Supersonic jet startup Aerion just broke ground on a new $300 million plant in Florida with plans to fly its first aircraft in 5 years — take a look

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A rendering of Aerion Supersonic’s AS2 jet. Aerion Supersonic
  • Aerion has broken ground on a new campus in Melbourne, Florida that will house the production facilities for its AS2 supersonic business jet.
  • The $US300 million campus will be known as Aerion Park and span 110.6 acres at Melbourne International Airport on Florida’s Space Coast.
  • Aerion expects to begin building the first AS2 in 2023 once the production and engineering facilities are complete.
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Florida’s Space Coast is about to become the Supersonic Coast with a startup that’s working to usher in the new era of supersonic travel that has just broken ground on a new campus in Melbourne, Florida.

Aerion is investing $US300 million into Aerion Park, a 110.6-acre campus on the grounds of Melbourne International Airport in central Florida where the startup’s flagship craft, the AS2, will be built come 2023. Aerion Park will house the production plants capable of building 48 AS2 aircraft per year once at full strength and will be where customers come to design and then take delivery of their jets.

The AS2 was first announced in 2014 as the world’s first supersonic business jet that will be able to fly between eight and 10 passengers at supersonic speeds of up to Mach 1.4, significantly cutting down travel times. It will be among the first in a new wave of aircraft that will once again take flyers beyond the sound barrier, a feat that hasn’t been regularly accomplished since the iconic Concorde airliner retired from commercial service in 2003.

Building on the Space Coast

Aerion Supersonic Aerion Park Groundbreaking
A rendering of the future Aerion Park in Melbourne, Florida. Aerion Supersonic

Aerion Park will be built in phases starting with the engineering, manufacturing, and production facilities first on the list, CEO Tom Vice told Business Insider in an interview, as production for the AS2 is slated to begin in 2023. Five AS2 test aircraft will be built from 2023 to 2025 and then the sixth aircraft produced at Aerion Park will go to the first customer.

All assembly, testing, and completion will occur at Aerion Park with the manufacturing centre the size of around 14 football fields, Vice said. Customers will visit Aerion Park to design their aircraft in the customer experience centre and then return to take delivery of the aircraft once complete.

Sustainability will also be a key tenet of the facility, just as it is for the AS2, with a focus on green technologies such as solar to power the plant’s operations and 100% water recycling, including reusing rainwater. And for employees, Aerion Park will feature children’s daycare, laundry services, and vehicle charging stations.

Melbourne, Florida was chosen by Aerion after a two-year selection process with the central Florida city standing out in part due to the available talent in the region and the activities at nearby Cape Canaveral. “There’s a lot of excitement in the Space Coast and the Melbourne, central Florida area, Vice said, “not only with aerospace but obviously commercialization of space.”

Melbourne International Airport offers near-direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, over which the AS2 can perform its supersonic test flights outside of any populated areas. And Aerion will be in good company as it will be located on the same airport as Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer and miles from where NASA and SpaceX are launching the next-generation of rockets into space.

Not just another Concorde

Aerion Supersonic AS2
A rendering of Aerion Supersonic’s AS2 jet. Aerion Supersonic

The Concorde proved supersonic passenger travel viable and its disappearance from the skies was a step back for aviation that new startups are attempting to remedy with the next-generation of aircraft.

The Aerion AS2 will boast a subsonic range of 5,400 nautical miles, comparable to a Gulfstream G500, and a supersonic range of 4,200 nautical miles. Flying from New York to London will only take four hours while flying to Sydney will take less than 14, though the latter will still require a fuel stop.

Melbourne residents also won’t have to worry about their local airport turning into the next John F. Kennedy International, Charles de Gaulle, or Heathrow Airport, the three airports most frequented by the Concorde toward the end of its life. The AS2 will use what’s known as “boomless cruise” where the jet can fly above the speed of sound but the dreaded supersonic boom won’t reach the ground.

When flying subsonic, the jet’s top speed will be Mach .95, faster than the Cessna Citation X that tops out at Mach .935.

After fielding a newly-announced order from China, Aerion now has 54 AS2 aircraft on order for a total order book valued at $US6.5 billion. A single AS2 aircraft costs $US120 million, around 30% more than the cost of the largest and fastest subsonic business aircraft currently in development or production with Gulfstream, Bombardier, or Dassault.

Aerion is projecting an entry into service date for the AS2 in 2027 after two years of test flying and certification beginning in 2025. But the AS2 is just the beginning as Aerion has greater plans for a jet that can fly at speeds four times the speed of the sound that Vice says will “disrupt all of aviation” when it debuts.

“We’re building a future when humanity can travel between any two points on our planet within three hours,” Vice said in a speech during the facility’s groundbreaking event.