Flying at the speed of light has been a dream for mankind since the first aircraft took flight, and the quickly evolving aviation industry appears to be making this dream a reality. But the most important question is “IS THIS POSSIBLE?” Yes, achieving the speed of light is not a novel concept. The aviation industry has done it before ” Tupolev Tu-144” the first supersonic passenger plane took its first flight. This article explores the history of the first supersonic passenger plane and the factors that contributed to its failure.
What is a Supersonic plane?
Supersonic aircraft is aircraft that can travel at speeds exceeding the speed of sound (Mach 1). The aircraft causes a loud explosion, a shock wave heard on the ground known as “sonic boom,” while travelling at such a high speed. Tupolev Tu-144 and the Concorde are the only supersonic passenger planes that have seen regular service to date.
History of Tupolev Tu-144
Tupolev Tu-144, the world’s first supersonic passenger plane, was designed by Andrey N. Tupolev and his son Alexey, an experienced Soviet aviation designer. It flew for the first time in December 1968, exceeded the speed of sound in June 1969, and was first publicly displayed in Moscow in May 1970.
The Tu-144 had a wingspan of 28.8 metres and a length of 65.7 metres (215.6 feet) in its production model (94.5 feet). Its normal cruising speed was up to Mach 2.2, more than twice the speed of sound. The Tu-144 conducted 102 commercial flights, of which only 55 carried passengers. The “double-delta” swept-back wings, the “moustache” foreplanes that pivoted out from the fuselage improve take-off and landing flight characteristics, and the nose section that could be “drooped” downward to improve the crew’s line of vision during take-off and landing were among its notable features.
History of Concorde
Under an Anglo-French pact, Concorde was conceived and constructed jointly by France and the British Aircraft Corporation. There were 22 planes manufactured, including six prototypes and developmental planes. The Concorde was only purchased and flown by Air France and British Airways. The aircraft was mostly utilised by wealthy passengers who could afford to pay a premium for the aircraft’s speed and luxurious service.
CONCORDE was considered the pinnacle of luxury travel, and it still holds the record for the fastest commercial aircraft crossing of the Atlantic. It was in operation from 1976 to 2003.
Events that caused the failure of Concorde
- Fuel costs: One of the key factors that hampered Concorde’s success was the high cost of fuel. Concorde consumes 6,771 gallons of fuel on a normal flight. The expense of fuel quickly outweighed the profit gained on the flight, making Concorde unprofitable to fly.
- Seating capacity: Concorde had a seating capacity of 92 to 128 people because of its aerodynamic structure which was not economical.
- Accident: In the year 2000, Concorde aircraft Air France 4590 ran on a piece of metal on the runway, causing a tyre to explode and the fuel tank to fire as it took off. The plane smashed into a building near the runway’s end, killing all 189 passengers and four hotel occupants.
- The 9/11 events in 2001 also had a significant impact on the number of people who chose to travel.
Businesses are so enthusiastic about the technological research of supersonic flying that many have filed for patents, giving them an advantage over their competitors. Airbus has filed a second patent for a plane that can fly from London to New York in under an hour. The patent includes a massive rocket engine that would allow the plane to travel at more than four times the speed of sound, allowing it to cross the Atlantic in less time than it takes to cross London by bus. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Airbus has also been granted a patent for a “ultra-rapid air vehicle” that could move over four times the speed of sound.
The Concorde created a splash when it first flew in 1976, but there are some very excellent reasons why this supersonic aircraft, with cruising speeds of over Mach 2 and a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet, isn’t flying today, despite businesses’ best efforts. The next generation of supersonic aircraft will be developed in two ways: exploiting the technology for private aeroplanes or attempting to build supersonic planes for larger groups.
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Authored by: Anamika Manhas