By Karen Di Piazza
In November, Reno, Nev.-based Aerion Corporation revealed for the first time how much money it had garnered in commitments for its proposed supersonic business jet. The company said commitments for its SSBJ exceeded $1.5 billion. Thanks to November’s Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates, the jet, priced at $80 million, drew attention from customers in the Middle East, Europe, India, Asia, Pakistan and North America. But the company’s international sales distributor outside of the Americas, Switzerland-based ExecuJet Aviation Group, deserves much of the credit for Aerion’s success in the UAE.
ExecuJet, with operating bases on five continents, obtained a letter of intent for the jet from Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, a member of the ruling family of Ajman in the UAE. It also snagged Pakistan-based Princely Jets, a subsidiary of the Akbar Group, which has an exclusive arrangement with Bombardier Skyjet International for jet card and air charter ad hoc service. Currently, ExecuJet is pulling in orders from the wealthy by offering 40 early delivery positions, accepting initial deposits of $250,000. Deposits are being held in a secured escrow account; if the jet program for some reason fails to materialize, funds will be returned.
“Considering our marketing effort has barely begun, this is a tremendous validation of the aircraft’s appeal,” said Brian Barents, vice chairman of Aerion.
There’s just one problem: Aerion has yet to find an aircraft manufacturer to produce its SSBJ. By disclosing its current order book, the company hopes to recruit a manufacturing partner by 2008. The company said it still plans to reach its goal of certification and service entry by 2014. Aerion’s plan to produce an SSBJ was first unveiled in October 2004.
According to Aerion, wind tunnel and other tests have taken the aircraft to an advanced stage of design. With a stand-up interior cabin and seating for up to 12 passengers, the company said the aircraft has more than a 4,000-nautical-mile range, and will reach speeds up to Mach 1.15 overland and Mach 1.6 over other areas. U.S. regulations require speeds below Mach 1.
ExecuJet said that with its fleet of 100 business aircraft, and drawing on its geographical reach and broad client base, it’s well placed to help identify future prospects for the SSBJ.
“Based on the homework we did prior to entering into this agreement with Aerion, we’re not surprised at the number of people coming forward,” said ExecuJet CEO Niall Olver. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
For more information, visit [http://www.aerioncorp.com].