In 2000, Texas billionaire Robert Bass came across a theory of supersonic speed and aircraft wing technology that made him reach for his checkbook. First, he bought five textbooks used in Stanford University aeronautics classes to bone up on the subject. Then as he delved into the physics of planes, he became increasingly convinced that a profitable supersonic business jet was viable. Says Bass, who flew on the Concorde, which took passengers across the Atlantic faster than the speed of sound for 27 years until it was retired in 2003: “The more I dug into it, the more interesting it got.” So he struck a deal with Richard Tracy, whose patented computer model of laminar airflow over wings had inspired him, and assembled a team of a dozen people, including an engineer who once headed Boeing’s (BA) high-speed civil transport program, to make the dream a reality. That didn’t happen at supersonic speed, however. Bass’s Aerion spent the next decade—and more than $100 million—working out technical kinks, causing many naysayers to wonder if his high-flying dreams would ever get off the ground.