Like Most Atlantans, the Team Behind Jet Company Hermeus Knows the Importance of Getting There Quicker

Lauren Finney | September 27, 2019 | Lifestyle

Imagine, if you can, getting from New York to London in 90 minutes, or from Los Angeles to Seoul in three hours. Seems impossible, right? Not for Atlanta-based Hermeus, which is revolutionizing air travel.

From left: Chief Executive Officer A.J. Piplica, Chief Product Officer Mike Smayda, Chief Operating Officer Skyler Shuford and Chief Technical Officer Glenn Case, all in their matching custom Mach 5 Nikes. They stand in front of their first engine build at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport.

The goal, says A.J. Piplica, CEO of Atlanta-based hypersonic jet company Hermeus is to connect the world faster. “We essentially speed up the global transportation network. We see that driving some pretty massive social and economic change,” he says.

You might be blown away by Piplica’s assertions, but he assures me that it’s entirely possible, at a cool five times the speed of sound—“about 3,000-ish miles per hour,” he says. A titanium structure, a unique engine design, and “a ton of autonomy from the ground up” will have people making connections faster than ever. It’ll take about 8 to 10 years, but this proud Georgia Tech grad (“Atlanta has one of the best aerospace schools in the country”) and his team are ready to change the world as we know it, and know Atlanta is uniquely the place to get this done thanks to our national reputation as a transportation hub. Lockheed Martin has a huge Atlanta facility, and Delta Air Lines and UPS are based here, while Dobbins Air Reserve Base and Robins Air Force Base are nearby; Gulfstream is just a quick drive to Savannah, so it made sense for operations to be based here, specifically at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport. So, who can expect to ride on one of these jets of the future? “It’s a business traveler,” says Piplica. “There’s so much richness in communication that happens face to face, and the more you can do that, the faster you can do that, the faster commerce can happen.”

They’ll achieve this by good old-fashioned science, funding and a lot of advice from venerable board members like Rob Meyerson (formerly of Blue Origin) and Rob Weiss (formerly of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works). Piplica is grateful for the advice: “We’re four aerospace engineers and software developers, and we haven’t sold an aircraft before. They’ve brought a lot of perspective to what we’re doing.”

Photography by: Harold Daniels