Sunday, 9 August 2009

Concorde come back - will we ever see the return of supersonic passenger flight?

One thing that many frequent fliers often ponder is whether supersonic passenger flight, as exemplified by Concorde, will ever come back.

Concorde allowed people to travel from London to New York at twice the speed of sound, taking just over three hours. This meant less jet lag, and made it quite realistic for people to have weekends away across the Pond, if they happened to have the £5,000 airfare to spare.

Despite its expensive price tag, and some controversy over its sonic boom, Concorde put in over three decades of commercial flights. But then the crash of 2000, along with the high price tag, meant a decline in demand for Concorde flights. The last flight was from New York to Heathrow in 2003 with a hundred celebs on board, and crowds of onlookers at the airports.

With a conventional jet the journey across the Atlantic is at least twice as long, and there is simply nothing in the present day that compares with Concorde. So ever since the last commercial flight of Concorde, talks of a revival have never ceased, but this again raises the question of the sonic boom. The sound made as Concorde broke the sound barrier caused the United States to ban cross-continental flights of the airliner, although rumours abounded in Europe that this was sour grapes because they hadn’t invented the plane themselves. It seems that there is new technology afoot that may actually reduce the volume of the boom, but this apparently uses ten per cent more fuel, which is not going to go down well in these green conscious times.

Considering the problems that airlines are having at the moment to simply stay afloat, it doesn’t look like Concorde will be returning in a hurry. However it is on the cards that supersonic and speedy travel will inevitably make a comeback at some point in the future, but the challenge is to do this with a reasonable price tag, with fuel economy, and with a reduced level of noise.

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