Ten years ago, one of our most iconic planes made its final flight. For around three decades the supersonic roar of Concorde filled our skies. Thanks to its four giant engines and a top speed of Mach 2, New York was only three-and-a-half hours away from London. The plane oozed sophistication and exclusivity, and that wasn't limited to the champagne-sipping passengers. It’s said there are more US astronauts than Concorde pilots.
Concerns over high operating costs, limited ticket demand and safety led to the fleet being retired in 2003. And as BBC News reports, the chances of it returning to our skies are virtually zero.
But the idea of travelling faster than the speed of sound remains alluring, and as we have mentioned before, there are several projects trying to create the next generation of supersonic planes. As materials and computer simulations become more advanced, aerospace researchers are hoping they can overcome some of the issues that Concorde faced.
Hopefully they will be more successful than the designs of the past, such as the Russian Tupelov Tu-144 (nicknamed Concordeski). To see how advanced and ambitious these ideas have become, we’ve explored the more radical end of designs, and went behind the scenes at Nasa’s Dryden base – whose mission, appropriately enough, is to “fly what others only imagine”.
It’s not the fastest retired supersonic plane you'll find here. The US Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird spyplane reached speeds of Mach 3.3. Building a supersonic military plane and supersonic commercial plane are two completely different challenges – for one thing the Blackbird was purposely designed to leak fuel. And as our colleagues at BBC Culture say, Concorde was, in its way, one of a kind. But wherever ideas for future supersonic planes go, we will eagerly follow.
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