Spike Aerospace has signed up its first orders and is close to selecting an engine for the $125 million supersonic business jet it is developing, its president said on Monday in Dubai where he was attending an industry conference.
Spike and other US-based start-ups are aiming to revive ultra-fast flights to serve a market that has been dormant since Concorde stopped flying in 2003.
Spike is aiming to start test flights in two years with its S-512 aircraft entering into service in 2025.
"We already have two orders," said Vik Kachoria at the Global Investment in Aviation Summit. There were also ongoing discussions with a commercial airline, he added.
He declined to disclose further details but said the orders booked were not from an airliner.
Spike believes there will be demand for around 850 supersonic jets in the decade to 2035 - largely from commercial airlines, Reuters said. Spike is planning for its S-512 aircraft to seat up to 18 passengers, flying at Mach 1.6 - above the Mach 0.9 speed of rival subsonic business jets.
"The business jet is going to appeal to private owner-operators, fractional operators and corporate flight departments but this can also be used by airlines as an upgrade from economy to business to first to supersonic class," Mr Kachoria said.
Spike, Boom Supersonic and Aerion Supersonic are targeting to have their supersonic jets flying by the mid-2020s by modifying existing engines rather than spending billions of dollars to make a new one. General Electric is to manufacture the engine for Aerion’s AS2 jet.
This month The National reported Colorado-based Boom closed a $100 million (Dh367m) deal for the next stage of its supersonic flight project.
Overture, a 55-seat commercial jet, is designed to bring supersonic travel to millions of passengers, with fares to be comparable to current business-class prices on traditional aircraft, it said.
The funding will allow the company to develop its prototype Mach-2.2 airliner, and solidify plans for a half-size prototype of the craft to fly later this year.
Both the Virgin Group and Japan Airlines have placed orders for the Overture planes, which are on schedule to begin flying commercially in 2020. Passengers on board the supersonic jets will be able to travel from London to Washington DC in three-and-a-half hours, or from Dubai to Boston in a little over seven hours – less than half the time of conventional jets.
Spike is close to selecting an engine after holding discussions with GE and Rolls-Royce, Mr Kachoria said.
"One of those companies is more advanced discussions," he said, adding that an announcement "may be a little longer" than six weeks away.
GE and Rolls-Royce did not comment on whether they have held such talks.
Spike plans to manufacture four supersonic test aircraft, Mr Kachoria added.
The development of new supersonic business jets has, however, raised debate as to whether aerospace standards and guidelines need to be updated, such as those related to noise.
One thing companies are not concerned about is demand, even if the target market is very small. “It will cost $120 million to buy one of our AS2 jets. The superrich buy yachts for $360 million, private planes for $60-70 million. We think the savings on time will motivate people,” Ernie Edwards, Chief Commercial Officer at Aerion, said last summer.
The AS2 is an 8-12 seater developed with Lockheed Martin and previously industry giant Airbus. Currently Aerion plans to have its planes flying by 2025 so long as it passes the plethora of tests and regulations. Flexjet has already put in 20 orders for the AS2 at a value of $2.4 billion and delivery is expected in 2023.