Supersonic aircraft company Aerion broke ground on its new global headquarters in Melbourne, Fla., where it plans to produce the world’s first business jet that can fly faster than the speed of sound -- an indication that a new era of travel at speeds above Mach 1 is getting closer.
The state-of-the-art campus, designed and engineered by construction firm Haskell, will be used for the research, design and production of the AS2, which is slated to begin in 2023, Aerion said. Aerion is partnering with one-time supersonic plane maker Boeing and General Electric on the development of its aircraft.
As part of the $300 million investment into the more than 110-acre Aerion Park, the company plans to produce upward of 300 aircraft over the next decade.
“We are building the future of mobility – a future where humanity can travel between any two points on our planet in three hours or less," Aerion CEO Tom Vice said.
In doing so, the company plans to bring 675 "high paying" jobs to Florida by 2026 as it ramps up operations ahead of the production of the aircraft.
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Earlier this month, supersonic air travel took another step closer to returning to the skies when the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule to streamline approval for supersonic flight testing in the United States.
The rule clarifies the information that companies need to gain FAA approval to conduct flight testing at speeds greater than Mach 1.
The new information issued by the FAA lays out a more "user-friendly format" to "help ensure that companies developing these aircraft clearly understand" the application process, which is a "key step" to bringing their products to market, the agency said. The FAA still prohibits civil supersonic flight over land in the United States.
There have been no supersonic commercial or private flights in the U.S. since June of 2003 when Air France and British Airways retired their fleet of Concorde aircraft, which most frequently traveled between London or Paris and New York or Washington, D.C., starting in 1976.
In December 2020, Aerion announced it would be recruiting aircraft builders, designers, engineers, programmers and scientists while also enhancing future employment in the "wider mobility eco system."
The campus, just like the jets which seek to deliver carbon-neutral flight, is being designed to include the "latest in environmentally sustainable technologies."
Vice said the Aerion Park will change the world by bringing "a new sustainable means of supersonic and hypersonic flight."
The park will be powered by clean energy as it plans to use photovoltaic solar technology to generate energy for manufacturing. There will be on-site electric vehicle charging stations and any rainwater that lands on the campus will be reused.
The company said it plans to use recycled materials in the construction of Aerion Park "wherever possible." These materials will also be locally sourced to minimize any emissions "and the park will be dedicated to creating zero waste," Aerion said.
The company claims these efforts will make the campus the "most environmentally sustainable of its kind in the aerospace sector."
The park, which will incorporate the company’s new global headquarters plus an integrated campus for the AS2 supersonic aircraft, will be located at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport campus.
Aerion said the campus will also include a new Aerion Customer Experience Center where customers will be able to access Orlando Melbourne International Airport’s runway.
“With more than $100 [million] reinvested into our airfield over the last few years, our new runways and air traffic control tower are ready to support this revolution in supersonic flight," Greg Donovan, the executive director of Orlando Melbourne International Airport, said.
Aerion has already established a temporary office at the airport in order to house a "growing Florida-based employment base."