February 5, 2019 / 5:11 PM / 3 months ago

Boeing makes 'significant investment' in supersonic jet developer Aerion

(Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Tuesday it had made a significant investment in supersonic business jet developer Aerion, as the world’s biggest planemaker looks to tap into rising demand for high-end aircraft that can reduce travel time.

A Boeing logo is pictured during the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) at Geneva Airport, Switzerland May 28, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The company’s shares touched a record high of $407.48 following the announcement, after opening above $400 for the first time.

Boeing will provide engineering, manufacturing and flight testing services for Aerion’s $120 million supersonic business jet, which is slated for its first flight in 2023.

The jet, the Aerion AS2, can fly at speeds of up to Mach 1.4, or about 1,000 miles (1,610 km) per hour, 70 percent faster than conventional business jets.

Lockheed Martin Corp, which announced a partnership in 2017 to develop the AS2, is no longer working with Aerion, representatives from both companies said.

A spokeswoman for the maker of the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets told Reuters on Tuesday that “Lockheed Martin’s contract with Aerion to vet the technical viability of the AS2 design expired Friday, February 1, and there are no plans to renew.”

Boeing and Reno, Nevada-based Aerion, founded by billionaire businessman Robert Bass, did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

U.S. startups Aerion, Boom Supersonic and Spike Aerospace are working to reintroduce supersonic passenger travel for the first time since the Anglo-French Concorde retired in 2003.

Supersonic designs have struggled to meet current subsonic noise standards due to engine constraints, but Aerion said in October it would be able to take off and land without regulatory changes in the United States, providing a potential boost to efforts to bring back faster air travel.

General Electric Co’s GE Aviation unit has said it completed initial designs for the new Affinity turbofan engine, which will be used in Aerion’s AS2 jet, while Honeywell Aerospace has said it would develop the cockpit for the AS2.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; sdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Mike Stone in Washington; editing by Anil D'Silva and Jonathan Oatis

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