One could make the argument that the quest for supersonic transport began on October 14, 1947, when Chuck Yeager reached Mach 1.06 in the Bell X-1 (Rediess, 2012). Since the 1950s, dreamers have envisioned technological advancements, including supersonic transport, most of which failed to materialize (Cochrane, 2012).
Today, developers must ask the question, ‘Is a world, where the only commercial supersonic aircraft is retired (Candel, 2004), ready for a supersonic business jet?’ At least one company believes it is. Aerion Corporation plans to have a supersonic business jet (SBJ) ready for the market by 2021 (Martin, 2013). This SBJ, forecasted to carry 8 to 12 passengers up to 4,000 nautical miles, at speeds up to Mach 1.6 (Aerion, 2014) comes with a hefty price tag of $80 million per copy in 2007 dollars (McMillin, 2012), or an estimated $107.25 million by 2021 (OSU, 2014). To date, Aerion has received fifty letters of intent, accompanied by a $250,000 deposit (Doyle, 2014).
The limitations faced by potential supersonic transport aircraft are legion. The first hurdle to cross is the legal prohibition against civil supersonic flight that does not meet stage 2 noise limits (FAA, 2014). Aerion claims their design will meet the existing regulations for U.S. and international flight (FAA/UC, 2009). The legal prohibition against supersonic flight stemmed from the 1960s, protest against proposed supersonic transport (SST) aircraft (Anonymous, 1967) that killed the Boeing 2707 project (Kressner, 1968). The protests not only killed the American SST programs, but also limited U.S. Concorde operations to New York and Washington, DC (May, 1979).
In addition to the environment concerns due to noise, developers must address the exhaust emission issues unique to supersonic flight. While there are clearly defined limits for oxides of nitrogen (NOx), unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and smoke emissions in the airport environment, there are no regulations covering high altitude cruise flight (Henne, 2005). This lack of regulation and understanding of atmospheric impact was instrumental in killing previous SST programs (McLean, 1985). Recent research expanded the empirical data on environmental ramifications of high-speed, high-altitude cruise aircraft (Dutta, Patten, & Wuebbles, 2002). A NASA study indicated that, with a projected SST fleet of 500 and 1,000, net NOx emissions would decrease by 0.6 and 0.7 million kilograms per day when compared to a subsonic fleet of similar size (Baughcum & Henderson, 1998).
Using the Aerion Corporation aircraft as a model, as well as research by NASA (Baughcum & Henderson, 1998) and Gulfstream (Henne, 2005) there appears to be an opportunity for innovation in the supersonic business jet market. Recent advances in aircraft design (Werner-Westphal, Heinze, & Horst, 2008), and the use of composite material (Aerion, 2014) increase the likelihood of potential supersonic business...