January 28, 2019 / 12:18 PM / 8 months ago

Spike Inc clinches supersonic jet orders, close to picking engine

DUBAI (Reuters) - Spike Aerospace Inc has signed up its first orders and is close to selecting an engine for the $125 million supersonic business jet it is developing, its president said on Monday.

Spike and other U.S.-based start-ups are aiming to revive ultra-fast flights to serve a market that has been dormant since Concorde stopped flying in 2003.

Spike is aiming to start test flights in two years with its S-512 aircraft entering into service in 2025.

“We already have two orders,” Vik Kachoria told Reuters in an interview in Dubai where he was attending an industry conference. There were also ongoing discussions with a commercial airline, he added.

He declined to disclose further details but said that the orders they had booked were not from an airliner.

Spike believes that there will be demand for around 850 supersonic jets in the decade to 2035 - largely from commercial airlines. Spike is planning for its S-512 aircraft to seat up to 18 passengers, flying at Mach 1.6 - above the Mach 0.9 speed of rival subsonic business jets.

“The business jet is going to appeal to private owner-operators, fractional operators and corporate flight departments but this can also be used by airlines as an upgrade from economy to business to first to supersonic class,” Kachoria said.

Spike, Aerion Supersonic, and Boom Supersonic are targeting to have their supersonic jets flying by the mid-2020s by modifying existing engines rather than spending billions of dollars to make a new one.

General Electric is to manufacture the engine for Aerion’s AS2 jet.

Spike is close to selecting an engine after holding discussions with GE and Rolls-Royce.

“One of those companies is more advanced discussions,” Kachoria said, adding that an announcement “may be a little longer” than six weeks away.

GE and Rolls-Royce did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment on whether they have held such talks.

Spike plans to manufacture four supersonic test aircraft, Kachoria added.

The development of new supersonic business jets has, however, raised debate as to whether aerospace standards and guidelines need to be updated, such as those related to noise.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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