Break­ing the Sound Bar­rier

The last su­per­sonic flight took off 13 years ago and was moth­balled, un­til now


IN 1976, the first su­per­sonic flight from Lon­don to New York took place un­der the aus­pices of the Con­corde com­pany, which had com­mer­cialised the pro­gramme. How­ever, it never re­ally took off due to a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. You could get across the At­lantic rapidly but the flight was noisy and no one from Lon­don re­ally wanted to be in New York that much at the time. Also one ticket was quite ex­pen­sive.

Our in­creas­ingly globe-trot­ting lifestyle and the cur­rent pace of life sug­gests that there may be more de­mand to­day for a su­per­sonic ex­pe­ri­ence with the right setup and a com­pet­i­tive price. You could hop onto a plane in Lon­don at 10am, ar­rive in New York at 8am and be in your transat­lantic of­fices by 9am to get things mov­ing, and be off by four in the af­ter­noon to reach home by mid­night. That’s quite an im­pres­sive ar­range­ment. (See side­bar for an even more in­sane con­cept.)

The sonic boom, which is the vo­lu­mi­nous bang that’s heard when an ob­ject crosses the sound bar­rier is a big prob­lem that has to be erad­i­cated. One way is to fly higher, but that has its own set of prob­lems. In­stead of straight wing sys­tems, the Spike...

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