feeling the blow. GE Aviation, set to provide the AS2 with an engine to rival Rolls Royce, has suspended operations for its Affinity program.

Boeing held a stake in Aerion’s supersonic program as well, and the aviation giant has already announced their intent to continue Aerion’s work. How they intend to do so is still in question, but industry experts speculate that Aerion’s talent may move to Boeing and work in-house on a model similar to the AS2.

While details and speculation continue to leak over the next few months — or years — Aerion’s chapter in supersonic aviation appears at an end. And the AS2 may not lead the charge back to supersonic speeds, but its contribution to the future of next-gen aviation is significant.

One question remains: Which supersonic jet will be the first to take off?

The expert jet brokers at L & L International are here to help you acquire the perfect jet. Need to sell your jet? We can assist with that, too. Contact the private aviation professionals online, at, or at +1 (305) 754-3313.