Latest flight tests confirm manufacturing tolerances for future supersonic business jet

Oct. 22, 2013, Reno, Nv. - Aerion Corporation announced initial conclusions from recent testing related to development of the world’s first supersonic business jet (SBJ).

October 23, 2013
By Carey Fredericks

These tests confirm for the first time that industry formulas for predicting surface imperfection effects on laminar-turbulent transition, previously validated for subsonic flows, are applicable to transonic and supersonic regimes. In turn, SBJ manufacturing tolerances can be established at levels consistent with today’s business aircraft assembly processes.
“Aerion’s SBJ design leverages patented applications of natural laminar flow for efficiency and range, especially at high speeds,” said Chief Technology Officer Dr. Richard Tracy. “Therefore, greater understanding of surface quality requirements under which the SBJ will be built and operated is fundamental to demonstrating its real-world robustness prior to a formal program launch.”
Conducted from January 31 through June 20 this year in conjunction with NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the 11 flights featured a 40-inch by 80-inch Aerion phase-two test article mounted under the centerline position of NASA’s F-15B research aircraft flown at speeds up to Mach 2.0. The new test article was engineered to accommodate aerodynamic non-uniformities under the F-15B, while also being sufficiently representative of the Aerion wing flow and pressure conditions to enable evaluation of the effect of surface imperfections on the stability of laminar boundary layers under representative supersonic conditions.
Jason Matisheck, Aerion’s test manager, added, “These latest tests, which built on a series of calibration flights conducted in 2010, extend our mutually beneficial relationship with NASA Dryden. More importantly, they contribute to our shared body of aerodynamics knowledge and will foster more efficient flight at higher speeds in the future.”
Aerion noted that test data reduction leading to final criteria for discrete roughness and surface finish, as they relate to frequency of aircraft cleaning in operation, will require further assessment. However, preliminary indications suggest they will not exceed the aesthetic standards for today’s premier subsonic business jets.