NetJets is joining rival Flexjet in betting on the future of private supersonic jets. The unit of Berkshire Hathaway said it had obtained purchase options for 20 high-speed Aerion A2 jets that will fly passengers at over 1,000 miles per hour.
Aerion said it now has a global order backlog valued at over $10 billion ahead of a planned 2023 production start. With a sticker price of $120 million, the NetJets order infers about half of the AS2 fleet will be flown by jet sharing services.
The last flight on the 100-seat Concorde was October 24, 2003. The AS2 will carry eight to 10 passengers with a supersonic range of 4,200 nautical miles.
“There’s already an insatiable demand” for supersonic business jets, according to JetNetIQ’s Roland Vincent. He predicts there could be three OEMs that end up bringing the fast planes to market.
As part of today’s announcement, FlightSafety International, another Berkshire Hathaway company, will develop a supersonic flight training academy for civil, commercial, and military supersonic aircraft. The Aerion-branded facility will offer global training expertise to provide a center of excellence for supersonic flight training and education.
NetJets and Aerion will also explore an “exclusive partnership” around Aerion Connect. Described as a global mobility platform, it will “integrate multiple, currently siloed urban and regional networks and provide a seamless point-to-point travel experience optimized for speed and luxury across multiple modes of transportation.”
The AS2 will be powered by 100% engineered synthetic fuel. Last month, NetJets said it was investing in sustainable fuel producer WasteFuel. SAFs reduce carbon emissions by up to 85%.
At its list price, the NetJets order is valued at $2.4 billion. Over the weekend, Berkshire released its 2020 annual results. It noted, “The aggregate revenues of NetJets and FlightSafety in 2020 declined $816 million (13.5%) compared to 2019, reflecting lower demand for air travel and aviation services attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. NetJets experienced a decline in flight hours of 27%, and FlightSafety’s commercial and corporate simulator training hours declined 30% from 2019.”
Speed beats democratization. A survey last year by Business Jet Traveler asking about most desired future flight innovation found 29% wanted supersonic flights over 22% who wanted “widely available per-seat charter.”
While the airlines are still suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, private jet travel has rebounded to around 90% of pre-coronavirus levels. NetJets said it expects to reach 2019 flight levels by the second half of this year. The shared aircraft market – fractional and charter operators – rebounded faster than fully owned jets. Part 91 flight hours plummeted 28.5% in 2020, according to Argus TRAQPak. By comparison, Part 91k (fractional operators) was down 18.6.%. Part 135 (charter operators) was off by just 15%.
“As the leader in private aviation, we constantly look for ways to be on the cutting-edge,” said Adam Johnson, Chairman and CEO of NetJets Inc.
Aerion’s Chairman, President & CEO, Tom Vice, said, “Our strategy is to connect the very best partners in the world within a new mobility ecosystem optimized for speed and founded on sustainability. In NetJets and FlightSafety International, we have two such partners, both globally recognized leaders in their fields who share our passion for a new era of mobility that is both fast and at the same time kind to our planet.”