Business Aviation Insider

Here is one expert’s opinion on how new technology will impact business aviation.

Aug. 12, 2019

Numerous emerging technologies promise to further advance business aviation’s capabilities to provide rapid, efficient, on-demand air transportation. Pres Henne – retired senior vice president of programs, engineering and test for Gulfstream Aerospace – believes that supersonic business jets and electric-powered aircraft, in particular, are about to usher in a new era in business flying.

“Business aviation is a market that values technology,” Henne asserted. “If technology adds to safety, reliability or performance, it has value. Customers want that and are willing to pay for that.

“At the top end of the business market, there is still a thirst for a bigger airplane, a faster airplane and an airplane that goes farther,” he said. “I particularly like the idea of a faster airplane. Speed is something you never can have enough of.

“The challenge is going supersonic,” Henne explained. “There are a lot of tough barriers. I don’t think anybody has the right solution yet. But there is enough interest and enough people willing to spend some money to try to develop a supersonic business jet. Someone is going to do it. And they are going to do it sooner rather than later.”

Henne also believes that electric-powered aircraft will figure prominently in business aviation’s future.

“We are on the verge of seeing new electric-oriented propulsion systems,” noted Henne. “It’s probably going to be a long time before you see a battery-powered business jet. I think the first step will be hybrid, where there still is a gas turbine generating electric power, which would drive distributed fans. There are some cases where that is beginning to make sense.” What about autonomous aircraft? “I think there will come a time, partly because of all the unmanned aircraft technology that is evolving, that people are going to say, ‘We don’t need two people to fly the airplane. We just need one, plus these systems, and the aircraft will be safe.’ Will we get to zero? Maybe. I used to say no. I am not so certain anymore.