“Ar­rive Be­fore You Leave”

India Strategic - - ABC AVIATION - By Joseph Noronha

UPERSONIC FLIGHT was the pre­serve of mil­i­tary air­craft for many years. Then Con­corde set out to prove that air­lin­ers too could safely op­er­ate be­yond the sound bar­rier.

This sleek, beau­ti­ful and ul­ti­mately doomed air­craft (known sim­ply as “Con­corde” with­out an ar­ti­cle) was a tech­no­log­i­cal mar­vel born out of the An­glo-French Supersonic Air­craft agree­ment of Novem­ber 1962. Bri­tain and France (never the best of friends) re­sorted to this forced mar­riage to steal a march over the Soviet Union and the United States in de­sign­ing and de­vel­op­ing a supersonic trans­port (SST). Con­corde’s de­sign­ers of­ten had to grope in the dark be­cause the sci­ence of com­press­ibil­ity and its ef­fects on air­craft han­dling and struc­tures was not well known. When the pro­ject be­gan, avi­a­tion fuel was cheap and plentiful and fuel guz­zlers were ev­ery­where.

What of the com­pe­ti­tion? The world’s dom­i­nant tech­no­log­i­cal power, the US, spent over $1 bil­lion on its am­bi­tious Boe­ing B2707 SST, but the pro­ject had to be shelved be­fore a sin­gle plane was built. The Soviet Union fared slightly bet­ter. Its Tupolev Tu-144 first flew on De­cem­ber 31, 1968, be­com­ing the world’s first SST. On June 15, 1969, it be­came the first com­mer­cial air­craft to cross the sound bar­rier and ten days later the first to ex­ceed

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