The Concorde was a supersonic jetliner, conceived jointly by Britain and France, that was operational from January 1976 to October 2003. The paper-dart shaped plane was one of the two commercial airliners that were able to break the sound barrier, the other being the Soviet built Tupolev Tu-144. The Concorde was able to achieve speeds over twice the speed of sound, Mach 2.04 to be precise which lead to being able to cut air travel time in half.
Design of the Concorde:
For a supersonic plane, carrying over 100 passengers, the design had to be special and unique. Here are some of the key design features of the Concorde:
- The Concorde’s design was not built on a computer,but was built on the basis of mathematical calculations alongside some trial and error. It was built very long and narrow in order to go high speeds without a hitch
- It had a tailless design much like its Soviet counterpart,which meant that its only horizontal element were its wings
- The wings of the aircraft were a double delta with a curve (ogival delta) to limit the drag and help in lift
- While traveling twice the speed of sound, there is bound to be a lot of air friction, thus resulting into heat. The paint job on the Concorde, hence was twice as reflective
- The most awesome part was, how fuel was used to adjust the gravity of the plane by flowing through the plane’s body
- Since the Concorde had such a high angle of attack during landing, it had something called the “Droop Nose” that would enable the nose of the flight to bend down during landing, allowing the pilots to get a better view of the runway.
Why did the Concorde Stop?
There were three main reasons to this, namely economics, on flight safety, off flight safety.
Since it had completed 27 years of service, the Concorde had a lot of old analog equipment; replacing such equipment with the preceding research was to be very expensive. After the 9/11 attacks, the number of passengers traveling in the Concorde reduced. Since the people on the flight were mostly from the rich class and were paying upto $12,000 a seat, there was usually a stationary Concorde just incase the main flight was unable to take off due to unforeseen conditions. All this with the great cost of fuel a supersonic jet consumed made the Concorde very uneconomic to sustain.
On flight safety:
On July 25, 2003 the Concorde labeled the Air France 4590, enroute New York punctured a tire during takeoff and 113 people died. A metallic piece broke off from another flight that had taken off minutes before on the same runway that lead to the puncture of the tire, a part of the exploding tire then hit the fuel tank causing an explosion. This was the only major incident that happened with the Concorde.
Off flight safety:
Supersonic jets need a lot of fuel, hence the journey of the flight was limited to transatlantic journeys and traveling directly over urban population. Having a supersonic boom over urban areas resulted in breaking of glass windows and very loud sounds. The altitude of the flight also had to be high which could result in damage to the Ozone layer due to the plane’s exhaust fumes.
This is a classic case of Technology not surviving because it doesn’t make money. Maybe in the near future we would have supersonic passenger planes that would rule out the above problems and still be profitable.