“Lockheed officials, arguing that there is now no technical , operational or economic reason why a supersonic transport could not be developed in the US, suggest that its shape could be needed-pointed fore and aft, and that it have a swept back stabilizer near the front end of the fuselage,” it reads. “Passengers would sit forward of the delta wing.”
The steel plane would cost $160m to develop, it says, but the firm believed it could sell up to 200 of them at $9,240,000 each.
By the early 1960s, Concorde was given the go ahead. However, its high cost meant that the French Aerospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation had to combine forces. Their final design was revealed in March 1969, when the sleek-nosed aircraft climbed into the sky for the first time.
In the run up to this 27 minute maiden flight, supersonic transport was a recurring theme in popular culture. For example, the July 11, 1965 edition of the Sunday comic strip Our New Age, written by Athelstan Spilhaus, promised readers that supersonic commercial aircraft would become a reality by 1972. The comic strip, taking its cues from Concorde, explained that these high-speed vehicles will look “just like paper darts - just one triangular wing and a vertical tail - but built of titanium alloys to withstand the heat.”
The strip explained that while the 200 passenger supersonic planes of tomorrow would travel supersonically above (45,000 feet), they would have to take off and descend slowly in order to not disturb people on the ground, and even break windows in areas around the airport.
The last frame of the strip paints a glorious picture for the wide-eyed airline passenger of tomorrow: “cruising at altitudes over 70,000 feet, you may see aurora, a dark blue sky and the curvature of the earth - while going three times the speed of sound.”
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be; at least not for long. Concorde began commercial flights in 1976, becoming one of only two supersonic passenger planes to ever fly. But in perhaps the most blatant affront to the theory of exponential technological growth (at least that the market will sustain), ceased flights 27 years later following a deadly crash and ongoing concerns about safety and cost. No commercial supersonic transport has so far replaced it, despite various designs being put forward.
Although Concorde set many records, it did not come close to the mythical one hour crossing between New York and London. Its fastest crossing occurred on 7 February 1996 when Captain Leslie Scott flew from the US to the UK in two hours 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds. The Press Association reported that the Concorde “breezed into the record books - thanks to 175mph tail winds across the Atlantic.
“The aircraft averaged more than 1,250 miles an hour all the way from take-off to landing - travelling a mile every three seconds,” the report read.
Other craft have admittedly come closer. In 1974 two American Air Force officers flew their SR-71A “Blackbird” from New York to London in one hour 54 minutes 56.4 seconds. But, it seems that despite the promises of yesteryear, a one hour flight still remains firmly in the future.