As the second era of faster-than-sound air travel nears, one of the niche industry’s pioneering players is looking further into the future—toward flights that are even faster.

Aerion Corp., the supersonic jet builder founded by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, plans to deliver its first AS2 business jet in 2027, with top speeds of 1.4 times the speed of sound, or about 1,074 mph (1,728 kph)—roughly double that of traditional commercial aircraft. Still, with rivals like Boom Technologies and others advancing their own supersonic plans, Aerion Chief Executive Officer Tom Vice is already anticipating the arrival of hypersonic travel.

“Our long-term vision is to allow people to travel between any two points on the planet within three hours,” Vice said Oct. 2 in an interview with Bloomberg News. To do so—and to avoid the physical rigors and technical complexities of suborbital space flight—Aerion’s next craft would have to cruise within the atmosphere at more than four times the speed of sound, or about 3,000 mph (4,828 kph).

Aerion, which is moving its headquarters from Reno, Nevada, to Melbourne, Florida—adjacent to its planned assembly center—is one of several firms in the nascent field of supersonic civil aviation, which has been heating up this year despite the economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. surprised some investors in August with plans for a Mach 3 aircraft seating as many as 19 people, an interim step on the company’s path toward eventual hypersonic point-to-point travel. Virgin’s supersonic project is being assisted by Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, which is also working with Boom on supersonic engine technologies.

And a fourth player, Boston-based Spike Aerospace, plans a 12-18-passenger supersonic jet that cruises at Mach 1.6 and has range to cover nonstop flights from London to Hong Kong and Dubai to New York. The company hasn’t offered a timeline for its development, however.

While many companies in this space have been big on pronouncements, the engineering obstacles to bringing a new generation of supersonic planes—let alone hypersonic planes—to market are nothing to sniff at. Aerion’s aspiration to hypersonic speeds comes almost five years before it even plans to build a production-model of its $120 million supersonic business jet, and seven years before the first delivery, assuming everything goes right.

Boeing Co. holds an equity stake in Aerion, while General Electric Co. is designing and building a new Affinity supersonic engine for the company.

Aerion said it plans further capital raises over the next three or four years and will add additional equity investors before it turns to the debt market for financing, Vice said.

Boom Technologies, meanwhile, plans a $200 million supersonic jet that can carry 65 to 85 passengers at more than twice the speed of sound, which it said will enter service by 2030. The company has orders for 30 jets from Japan Airlines Co. Ltd and Virgin Group.

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