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Supersonic-jet maker is looking for a partner
Supersonic-jet maker is looking for a partner

Aerion Corp. has a backlog of more than $ 4 billion for its supersonic business jet and is looking for an aircraft manufacturer to build it.

Aerion, based in Reno, Nev., is talking with planemakers and suppliers.

"There continues to be a lot of very good discussion," Aerion vice chairman Brian Barents said this week. Barents is a former Learjet chief executive and president and Cessna Aircraft senior vice president.

Aerion began taking orders for its $ 80 million jet about seven months ago. It has letters of intent for 50 jets.

Aerion is seeking a joint venture with a company that will brand the aircraft with the manufacturer´s name, certify and support it. It´s a challenge, however, because the business jet market is robust and jetmakers are busy.

"Everybody has projects under way," Barents said. Even so, Barents expects to reach an agreement with a manufacturer by the end of the year. That will keep the company on track to certify the plane and begin deliveries in 2014 as planned, he said.

"We think it´s very doable," Barents said.

Cessna, meanwhile, is refuting a report that it has plans for a supersonic business jet design. The Internet report, by HalogenGuides Jets, said: "Little is known about Cessna´s plans at the moment. But the fact that such a reputable private aviation brand is developing a supersonic jet ought to lend some credence to the movement."

Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver said the report is not true.

"We are not designing a supersonic business jet," Oliver said.

Supersonic business jet concepts have been on drawing boards around the country for 20 years. Aerion emerged in 2004 as a player in the market as did Supersonic Aerospace International.

Long-term, the market for high-end business jets will likely be transformed by a supersonic business jet, Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia said in a forecast.Technology development has been an issue, especially for materials, engines and airframe shapes, Aboulafia said. But the main concern has been with market development, he said.With the steady expansion of the higher end of the traditional business jet market, if planemakers can offer a supersonic jet for $ 80 million to $ 90 million, he said, "they are likely to find a respectable market response."

Barents says the orders Aerion has taken so far validate its market research for acceptance of the plane. More than half of the orders are to overseas customers, including orders from Pakistan, the Middle East, Europe and South America.


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