NBAA Convention News

Collins Expands Reach into Emerging Supersonic Programs

 - December 3, 2020, 7:10 AM

As the pace of supersonic aircraft development has seemingly accelerated in the past couple of years, Collins Aerospace has expanded its roles in the various programs and anticipates that activity to continue to grow as the technology matures.

In a little more than a year, Collins has announced participation or increased participation in the Lockheed Martin X-59, Aerion AS2, and Boom Overture supersonic programs. Colin Mahoney, who just stepped into the role of president of customer and account management for Collins Aerospace, told AIN on the eve of NBAA-VBACE that those announcements do not cover the full scope of Collins’s activity, with further details anticipated over time.

Mahoney, who previously led the Rockwell Collins International and Services business and brings 30 years of experience to his new role, stressed, “There's no doubt in our mind that there will be a day of supersonic commercial travel,” adding that demand is there. The question is, however, how long it will take “to become real,” which he believes is the current debate.

“I think the evidence of what we're talking about in the last 18 months would imply that there is an actual acceleration component, but there are still years to go,” he said and noted that the various industry players all have different expectations of timelines.  But, “I think everybody’s investing in it.”

Like others, Collins has been investing in this area and believes it is important to get into the fray from the ground floor. Mahoney added that Collins has a long history of capabilities that could help advance supersonics, some that have been used on subsonic commercial airplanes and others on supersonic airplanes. He cited as an example the company’s work in the areas of flight control surfaces and actuation, saying these components are “one of the secret sauces of flying the airplane fast.” This past experience enables the development of cost-effective solutions for supersonic business jets and commercial airlines, he maintained.

As such it has become involved in a number of the emerging supersonic platforms.

In July, Collins announced that it was selected to supply a moveable leading-edge actuation system, elevons actuation system, horizontal stabilizer actuation system, and the rudder actuation system for the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet.

In addition, the aerospace giant has received three awards, most recently in mid-2019, for the Lockheed Martin/NASA X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology aircraft that is being used to demonstrate noise profiles for low-boom supersonic travel. These involve the avionics, environmental control system (ECS), flaps, ailerons, and rudders. The ECS—including the engine bleed air, air conditioning, and cockpit pressure control systems—is designed to maintain temperature and pressure for the pilot and equipment while the aircraft reaches supersonic speeds.

Meanwhile, the collaborative agreement with Boom, which was just announced last month, covers the inlet, nacelle, and exhaust system technologies for the Boom Overture supersonic airliner. Mahoney stressed the importance of the Overture work, noting that that fuel burn and noise were key issues surrounding the Concorde.

These partnerships are “going very well,” Mahoney said, indicating there would be more to discuss in the future. “There are other things we’re not able to talk about” at this time, he said. But for now, the partnerships, while in the early stages, “are blossoming.”