Aerion Corporation, a technology partner of Airbus, is in search of a location in the United States to build a manufacturing facility for its AS2 jet. It’s a supersonic aircraft with the ability to shrink the time it takes to fly from New York to London to three hours.
Aerion spokesperson, Jeff Miller, told WKRG the company is in the early stages of the site selection process.
“We are really going to do our homework and identify the best candidate cities with the right kind of airport and infrastructure,” Miller said. “I will say Mobile cannot be excluded.”
Miller clarified that they haven’t started narrowing down the list, so the pool of candidates is deep. “Mobile certainly has a number of attractive features, but it’s just too soon to start rating candidate cities,” Miller said.
Aerion has recently received an abundance of calls from cities vying for the contract after Flexjet announced Tuesday it wants to buy 20 planes, making them the initial fleet purchaser of the AS2 model.
In order for the facility to operate effectively, Aerion needs at least 100 acres near a 9,000-foot runway. Miller said the company would also benefit from selecting a location near the water.
“We need a supersonic flight test corridor, and that’s more easily accomplished over water.”
The Brookley Aeroplex offers all three components, but Brookley’s Executive Director, Roger Wehner, said he couldn’t comment on “active economic projects.”
A similar response was given by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.”Any ongoing economic development project, we don’t comment one way or the other about it until a contract is signed,” Stimpson said. “We pursue everything that has to do with avionics right now…that’s really all I can say about that.”
Another pull for Brookley is the fact that Airbus Group already has a manufacturing facility on the property.
Airbus announced their partnership with Aerion about a year ago to share technological developments.
“This is Aerion’s jet and Aerion’s program, with substantial benefits accruing to Airbus Group, ” said Ken McKenzie, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Corporate Development at Airbus Group, Inc. “We gain new technology and tools, and through our collaboration will be expanding engineering knowledge and refining processes such as digital manufacturing. The AS2 program will be an incubator for innovation in design, engineering, and manufacturing.“
Miller said the Airbus facility will be a factor in their site-selection process, but not the only factor.
“There will be many factors, but that is certainly one factor. Clearly, Airbus has invested to develop its own infrastructure that would be valuable to any other aircraft manufacturer. So, we would be remiss in not considering it, right? We have a great deal of homework to do on a lot of different locations,” Miller said.
Aerion Corporation plans to announce their location in early 2016 and begin construction in 2018. Miller said if all goes well, Aerion will start test flights in 2021 and hopefully start rolling jets off the assembly line in 2023.