Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2019-05-01

Concorde at 50 and X-Plane

Fifty years ago, in March 1969, civil aviation took a giant leap forward as Andre Turcat made the first ever Concorde 001 Flight on March 2nd at Toulouse in France.  Just over five weeks later this feat was matched by British prototype Concorde 002 by a 50-mile flight from Filton to Fairford that started 34 years of supersonic passenger travel. 
 
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Concorde, the supersonic turbo airliner developed by the British and French aviation industries which operated from its introduction in the 1970s until 2003. Being the world’s first supersonic airliner, Concorde received tremendous interest from numerous airlines in its planning stage. Even though Concorde was the fastest passenger airliner in history with a speed of 1.300 miles/hour, high unit costs due to unseen overheads and technical adjustments discouraged potential buyers. The Concorde was priced over US$20 million when launched.
 
The Concorde made its first transatlantic crossing in September 1973. Subsequently, the first scheduled supersonic passenger service was launched by British Airways and Air France in January 1976, initially with flights from London to Bahrain and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.

They also launched regular service to Washington, D.C., in May 1976 and to New York City in November 1977. However, Concorde began to experience glitches, especially on the flights to the U.S., this coupled with higher operation costs, oil crisis of the ‘70s and noise pollution issues which led to financial losses, and eventually cancellation of all routes except to New York City. It targeted the affluent passenger niche with the London-New York return ticket fetching an average of US$8,000.
 
The Concorde had a passenger capacity of 100 people and consumed over 89,000 litres of fuel for the transatlantic flight while its competitor Boeing 747, with a capacity of more than 400 passengers consumed only around 59,000 litres. With Boeing and Airbus making further improvement to accommodate more seats and added in-flight entertainment, speed remained the only advantage in Concorde, which actually proved to be a demerit for the plane. Its sound was deemed an environmental pollutant and the U.S. Congress restricted Concorde to only using the Washington Dulles Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
 
Already in doldrums, the plane couldn’t survive the public apathy after the tragic crash of Air France flight in July 2000. The Concorde en-route to New York suffered engine failure after take-off and crashed into a small hotel and restaurant killing all onboard, as well as four people on the ground. Within few years both British Airways and Air France announced the closure of Concorde operations in April 2003.  
 
A Landmark in Aviation History 
Successful supersonic flight was a significant landmark in aviation history; the Concorde was also the first major cooperative venture of European countries to design and build an aircraft. Britain and France signed a treaty on 29 November 1962 to share costs and risks in building the plane. British Aerospace and the French firm Aerospatiale were responsible for the airframe, while Britain’s Rolls-Royce and France’s SNECMA (Société Nationale d’Étude et de Construction de Moteurs d’Aviation) developed the jet engines. The delta-wing Concorde created, as a result, was a technological marvel.it had a maximum cruising speed or 2,179 miles/hour and reduced the flight time between London and New York to mere three hours.
 
However, the development costs of the plane were humongous and could never be recovered from operations making it unprofitable. Nevertheless, it reassured Europe’s position as an aerospace technology frontrunner and proved that governments and manufacturers could cooperate in complex ventures. 
 
While the Concorde aviation’s reign was short, it signalled an era where several flight records were set including the fastest passenger airliner in the world at 1,354 mph and the highest cruise altitude of a passenger plane at 60,000 feet.
 
X-plane
NASA’s X-Plane could take commercial supersonic flights to new horizons. In 2018, the Agency awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract to design, build and test the low-boom flight demonstrator – X-plane. Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and NASA have partnered for more than a decade to enable the next generation of commercial supersonic aircraft. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works the initial contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of the supersonic X-plane flight demonstrator.
 
With X-plane NASA aims to establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning commercial supersonic travel over land.  Lockheed Martin Skunk Works will build the experimental aircraft using NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) effort at its facility in Palmdale, California, and is expected to conduct the first flight in 2021. X-plane is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.
 
Reference Text/Photo
 

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