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Boeing-backed supersonic jet developer Aerion shuts down operations

May 23, 2021

The company, founded by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, is facing challenges in securing additional funding to build its AS2 aircraft

Aerion, a supersonic jet developer backed by aerospace giant Boeing, closed down its operations after being unable to secure additional funds to produce its AS2 business jet.

'In the current financial environment, it has proven hugely challenging to close on the scheduled and necessary large new capital requirements to finalise the transition of the AS2 into production,' Florida Today cited Aerion as saying in a statement.

The company, founded by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, has ended its ambitions in the nascent field of supersonic civil aviation, according to the report.

Its closure underscores the challenges for new entrants including access to funding to develop new products and a lack of backing from strategic partners to help them overcome obstacles faced by the aerospace industry during the pandemic-driven slowdown.

Aerion secured a strategic investment from Boeing in 2019, chose GE Aviation to produce the AS2's new supersonic engine Affinity and accumulated more than $11 billion in orders – including a deal in March for 20 AS2 planes from NetJets, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

'While we are disappointed Aerion could not secure additional funding to continue their work, we remain committed to working with innovative and creative partners who, like Aerion, continue to push limits on groundbreaking technology,' a Boeing spokewsoman said in an emailed statement to The National.

Aerospace manufacturers have struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic that has hammered air travel demand and prevented cash-strapped airlines from buying planes.

In February, Aerion held talks to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Altitude Acquisition, according to a Bloomberg report, which cited unnamed sources.

Aerion had planned to begin production of its AS2 supersonic business jet in 2023, with its first flight pegged for 2025.

'The AS2 supersonic business jet programme meets all market, technical, regulatory and sustainability requirements,' Aerion said in the statement.