Aoife O’Sullivan joins Aerion board
Aoife O’Sullivan, head of aircraft finance at law firm Kennedys, has joined the board of Aerion Corporation, the company planning to launch the first supersonic business jet. She has been working with Aerion for a number of years and believes there is a definite demand for supersonic business jets.
“Aerion is growing rapidly,” said Robert Bass, chairman of Aerion. “Aoife’s extensive knowledge of the industry, especially its legal and financial dimensions, will add further depth and experience to the Aerion board. We welcome her to this great undertaking.”
Aerion launched in 2007. In 2014 the programme received a boost when it signed an undertaking with Aribus to collaborate on technology.
Doug Nichols, CEO of Aerion, added: “We will be making many crucial program decisions in 2015 regarding sales and support, major program participants, and our worldwide industrialization strategy. Aoife’s industry stature, international experience, and leading expertise in aviation finance matters distinctively qualify her to help lead the company forward.”
Corporate Jet Investor spoke with O’Sullivan to find out more about her new non-executive director role.
Corporate Jet Investor: How did you first get involved with the Aerion project?
Aoife O’Sullivan: Kennedys were originally instructed to advise on the financing and structuring of the Aerion project and aircraft sales. During the course of various meetings with the team at Aerion it became apparent that we could add more value at a variety of different levels (for example we introduced Aerion to Airbus). The relationship has developed very strongly over the past couple of years and I am very honoured to be invited to the Board.
Corporate Jet Investor: What do you bring to Aerion’s board?
O’Sullivan: I think being a specialist aviation lawyer has its advantages beyond the purely legal. We do see a lot of what goes on in the industry, good and bad. Knowing and understanding the industry from a variety of different perspectives is a benefit I can bring to the Board. For example I can explain what the different participants in industry expect such as financiers, insurers and of course buyers because I know what their expectations are. More importantly I know what stops them buying or financing aircraft and I can help Aerion through that. I can also help Aerion to direct their attentions and avoid some of the common pitfalls.
We have been rethinking the traditional approaches to financing and selling aircraft and there are some very exciting measures underway which will help support the program and make the buying or financing of a supersonic jet easier. Our aim is to build very strong relationships with the buyers and financiers over the pre-delivery period and to ensure that they are supported in every way. Many of my own clients will be potential buyers and financiers of the aircraft and I will be looking out for their interests – if they are properly protected and supported during the construction phase we can make it a lot easier for them to buy the aircraft. I’m also quite keen to address some of the common issues we face in the industry such as the branding of the aircraft.
“The supersonic jet will be a highly valued business tool and justifying the purchase of this jet to the shareholders of a large corporate should be made easy.”
Corporate aircraft are not luxury assets or toys. The supersonic jet will be a highly valued business tool and justifying the purchase of this jet to the shareholders of a large corporate should be made easy. Anyone who understands this industry and the people who buy aircraft will know that if you need an aircraft, it is not because you fancy a comfy bed when you fly. It is usually because demands on your time and your travel requirements simply cannot be met by the scheduled airlines and without the jet, business would not get done.
One of my clients spends 1,300 hours a year flying around the world building his business. That’s an average of 3.5 hours a day, every single day, in the air. He employs thousands of people in many different countries and without him, the empire would not be what it is today. He doesn’t just want an aircraft, he desperately needs one and he is a typical example of buyers in this market. I’d like us to readdress the public perception around corporate aircraft and I think Aerion is very well placed to do this.
Corporate Jet Investor: When do you think people will be flying on supersonic business jets?
O’Sullivan: It actually is going to happen sooner than most people think. Airbus have confirmed their very key part in the engineering collaboration and that is already underway. The Engine supplier selection will be determined and finalised in Q3 2015. The formal program launch is estimated for Q1 2016, First flight in 2019 and the aim is for certification in 2021. All going well, the entry into service will be in 2022 – seven years is not a long time to wait for a jet that will revolutionise the aerospace industry and will give the buyers the one thing that eludes them all which is more time.
“Seven years is not a long time to wait for a jet that will revolutionise the aerospace industry and will give the buyers the one thing that eludes them all which is more time.”