A new supersonic jet could take you from LA to Tokyo in 3 hours

Aviation company Aerion has partnered with NASA to develop new supersonic passenger jets that will be able to reach Mach 3 and Mach 4 speeds, with technology to surpass that of the Concorde.

While air travel has taken a nosedive due to the pandemic, Florida-based Aerion has its eyes set on a promising future. The aviation company has partnered with NASA’s Langley Research Center to debut a new supersonic jet that could take you from Los Angeles to Tokyo in under three hours by the end of the decade. For comparison, a flight between LAX and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport currently takes about 11 hours. 

The aircraft, called the AS3, will be able to achieve Mach 4+ speeds (about four times that of a commercial liner such as the Airbus A320) and carry upto 50 passengers over 7,000 nautical miles, say the manufacturers. Earlier this year, Aerion expanded its ongoing partnership with NASA with a focus on developing commercial high-speed flights in the Mach 3-5 range. “At Aerion, our vision is to build a future where humanity can travel between any two points on our planet within three hours. Supersonic flight is the starting point, but it is just that—the beginning. To truly revolutionise global mobility as we know it today, we must push the boundaries of what is possible” said Aerion’s Chairman, President & CEO, Tom Vice in a statement.  

Rivalling the Concorde

Before the AS3 takes its first flight, Aerion is expected to launch its predecessor, the AS2, in a bid to become the first supersonic passenger aircraft since the Concorde to enter commercial services in over 50 years. The passenger jet will seat between 8 and 12 guests and will travel at Mach 1.4 (over 1,000 mph) to get you from New York to London in 4.5 hours. Production on the aircraft will start in 2023, with its first flight slated for 2024.

Championing sustainability in aviation

Here’s what the interiors of the AS2 could look like. (Photo: Courtesy Aerion)

Aerion plans to tackle some of the flaws of the Concorde with its supersonic jets, namely high costs and high environmental impact. “Concorde was a brilliant piece of machinery, a noble experiment, but it put too much emissions in the environment, too much noise into our communities, and was too expensive to operate. What we’re trying to do is very different,” Vice told CNN. “The world can’t wait until 2050 to become carbon neutral. We have to do this today,” he added. 

The AS2 will be designed to be more green than the Concorde, say Aerion, with two notable features being the lack of afterburner to reduce emissions, and the ability to run on synthetic fuels rather than fossil fuels. The AS2 will also feature the innovative “boomless cruise”, which allows the plane to fly supersonically overland with the boom being refracted back up into the atmosphere, rather than striking the ground.