Aerion Corporation envisages a future where humanity can travel point to point on this planet within three hours. Gene Holloway, Aerion Corporation’s Chief Sustainability Officer, discusses the company’s plan to develop a supersonic aircraft that will be carbon neutral through the use of engines that are 100% biofuel driven, Aerion’s plan for a Zero Carbon Footprint, and an aircraft offering silent, boomless operations.
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Gene Holloway joined Aerion in November 2018. He leads Aerion’s commitment to explore and integrate into its aircraft, as well as its engineering and manufacturing facilities, advanced technologies enabling greater fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and a minimized carbon footprint corporate-wide.
He has led numerous advanced technology programs over a 45-year career with experience covering advanced concepts development to air vehicle production and testing. His diverse background includes technology commercialization and licensing, joint venture development, industrial participation (offsets), market analysis, and strategic planning.
In addition to his responsibilities as EVP Environment & Sustainability, Gene heads development and certification of the world’s first Boomless Cruise™ system which will enable the Aerion AS2 to cruise at speeds up to Mach 1.2 without a sonic boom reaching the ground.
Prior to Aerion, Gene was a Program Manager/Project Lead at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics – Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works®), and an Engineering Specialist at Northrop Grumman Corporation. He received an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University, a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering from Auburn University, and is a Certified Professional Manager.
Tony Kioussis (00:33):
Welcome to another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. I am Tony Kioussis, president of Asset Insight, and your host. Joining me today to discuss Aerion’s planned contribution to the world’s future transportation network is Gene Holloway, the company’s chief sustainability officer. Welcome to our educational podcast, Gene, and let me start off by asking what sparked your interest in the aerospace industry and Aerion in particular?
Gene Holloway (01:04):
Why did I get into the aerospace industry? Well, I grew up back in the ’60s during the space race. As a kid, watched all the space launches and the like, which, obviously, it was very exciting for somebody in elementary school, for sure, and all of us in general. Then I also had developed a love for all those great war movies that had all the fighters and the bombers those kinds of things, so aviation was a very strong interest of mine all the way through high school and so I chose to go further by getting a degree in aerospace engineering when I went off to college.
Gene Holloway (01:42):
At the time, I was still more or less focused on space and I actually worked for almost five years as a student for NASA while I was in college. Once I graduated and it became time to go out and get a real job, if you will, I ended up going to work for Northrop Grumman back in the mid-’70s and so that started me down the path of airplanes. I had two careers on the military side, if you will, of airplane design and development. I spent almost 20 years with Northrop Grumman and I spent my next 20 years working for Lockheed Martin at their Skunk Works facility, which both of those were amazing opportunities, the kinds that don’t come around very often. I had the opportunity to work on a number of the best and most current and exciting aircraft programs out there, some of them airplanes that we see flying around today, like the B-2, F-22, the JSF, those types of airplanes, but it also gave me an opportunity to work on an awful lot of other very interesting projects.
Gene Holloway (02:50):
Then after almost 40 years of working in the industry, I retired, at least I planned on retiring, and I was retired for a couple of years before two friends of mine, Tom Vice, Aerion’s CEO and Steve Berroth, our COO, who I’ve known since back in our early young engineer days working on the B-2 bomber, approached me with the offer to join them on this new adventure that they were undertaking.
Gene Holloway (03:18):
That new adventure happened to be the future of the next civil aircraft, which was the AS2, a supersonic business jet. Not just any supersonic business jet, it was a supersonic business jet that was capable of flying sustained supersonic without any afterburners, that it could do that over land, fly supersonically and not have a sonic boom reached the ground, and oh, by the way, the other thing was is that it was going to be a environmentally-responsive aircraft in that we were looking to have it be quiet when it needs to be quiet, to have reduced emissions, and all the other challenges that go with being a sustainable, environmentally responsible aviation entrance, and so I couldn’t say no to that. That was my next great challenge. That’s how I got involved in it and how I got involved in Aerion.
Tony Kioussis (04:13):
We’re coming up on two decades since Concorde was retired. Why is now the right time for supersonic travel and what has changed to make it feasible?
Gene Holloway (04:22):
Now is the time because we’re at a point technologically where we can combine both speed and sustainability, and so we have an opportunity to evolve our industry, which has not improved on speed of air travel for several decades. Today, we’re actually traveling slightly faster in our commercial airlines than we did actually back at the introduction of the Boeing 707 in the late ’50s, early ’60s. Business jets are flying a little bit faster than the original ones are, but they’re all still more or less bunched up right there in the high subsonic Mach numbers without any real significant advances in speed, and so the world wants to move faster, time is our most precious resource, and so we wanted to take on the challenge of moving people about in a faster manner.
Gene Holloway (05:14):
Air travel is one of those things that brings us all closer together. We find quite often that there are relationships that you develop that are best developed face-to-face in person that you can’t get through correspondence via an email or a text message or the like because those tend to be obviously a bit more impersonal and so you can develop these relationships much better by being in the same room with the person that you are trying to communicate with. That goes not just for business, but also certainly in our private lives, being able to travel broadly allows us to learn more about our world, to create relationships that we might not otherwise have. It tends to bring the whole world, I think, closer together.
Gene Holloway (06:01):
This was our opportunity to take, in essence, a blank canvas and then chart a course as we go forward on plying faster supersonically but also being kind to the environment because that is a key part of our ethos as Aerion and individuals is that we believe that speed is great, but it’s not great if we’re not kind to our planet at the same time.
Gene Holloway (06:25):
What’s changed over the years to make it more feasible? As I mentioned earlier, what I call, it’s a “coalescence of technologies” that are currently all maturing in the same general timeframe now that enables us to build a jet that’s capable of doing all these things. It involves adding a healthy dose of innovation into the mix, it gives us the opportunity to create an airplane that’s unlike its predecessors, it gives us the ability to take a significant leap forward in the overall performance of an aircraft while being economically feasible, which the Concorde arguably was not, and also being kind to our planet at the same time, which certainly the Concorde wasn’t.
Gene Holloway (07:07):
But also, it’s what we believe is important as we go forward on this journey is to absolutely be kind to our planet with everything we do, and that’s what is driving our objective to have a zero-carbon footprint, not only for the airplane, but also for our offices, our production facilities, and the like. It’s a different kind of world out there today and we are trying to ensure that we are doing everything we can to move a path that takes us in the end, hopefully improve our environment, if we can.
Tony Kioussis (07:41):
What are the regulatory hurdles that will need to be addressed to enable supersonic flight again and make such an aircraft as useful as possible?
Gene Holloway (07:51):
Clearly, there’s all the normal regulatory issues that we have to adhere to, and they’re always challenging, but beyond those, the ones that really become more challenging as we start looking at higher speed aircraft are things that are centered around the noise level that the aircraft generates and the particular way they can take off noise as well as gaseous emissions from the jets, and then en-route noise, and particularly if you’re looking to go supersonic and you’re going to want to do that over land, over populated areas, then how do you create an aircraft that can do that and still not produce an objectionable sonic footprint on the ground?
Gene Holloway (08:34):
There’s also the need because we are doing sort of a return to supersonic flight, obviously, from a civil and commercial standpoint, and so the last regulations that were developed to do that all centered around the Concorde. Well, those are no longer applicable. The challenge now is to create regulations and standards on both the domestic and the international front that will govern the certification of aircraft going forward from here, and so what we ended up having to do is work across the international aviation community to develop these new regulations and standards to govern the aircraft certification.
Gene Holloway (09:14):
Aerion works in concert with other OEMs out there, both on the engine side and on the aircraft side who also have similar interests to work with both the FAA here in the US and with ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, which many people already know is a part of the United Nations, in order to develop the requirements. It’s important to do that because as we go forward, it doesn’t help us just to certify our airplane within the US, so we have to continue to go forward and find a way to harmonize across the international boundaries to make sure that the various national aviation authorities in other countries also agree to the basis under which we’re certifying the airplane. That’s a big part of it as well and we spend a lot of time doing that, working with ICAO’s Committee on Aviation and Environmental Protection, or CAEP, to help begin developing those international requirements that everybody can agree to.
Gene Holloway (10:19):
Another part of that big challenge is in educating the public, educating the regulators and the like out there and helping them to understand why it is that we are very different from what a Concorde was or what a modern-day jet fighter or other supersonic aircraft is. We are not like those, not that deafening roar of afterburners and high-speed takeoffs, it’s not the huge sonic booms that you might hear with them. We are designing airplanes that fit within the general construct that’s already out there for air travel in order to, in essence, be non-disruptive in our behaviors, even though we’re introducing a disruptive technology to help move the world faster.
Tony Kioussis (11:08):
I think you’ve already touched on part of this, but I’d like to delve more into Aerion’s approach. How is it different to others in the supersonic space?
Gene Holloway (11:18):
Certainly, right now, we are pretty much the only ones out there that are offering a business jet entry into the return to supersonics. Many people are familiar with Boom, their objective is to introduce a commercial airliner capable of carrying 45, 55 passengers or so, and the others that have publicly acknowledged that they’re looking to develop supersonic transports are also looking for something more along those lines.
Gene Holloway (11:45):
What we believe is that the time is right to introduce this from the business jet, and albeit this a whole new class of business jet, this is not looking at trying to further the existing markets out there for the high-end business jets. It’s a whole different aircraft altogether. We are looking to carry on the order of nine to 11 passengers, somewhere in there, but the key is is that right now, the business jet market is ready for something that’s disruptive. They are looking to decrease travel times. Business travelers spend a tremendous amount of time in airplanes going back and forth across the world for relatively short meetings, and so we spend a tremendous amount of time in the air, so anything we can do to help shorten that is hugely beneficial.
Gene Holloway (12:38):
It goes back to the whole premise that time is our most precious resource and I think we’d all like to have more time available to spend with our loved ones or spend on the other end, if we’re going on vacation, doing the things we want to do, so the market’s right for it. We’re after the very high end of the market, because, like so many game-changing technologies in the past, their first customers really were people on the higher end of the market. That market is willing to help pay a price for a capability that leads to having the resources that will fuel the research and development to take it to the next stage.
Gene Holloway (13:22):
The technology development has to start someplace where you can generate the R&D funding that’s going to be required to move it into the broader market, because that is the objective. That’s our objective as well is downstream, we’re looking to move this technology into a broader market. We don’t plan on being just a business yet manufacturer as we go forward, so the market is there, that’s a huge part, the market itself, the people who are looking to buy our types of jets, they’re willing to pay for that time advantage they get. They’re also in a area where they’re much less price-sensitive to travel. They’ll strain a little bit, even looking at operating a jet on synthetic fuels, which currently are more expensive than standard jet fuels. They’re willing to pay a little more for the fuels as well because they understand the benefits of using those types of fuels.
Gene Holloway (14:19):
That’s what’s different between us and what we see the rest of the market doing and we’re also looking at it from the standpoint, from our design objectives. It’s kind of the analogy of how do you eat an elephant: You do it one bite at a time. We’re not looking to go right to very high speed. We decided to take what I would characterize as a more moderate-risk approach. That’s why we’re looking at supersonic cruise speeds that are down around 1.4 Mach because we have engine technologies today that we can bring to bear on creating that airplane. The other airplanes looking at going Mach 2+ and all out into hypersonics, obviously, those aircraft, the engines are still maybe even two decades away from actually realizing the ability to power that airplane to those speeds, so we’re looking at it from a standpoint of, “How do I create something that provides significant utility, significant value now that allows me to then continue my process of doing R&D that gets me to higher, faster, and lower costs?”
Tony Kioussis (15:25):
You mentioned synthetic fuels. What’s changed that now makes synthetic fuels a possibility for aviation?
Gene Holloway (15:33):
I’ll admit I’m a newcomer to the synthetic fuels arena. I do understand that synthetic fuels have been around since the beginning of the 1900s and synthetic aviation fuels have actually been around since World War II, but those synthetic fuels were coal-based, so again, they’re still fossil-based, they just weren’t based on crude oil. In more recent times, now we’re beginning to look at how do I create synthetic fuels from alternative sources that are not fossil-based, obviously. We’re trying to get away from the dirtier petroleum-based products and the like and that became much more important, if you will, but much more doable back in the 2006 to 2008-’09 timeframe when the cost of oil just shot up through the roof, it was well over a hundred dollars a barrel at the time.
Gene Holloway (16:27):
That was important because unlike the traditional petroleum-based fuels, the synthetic fuels didn’t have the advantage of having any government incentives and subsidies and the like and the processing that was required to create them was more expensive, and so that made the fuels more expensive, and as long as the cost of oil was up, then the synthetic fuels, or the sustainable alternative fuels, SAF, were more on a price parity with petroleum-based fuels at the time. Unfortunately, if you will, over time, the cost of oil per barrel has come down significantly. It’s still a matter of finding a way to reduce the cost of production in order to get it down to something that is going to be more on parity with the fossil-based.
Gene Holloway (17:20):
We are starting to see more fuels become available. They’re being produced from a variety of feedstocks. A lot of them are bio-based, whether it be corn, ethanol, or it could be oil-producing nuts and certain other feedstocks like that, and there are currently seven processes that are approved officially to create synthetic fuels from those materials to use as blending stocks in synthetic fuels to create what’s called a “drop-in fuel” for aviation purposes. “Drop-in” means that I can have this mix of the synthetic fuel with a petroleum-based fuel and its properties are such that you can’t effectively tell the difference, so it becomes just a drop-in for regular aviation fuel.
Gene Holloway (18:10):
Finding ways to reduce the cost is a big part of it and the cost of feedstock, of course, is a big piece of that. One of the things that we’ve been seeing is that there is another process out there that we are very interested in and we announced our partnership with is a company called “Carbon Engineering,” which is based out of British Columbia, and what they’re doing is they’re taking a technology that’s called “direct air capture,” and they’re using that to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere, which is definitely a good thing, it’s like the scrubbers on smokestacks, except now, you’re doing it for the whole atmosphere.
Gene Holloway (18:45):
What they do with that CO2 that they capture is you can do a couple of different things, one is you can simply sequester it. You can also take the CO2 that you’re capturing and you can strip out the carbon from it and then mix that carbon that you strip out with hydrogen that you get from hydrolysis of water, split the H2 from the O, and then I can combine that hydrogen carbon to make a pure synthetic crude, right, which is very clean, it doesn’t have all the other impurities that these others have in it, so it burns very clean.
Gene Holloway (19:21):
The other advantage that you have now, of course, is that you’ve got this ready supply of a feedstock, if you will, in terms of both water and CO2 out of the atmosphere, so over time, what we see, and this is one of the things that we’re working with Carbon Engineering as well, is how do I scale the processes up and also bring down the production costs such that I start seeing something closer to that parity with the fossil-based fuels? That’s the progression that we’ve looked at over the last couple of years here and looking at what makes it viable for us to say, “All right, our jet is going to be designed to run on 100% synthetic fuel. It will be fully backward-compatible to run on 100% fossil fuel, but that’s not our preference, and we don’t believe that’ll be the preference of our customers as well.”
Gene Holloway (20:15):
We’re setting the airplane up so it can do that because, let’s face it, the reality is it will take time for that alternative fuel market to begin to be able to provide widespread availability across the world to make these fuels available at all the different airports that we would want to fly into, so that’s why it’s important for us to have this flex-fuel jet, if you will, but the objective is to be able to fly continuously on just 100% pure synthetic fuel.
Tony Kioussis (20:47):
You’re projecting a return to supersonic flight without leaving a carbon footprint. How do you intend to do that?
Gene Holloway (20:54):
Your footprint’s made up of a lot of pieces and I can have four or five parts of that footprint may be things that are producing CO2 or other greenhouse gases and then I may have other parts over here that are not, or they may be taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, but at the end of the day, what I’m looking at is from a total life cycle analysis, what does that system that I’m creating look like? What is the footprint of that system? How do I balance out all those different pieces? Because the state of technology today is not such that I can be completely carbon-neutral with everything I possibly do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s airplanes, cars, you and your house, even if you’ve got solar or wind or anything else, there are still things that will continue to be pluses and minuses there, so that’s why I say it becomes a counterbalancing problem.
Gene Holloway (21:52):
That’s what we’re doing is we’re looking at how do I counterbalance the impact that I might have and one of the best ways is with the fuel that I burn, so by burning fuel that is made through this direct air capture process, what I’m in essence doing is I’m pulling the CO2 that was admitted into the atmosphere yesterday or 10 years ago or 10 decades ago, I’m pulling that out of the air and I’m turning that actually into a fuel that I can then go burn. In worst case, I’m only putting back in that which I already took out. In best case, which is actually the typical, I’m actually pulling more out than what I’ll put back in, so I’ll get a net effect of a negative there.
Gene Holloway (22:38):
When I began to look at that and add in that I’m also looking at the way in which I build my airplane, the materials that I build it out of, looking at what my suppliers’ sources are in terms of are the materials that they’re using, how are their carbon footprints, what’s the carbon footprint of my supplier, and I began to look at all of these pieces. I can start putting together an overall footprint. It’s how we build our jet, how we operate our jet, how we operate our own business in terms of our own sources of power for keeping the lights on, heating, cooling, those kinds of things, and how do I minimize all that, and if at the end of the day, I still come up with something that’s on the positive end, then the next thing I’m still going to be needing to look at is what other things can I do that can help me to counterbalance that impact?
Gene Holloway (23:35):
That’s where we publicly stated that we’re going to plant a hundred million trees around the world by 2036. That started from the standpoint of looking at the analysis of operating our airplane and what it would take to offset the emissions from our fleet of airplanes over the same timeframe in order to balance out if they were using just pure petroleum-based fuels. Then once I’ve done that, that takes me down to, in essence, carbon-neutral for the average airplane, but now that I’m also planning on operating my jets to the maximum on these fuels that have a net-negative impact on it, then it actually allows me to further reduce the footprint overall and as I look at my overall life cycle analysis, I start seeing the footprint come down further.
Gene Holloway (24:28):
But even at that, we’re still not satisfied, so we believe that the other things we need to be doing is working with other like-minded organizations out there to see what else can we do to help reduce man’s impact on the environment. That’s where you start looking at things like reforestation, afforestation programs, programs that look at how do I protect the rainforest in the world by going in and providing alternatives to the communities around them such that they’re no longer incentivized to clear-cut or burn down the forest for short-term gain. Instead, how do I create something for them that helps them create it for themselves a way to improve their economy and their quality of life, further the members of their community, and also protect the rainforest?
Gene Holloway (25:19):
Beyond that, it’s also looking at how do I go about funding research into future fuels? How do I get to that next fuel that is not a hydrocarbon, whether it be hydrogen, pure hydrogen, which has its own challenges, or some other fuel we haven’t even necessarily thought of? I need to be looking at how do I create that next step: How do I get to potentially an all-electric airplane that’s capable of supersonic flight, or maybe even hypersonic flight, but it also carries a useful number of people or payload?
Gene Holloway (25:53):
Aerion is actually in the process right now of establishing a nonprofit foundation that is going to help manage a lot of that future research, a lot of those programs. Those programs then will go forward and not only help manage the health of the hundred million trees that we want to plant, but also starts looking at funding some of these other programs that are doing additional forest protection and the like, as well as research grants for improving not just in terms of fuels, but also looking at how do I create new technologies that reduces the environmental impact through directly impact in the way, for example, the engines operate, is it materials in the engine, those kinds of things. We’re looking to create our foundation to help go forward and take on that challenge as well.
Tony Kioussis (26:41):
As you discussed earlier, one of the major criticisms of Concorde was the noise it transmitted to the ground. How will Aerion overcome that issue?
Gene Holloway (26:51):
Well, this is one of the coolest things that I’ve come across because it was not something I’d ever heard of before. I was classically trained in college to be a theoretical aerodynamicist, and yet at the same time, I’d never heard of the ability to fly an airplane supersonically and not have a sonic boom reach the ground. I just automatically assumed every time you’d go supersonic, you’re going to create a boom that’s going to hit the ground, people will hear it.
Gene Holloway (27:20):
It turns out that’s not entirely true. The aviation community has actually been investigating for over six decades now, a physical phenomenon that’s called “Mach cutoff” and what Mach cutoff does is it allows a way in which you can operate an airplane such that up to, on a standard day, about a speed of around Mach 1.15 to 1.2, you can fly supersonically over ground and the sonic boom will not reach the ground.
Gene Holloway (27:54):
One of the analogies I use is when you skip a rock off of the surface of a lake, the pressure wave from the sonic boom travels down to the surface, it propagates down from the airplane to the surface, and as it moves away from the airplane, a lot of us have seen the pictures out there that kind of looks like a shadowgraph, you see all these shockwaves coming off the airplane. Well, as you move away from the airplane, the shockwaves began to converge and create this very neat, sort of N-shaped pressure wave that follows some very well-known laws of physics.
Gene Holloway (28:31):
Well, one of the things that happens is the atmosphere, the biggest driver on sonic booms, of course, is the speed of sound. How fast is that speed of sound? That can be calculated. The primary variable that it depends on is the ambient temperature in any give an altitude anywhere in the world, so it varies. It’s never constant. It’s always a little bit different in different places, but I can measure that. I can measure it, I can predict it, and the like.
Gene Holloway (29:01):
What happens is is that based on that temperature profile, you have these layers in the atmosphere that it’s not something like a layer of clouds you see or anything, it’s just basically an invisible layer, it’s a layer of temperature, if you will, that is called a “caustic layer” and what happens is that caustic layer acts like that surface of the water that you’re going to skip the pebble off, and so the sonic boom travels down and when it hits this layer in the atmosphere, this caustic layer in the atmosphere, it does what we call “refract,” or it bends, it skips, and so it will hit that layer and it will skip up and then continue down and it may come down and hit again and skip along, but it doesn’t go down to the ground, so we can predict the altitude that that’s going to occur at for a given airspeed and for a given air temperature. It also depends on winds and the like.
Gene Holloway (30:01):
This is one of those technologies that is maturing enough now. They’ve actually proved all the way back in the early ’70s, the FAA and NASA have proved that you can actually fly supersonic jets and if you operate them within the bounds of this Mach cutoff phenomenology, then you won’t have a sonic boom reach the ground. The key has always been measure the atmospheric profile in more or less real-time. It certainly needs to be frequent enough to give you the changes as you get fronts moving through and that sort of thing, so it is time-dependent.
Gene Holloway (30:42):
Now, what we have is through the marvels of modern technology, we’re able to do those measurements from a stand-off position using satellites, for example, to slice through the atmosphere continuously as you go around the Earth and create these predictions for what that temperature profile is going to look like. I can then take that and go forward and predict how my sonic boom is going to travel at a given Mach number, and I manage my speed, I manage my altitude, and I manage my heading such that I’m flying at supersonic speeds and not having a sonic boom reach the ground. That’s something we call “boomless cruise.” It’s different from what others have, are trying to do right now, but we see it as the most expeditious way for us to get back to a point where it’s permissible to fly over land supersonically and not have the sonic boom reach the ground.
Tony Kioussis (31:41):
What is Aerion’s timeline to bring the AS2 to reality?
Gene Holloway (31:46):
Our next immediate steps are by the end of this year, coming up next month or two, we’re looking to break ground at our new home, which is Aerion Park, which will be in Melbourne, Florida. Then in the 2021-2022 timeframe, we’re going to be doing the actual major construction of the new facilities because this is a use this is a greenfield site, there’s nothing there currently. We’re not moving into existing hires and the like, we’re actually building from the ground up, which is a tremendous plus for us as well, because it allows us to design and build the buildings to meet lead certification requirements and have a much more environmentally friendly presence. 2023, we expect to actually start manufacturing the aircraft and assembling it and then 2025 is our projected first flight currently.
Tony Kioussis (32:37):
Do you have a feel for how the AS2’s operating costs will compare with current business aircraft able to fly the same nonstop range?
Gene Holloway (32:46):
Well, it’s still a little early in the project to go into real specifics about it. The operating expenses include the cost of acquisition and maintenance and all the rest of it and so there’s a lot of those pieces that when you start to put them together, it looks on the surface to be a little more expensive than the current transonic business jet. There’s some intrinsic savings in terms of potentially some reduced maintenance costs for burning cleaner fuels and the engines and things like that, but the other thing really comes back to the time savings associated with it so that if I began to consider the cost of productivity lost by putting an extra couple of hours in the air coming and going, then the cost of making a trip on the AS2 begins to come closer to the cost of flying on a traditional business jet.
Gene Holloway (33:40):
But the other piece is, again, it’s for the customer base that we are currently addressing. They’re willing to pay that premium in order to get that extra speed. They really do want to have the time given back to them. That becomes a big plus for us. It will be a challenge for a time as we begin to make the technology more cost-effective for larger-scale operations. We don’t see those as truly insurmountable challenges for us.
Tony Kioussis (34:08):
We talked about this a little bit earlier, but what can supersonic flight do for the aerospace industry of the future?
Gene Holloway (34:14):
There’s a number of things. One is it creates new and exciting challenges. Seen some survey statistics not too long ago that indicated that our industry is not really viewed so much as an exciting place to work these days by a lot of the younger people coming in, at least not the traditional aviation industry, but you are starting to see interest in things like Virgin Galactic and some of the others out there that are beginning to attract the attention of our youth again.
Gene Holloway (34:44):
When I was a kid I wasn’t really interested so much in things like biplanes, I mean, those are old and slow, but the excitement of space or an X-15 or an XB-70 bomber that’s capable of Mach 3 and those kinds of things, they were exciting, and so one of the ways that we influence the aerospace industry with what we do is by providing something that helps to bring our young students back to a position where they’re challenged by it.
Gene Holloway (35:16):
You look out there right now at things like urban air mobility is an exciting challenge. Going fast and doing it in a quiet and green way is also very appealing to them, so it’s the disruptive nature of it and challenging boundaries that have existed for decades. In reality, we’re creating a new paradigm in the industry, one that is very unlike what we have out there today.
Tony Kioussis (35:42):
Is there anything else that you would want people to know about Aerion’s plans or capabilities as they pertain to the business aviation space?
Gene Holloway (35:50):
Aerion’s vision is not to be just a one-trick pony, if you will. We’re not looking to be just a business jet company, we’re not looking to be just a commercial supersonic jet company. Our vision is for the future of global mobility and we see that as a network-connected capability that combines the best of transportation technologies, including those that are just beginning to emerge, such as things like urban air mobility.
Gene Holloway (36:15):
But it’s even beyond that. It’s also, how do I connect all the pieces to help get you from point A to point B, anywhere on the surface of the Earth within three hours or less? Years ago, there was an analysis done looking at how does somebody move surface freight faster from, say, New York to London, and as part of that study, they looked at all the pieces involved in moving a package from your door in New York to the door that you wanted to go to Europe. The actual mode of transport is a significant portion of that in terms of, for example, once I get to LAX or Van Nuys or some major airport and I get on the airplane and then I go fly for five hours to get where I want to get, but how long did it take me to get to the airport? How long did it take me to process through in order to get onto the airplane, and then the opposite when I get to the other end?
Gene Holloway (37:09):
We envisioned a way, something we’re calling “Aerion Connect” that will shorten all that up, again, with the objective to give time back to the individual. How do I speed it up by helping to facilitate that network capability that gets you from point A to point B faster? It may include things like the high-speed tunnels and the like out there as well, so that’s why I say it’s not just about air travel, it’s about travel in general. What are the things that we can do to speed that up, and, oh, by the way, how do I do that from my personal digital device that I’ve got in my hand? All that still has to be done, keeping in mind that no matter how fast we go, we still have to be kind to the planet. We can’t afford to keep going down the path we’ve been going down. We have to make those changes in order to improve the environment we live in for ourselves, for our kids, for our future generations. We recognize it’s a bold vision, but we consider ourselves bold pioneers and we’re looking forward to it.
Tony Kioussis (38:11):
This has been another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. Please visit our ever-growing podcast library at assetinsightpodcast.com and select from any number of topics discussed with business aviation industry experts. This is Tony Kioussis, and as always, thank you for listening.
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