Why have planes never exceeded speeds?

50 years of Concorde or the eternal dream of supersonic flying

50 years of Concorde or the eternal dream of supersonic flying

The first supersonic passenger aircraft took off fifty years ago. But the British-French Concorde was not lucky. The dream of flying fast is not over yet.

Fascinating supersonic and speed. Like on March 2, 1969, when the Concorde took off for the first time in Toulouse and began its maiden flight. The supersonic passenger aircraft developed by the British and French traveled at up to 2,400 kilometers per hour.

This elegant, white jet flew from Paris to New York in three and a half hours. However, British Airways and Air France did not take up scheduled services to New York until eight years later.

However, the Concorde was not allowed to fly supersonic over populated areas. The whip-like boom that occurs when the airspeed is higher than the speed of sound is too dangerous for the human ear.

Concorde had a few disadvantages: First of all, the cost

As tempting as the greatly reduced travel time was, the Concorde operators were not happy. Because apart from the high speed, the aircraft had some disadvantages, as Jürg Wildi, President of the Swiss Association of Aviation Sciences, explains. There were only a few copies of this expensive prestige and technology project. This means that the huge development costs for the Concorde had to be passed on to a few aircraft and their passengers.

The flight was not only expensive, the aerodynamic plane was cut tight and the seats were therefore cramped and uncomfortable. In addition, the maintenance costs were high because the extremely powerful engines were each heavily loaded.

Inferno in Paris as the beginning of the end

The kerosene consumption was high, as was the environmental pollution, and the supersonic aircraft also made excessive noise. The sinking of the Concorde finally began on July 25, 2000.

On that day, an Air-France Concorde crashed shortly after take-off in Paris, killing 113 people. The terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001 and the global aviation crisis that followed resulted in a Concorde taking off for the last time on October 24, 2003.

Too much energy for normal passenger flights

But the dream of supersonic flight is not over yet. Particularly in view of the steadily increasing number of flight movements, some machines would like to see faster flying machines in the sky. But faster planes are out of the question for normal air traffic, says Wildi. Commercial aircraft fly at around 850 km / h. If this speed of Mach 0.85 is exceeded, the aircraft's resistance increases and it therefore needs more thrust and energy. For reasons of cost, according to Wildi, higher speeds are not worthwhile for the airlines.

In addition, although the flight time is reduced with supersonic passenger aircraft, the stay at the airport and the journey there do not change, which, as is well known, make up a large part of the total travel time.

Researchers want to make bang quieter

In addition, the problem of the sonic boom remains, the solution of which is being researched. Until then, such aircraft will not be able to operate efficiently over populated areas. The aviation expert therefore sees no use for supersonic aircraft in normal air traffic.

Attractive for private business flights

But it does in the private business jet sector. Wildi mentions the initiative of British entrepreneur Richard Branson. His commercial aircraft from the company “Boom” will one day fly at 2,700 kilometers per hour. The “Overture” jet for 55 passengers should not only be faster, but also significantly more efficient than the Concorde. In a project supported by Airbus, the US company Aerion also wants to launch business jets at 1.5 times the supersonic speed.