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Concorde to be Grounded 543

Posted by michael
from the you-couldn't-afford-it-anyway dept.
Goonie writes "This BBC article reports that Concorde flights are to come to an end in October. It may be a noisy and costly anachronism, but it's sad to see the end of perhaps the coolest commercial plane ever to fly." The financial wires carried a story the other day showing how much jet fuel demand has dropped recently.
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Concorde to be Grounded

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  • Shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mejh (564536) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:16AM (#5700333)
    Damn. Considering it came out in 1977, and nothing has come out to replace it yet.

    Shame.
    • Re:Shame (Score:3, Insightful)

      Actually, the Concorde's first test flight has been in 1969.
    • Tupolev (Score:4, Informative)

      by BrokenHalo (565198) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @11:37AM (#5702148)
      Anybody remember the Tupolev TU-144? Came out much the same sort of time (i.e. sometime in the early 14th century, when I was a kid :-) ) There weren't many commercial flights, but I remember thinking that given the similarities between the two aircraft, it was kind of sad that the Russians never really got it together.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:17AM (#5700335) Journal
    Unlike the 737 and 747, which have been continuously upgraded, it's essentially unchanged. Almost as outdated as the 707.
    • by Organic_Info (208739) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:25AM (#5700380)
      Yeah but it's a testament to good design that it has lasted this long and not been replaced (economic factors withstanding).

      Essentially the design has fullfilled its function for a loooooong time. Imagine the improvements that can be made.

      The BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk) has some good info.

      • by Kevin Stevens (227724) <kevstev.gmail@com> on Thursday April 10, 2003 @10:15AM (#5701320)
        While the electronics and computer equipment (IE navigation equipment) have made strides in the past 30 years, what is really needed to improve aircraft is materials. And there have not been any major revolutions in material engineering in the past 30 years. Its not like we have new superplastics we could build the bodies out of with twice the strength and half the weight for the same cost. The changes have been evolutionary. Same thing with engines. Sure improvements have been made, but its still an engine based on the same concepts engine's have been using for a long time. There is a reason they havent updated the design, and its not laziness- it hasnt been worth it. The Concorde is generally regarded as a failure in the airline industry that was only put into production for French national pride. It cant fly over land due to sonic boom's (which severely limits its market), and eats fuel like a hummer. Airline travel is prohibitively costly as it is, people arent willing en masse to shorten their trips and pay a premium for it. In short, it will be extremely unlikely for us to see supersonic flight being tried again for the near future.
      • These days it would be able to land slower since they would design a computer system to stabilise it at low speed. When Concorde flies at the landing speed of a normal jet it tends to be unstable and sways from side to side.
    • by Zocalo (252965) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:33AM (#5700425) Homepage
      And what's age of design got to do with anything? Take the the B52 bomber, that first flew in 1955, twenty years before Concorde, and is expected to remain in service for perhaps another thirty years. That's an active service life of nearly seventy years! Sometimes you just hit on a design that gets almost everything so right the cost of replacing it just doesn't justify the benefits that would be gained.
      • Not to mention the DC-3 which began service in the 30's! And is still a working aircraft all over the world. There is a design for the ages.
    • by sjvn (11568)
      The design may be old, but out-dated? Never! The Concorde is a stunning plane. Yes, the interior is small; yes, it eats a lot of fuel; but it is one of the great flying experiences. I love flying and have been up in everything from a restored Sopwith Camel to a DC-3 to an F-14 Tomcat. One of my greatest joys is still that I've had the pleasure in flying in the Concorde once. Like the DC-3, the Concorde will live forever in the heart of flyers. Alas, unlike the DC-3, which still flies on in tiny airlines aft
  • I live...... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by boogy nightmare (207669) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:19AM (#5700347) Homepage
    I live in Bristol in the UK which is considered the home of concorde at the airport called Filton.

    There is nothing better than watching concorde coming home on those special occasions when it is taken off normal flying patterns, they close the road and it flies right over your head, amazing.

    The only thing that comes close is being sat in my garden watching filton airport as the spitfire fly's around doing stunts that would put modern planes to shame..

    sigh..

    nostalgia-tastic

    • by joestar (225875) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:46AM (#5700505) Homepage
      It's a tight vision to consider the UK as being the home of the Concorde: Concorde has been created as a cooperating project between France and the UK. It's been a difficult achievement but it was also the biggest recent proof that English people and French people can actually understand each others and do something valuable together (they would certainly benefit from doing the same thing for building Europe in the political area...).

      But the first Concorde to fly was in Toulouse, France, with a French pilot which became famous for that. He took off the plane without any issue, did a loop, and grounded sooner than expected because of a heat problem.

      There are two interesting things to notice about Concorde, in addition to the fact that it certainly is the most beautiful plane ever built: 1) the cooling system is using the plane's fuel! 2) the onboard computers are really really old design, with tubes instead of transistors!

      A Concorde pilot also said that piloting a Concorde was exactly the same feeling as piloting a jet-fighter, that he could do exactly the same things with this plane, with hundreds passengers in the plane!

      I'm sad to hear that the Concorde will stop to fly, especially without a similar plane to replace it.

      There are great pictures of Concorde on:
      http://benoit.rajau.free.fr/concorde.html [rajau.free.fr]
    • Re:I live...... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by b1t r0t (216468)
      There is nothing better than watching concorde coming home on those special occasions when it is taken off normal flying patterns, they close the road and it flies right over your head, amazing.

      I came close. Once I got to see the Shuttle (on its 747 "tow truck") shortly after takeoff.

  • This mumbo jumbo was never going to fly from the beginning.(pardon the pun)
    Concorde (sunk-cost) fallacy [skepdic.com]

    Now, it's unfortunte that the Hollywood stars are going to have to go down a level and fly first-class like the rest of ... err like some people.
  • Long time to wait (Score:4, Informative)

    by Organic_Info (208739) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:20AM (#5700351)
    for a replacement. Developing Concord took two government backed companies 13 years (1963-1976?) to develop and put into service.

    The process nearly bankrupt both companies and were heavilly bailed out by their respective governments (UK and France). As such I can't see a replacement happening for a long long time. There will have to be some serious incentive (money) for a replacement to be comissioned - until then its a case of what we have will do...

    .
    • I posted a link to this in my previous post, but here it is again -

      Concorde(sunk-cost) fallacy [skepdic.com]

      "When one makes a hopeless investment, one sometimes reasons: I can't stop now, otherwise what I've invested so far will be lost. This is true, of course, but irrelevant to whether one should continue to invest in the project. Everything one has invested is lost regardless. ....

      This fallacy is also sometimes referred to as the Concorde fallacy, after the method of funding the supersonic transport jet jointly c
  • by gatesh8r (182908) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:20AM (#5700352)
    *hears himself speak a little later as the sound catches up to him*
  • Supersonic Relic (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Concorde has had its day, Most vital comms can be done over the web/videoconferencing negating the need for fast travel to and from the USA. Most people are interested in cheap flights nowadays, which means packing as many bums on seats as possible. Thats why the 747s of this world are still going and the 100 seat concorde is being scrapped.
    Still a shame tho. :(
    • Re:Supersonic Relic (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mccalli (323026) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:50AM (#5700542) Homepage
      Most vital comms can be done over the web/videoconferencing negating the need for fast travel to and from the USA.

      At a business level, possibly. Perhaps. Vaguely. However, on a personal level, absolutely not.

      I think modern air travel is rubbish. I think this primarily because it's so slow. I'd love to nip over to the States and back in a day (I live near London), but the seven or so hours just to get to New York are rather off-putting. I went to Singapore - took about twelve/thirteen hours. UK/Australia is a fairly common trip too - that takes a full day. Name another form of transport that hasn't got faster since the sixties?*

      I'd rather see faster planes than bigger planes. Airline companies, of course, would rather see bigger than faster. There's a fundemental gap between consumer and provider there, and it's unlikely to be bridged anytime soon.

      Cheers,
      Ian

      (*to those in the UK, Connex South Central doesn't count...)

  • It has done well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by T-Kir (597145) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:22AM (#5700362) Homepage

    Concorde has certainly had a long and illustrious history, especially considering the way it was looking as a complete failure when they were first built and marketed... until they upgraded it from general air travel to exclusive/expensive air travel.

    I remember a couple of years ago there were special offers advertised in the national papers where you could phone the BA hotlines and get tickets for about £10 !!! A lot of people didn't bother because they could believe it, whereas those who did became pleasantly surprised (until everyone else caught on, but they'd sold out by then).

    I wonder what the future will be for supersonic air travel, it seems most of the new Boeing/Airbus planes try and cram more people on them... funnily enough I flew to the US 4 months ago on one of Virgins new A600 Airbuses and they take off like a bloody rocket! They also had personal entertainment systems in each seat with video on demand, except in our compartment the media stations kept crashing (it was nice to see a Mandrake Linux reboot rather than an M$ bodge job) so they only worked for about an hour in the entire flight.

  • by operagost (62405) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:22AM (#5700365) Homepage Journal
    It's truly sad that the industry cannot come up with a better supersonic (or even near-Mach) commercial aircraft. Instead, they seem to be obsessed with cranking out either bigger, more luxurious craft, or sardine cans like the 757 where as many people are crammed in as possible without enough overhead space for your carry-on. To me, the best flight is the one I can get off as soon as possible. If I wanted to take my time and enjoy the trip, I'd take the train. Coupling these slow air barges with the ever lengthening delays and poor customer service is the reason why the big carriers are losing business to Southwest. Southwest has the best rates and they don't pretend to coddle you, or offer more comfortable seats and preferential treatment for outrageous prices.
    • No replacements will be forthcoming until energy is cheaper. Already, an average airliner flying at Mach 0.76 has air over the top of the wing going a relative Mach 1.2. This then slows in the form of a shockwave. Shockwaves absorb a great deal of energy.
      Even the best Airbus wings, with isentropic recompression still can't go more than Mach 0.8 without generating wing shocks too big to be uneconomic. Either government pays or we don't have them I suspect.
    • "Instead, they seem to be obsessed with cranking out either bigger, more luxurious craft"

      Because they cost less to develop, have a lager sales base and are in demand - all commercially justify "cranking out either bigger, more luxurious craft" than a supersonic craft.

      Tickets for BA Concord cost around £4000 (~$6000) each. This somewhat caps your potential market and in the current economic climate makes them somewhat redundant.

      The current fall in international flights is not going to convince the
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @09:22AM (#5700820)
      Actually, we now may be able to. One of the problems the concorde suffers from is that the only way, at the time, to go supersonic was to use jet engines that function basically like afterburners on military jets. Those are really noisy and really expensive in terms of fuel economy. Well the new US fighter jet, the F/A 22 is the first plane ever with engines that can go supersonic using turbofans. That engine technology applied to commercial jets could lead to more economical and less noisy SSTs.

      However, there is still the problem of the shockwave made by exceeding the sound barrier. IT requires a different design of aircraft and it still makes lots of noise. Even if a new SST crops up (not happening soon what with the decrease in air travel), it will probably be for over seas stuff only.
    • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @10:10AM (#5701260)
      I think there are these issues that hindered Concorde operations:

      1. The plane is very noisy due to its engine design.

      2. The plane only seats 100 passengers, so its fuel efficiency is very poor.

      3. The plane's range is barely enough for a transatlantic crossing from New York to Paris or London.

      However, today's aerospace technology is MUCH further advanced than the 1960's when the Concorde was being developed. During the late 1990's, NASA and Boeing did a major research study for a High-Speed Transport (HST). They concluded it was technically feasible using modern aerospace materials for a SST seating up to 300 passengers to fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo non-stop at Mach 2.0 yet meet today's strict rules for jet engine noise and exhaust emissions; the only reason why Boeing didn't turn it into a real airliner project was its US$18 billion cost in 1998 dollars.

      I believe that with the retirement of Concorde it could be the impetus for Boeing to revive HST and team up with EADS/Airbus Industrie and/or the Russian aerospace industry to build such a plane. Unlike Concorde, HST's much longer range, much higher passenger capacity and quieter engines means HST could fly many more transoceanic routes profitably yet be acceptable to environmental-conscious airports around the world. Imagine flying Los Angeles to Sydney or New York City to Johannesburg in half the time it takes now even with one fuel stop; imagine Paris to Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo to Sydney, or Johannesburg to Singapore non-stop in 40 to 50 percent less time than it takes now.

      I personally believe such a plane are already on the request lists for the major airlines after 2012.
  • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:23AM (#5700369) Journal
    I personally never liked the design of the concord, but found that it fills a very large, very important niche. Long distance flights can takes many many hours to complete, and supersonic flight is the only way to improve the situation. I certainly hope one of the major commerical airline manufactures come up with a replacement. I certainly think they could come up with something far better, and more economical, with 30 years advancement in technology.
    • 'They' were approached by boeing. The response was not interested. They want lighter more economical plains. But I repeat my redundancy.

      The concord actually fills a very small specialized niche. Relatively short trans-oceanic (powerful sonic booms piss people off) flights at a massively inflated price. Which appearently isn't even inflated enough to cover the bottom line.

      It's death was a long time comming. It's not like anyone was buying more of them as they march towards the end of their service lif
    • Re:Replacements? (Score:2, Informative)

      by rbbs (665028)
      with 30 years advancement in technology.

      You would expect there to be a revolutionary new plane out in the skies if you compared the development of the air airdustry with say that of electronics, but in reality, very little has changed.
      All aircraft look the same for a very good reason. Using equations and theorems which are all over 50 years old, there is in fact very little room for maneouvre in the design. The only real advancements have come in the realm of avionics and materials which have allowed plane
  • Unfortunately after the last concorde disaster I don't think people's confidence was quite restored in it. Coupled with the other problem that the general public have become wary of flying after 9/11 and the current Iraq situation, Concorde was bound to suffer as a consequence.
    • It's sad, isn't it? It wasn't even a problem with the Concorde that caused the crash, but rather a large lump of scrap metal that fell off the plane that took of just before. Concorde is a magnificent engineering achievement and shows what can be achived outside of pure commercial pressures. That's why government-funded advanced R&D has a place. Commercial R&D will only ever solve short- to meduim-term problems.
  • Check with any of the big airlines - for example, Continental just finished retiring its prop planes at Continental Express because they weren't fuel-efficient. Flying is all about lower costs these days, not glamour. After all, do you think unions at United and other airlines would even consider pay cuts otherwise?
  • by upstateguy (90019) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:26AM (#5700388)
    Concorde really was a status symbol for it's 30 years, just like sailing on the QE2 used to be also.

    But with a few accidents, a lack of cache and the fact that it has *always* been a money looser, it's an environmental mess, and BA and AirFrance not wanting to get dragged deeper into debt, the time to retire them has come.

    The fabulously wealthy who could easily plunk down the $15k per ticket are now buying or renting Gulfstreams. It's more a thing for tourists and the CEO's.

    Still, it's a beautiful plane. Still remember looking out at the AirFrance Concordes at JFK airport with the view of lower Manhattan behind them across the river (now when you see both like that, it's more poignant that exhilerating).

    On the lighter side, on the UK show "Absolutely Fabulous" when Edina is ticked off that there is only 1 class of service on Concorde, "I'll pay extra for that curtain!"
    • That's a bit of an oversimplification. My parents and number of people people I know take the Concorde a couple times a year between JFK and LHR for business trips. The price is around 10k-15k, but it's not so bad when you compare it to the prices that business travelers pay for the same trip (or even domestic trips) on standard jets [most people just aren't very aware of how much more business travelers typically have to pay]. There is a world of difference between flying on the Concorde (~3.5 hours and excellent service) and flying on a normal jet for easily 4 hours more with generally poor service. It makes a huge difference in the day of the traveler; it lets the traveler get a lot business done on the same day (a claim that can not be made for the alternative). The time savings are hard to place a value on, but I can tell you that for many very busy people is it very much worth it.

      Corporate and private jets do have some advantages over commercial jets for the same trips, but they generally cost much more per flight when you average it out and cash layouts are HUGE. You're mistaken to assume that anyone that can afford to pay for the Concorde can or would fly private/corporate jet. I'll confess that my parents are "wealthy" and are CEOs (though not the sort you're probably envisioning), but they would probably _never_ buy a jet (even in one of these newer arrangements) and their companies could never justify that sort of expenditure. Much the same goes for the other people I know. Gulfstreams are also no where near as fast for that sort of trip. It's really an apples and oranges comparison.

      Nonetheless, I won't deny that the Concorde can simply never sell to the mass market. It simply costs too much to operate and most people don't value their time THAT much that often. That still leaves a significant market though, even if it is not you and me. The reason why it's falling apart today is more the result of high overhead/risk and the downturn in the world market--that's not to say though that it can't work--just that it's not lucrative enough today to justify its continued service.
  • Just wait... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Derg (557233) <alex.nunley@gmail.com> on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:26AM (#5700391) Journal
    Just wait for the Airbus A380 [airbus.com]....Now in my opinion, that is a damn fine plane... Very spacious, and while not the fastest plane in the world, mightily efficient at what it does.

    Now yes, there maybe some coolness lost to the Concorde, but come on... The grand stairway alone makes it all up for me... Finally, a plane suitable for tall people (under 6'6" need not apply :P)

  • by snatchitup (466222) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:28AM (#5700394) Homepage Journal
    Most grand engineering projects go down the toilet because for an instant, a Wallstreet (or Fleet Street) banker listened to the euphoria of an ignorant engineer.

    "Nobody has super-sonic service. We'll make a mint!", opined one aeronautic engineer.

    The problem is, you need to make a mint 100 times over for the project to pay for itself.

    Some other examples: Irridium, American Mobile Satellite, Fed Ex by Satellite, Electric Cars, The Chunnel, The Big Dig (Boston),

    Some that will come to bare: Satellite Radio (XM and Serius).

    Some honorable mentions: The Space Shuttle.
    (It would've been much more cost effective and safer to just keep on sending up rocket modules).

    Sorry to be such a pessimist, but this is history.

    • Most grand engineering projects go down the toilet because for an instant, a Wallstreet (or Fleet Street) banker listened to the euphoria of an ignorant engineer.

      Good job, too. If they didn't, we wouldn't have the opportunity to develop all these cool toys. Who would grow up wanting to be an engineer otherwise?



    • Fortunately, as an engineer, I am able to appreciate the success of these projects. It must a sad life to have it so focused on the financial outcomes of such glorious feats.

      Anyway the French are making a healthy income from the Chunnel. Its just us Brits who can't make the thing cost effective.

      • I'm curious... How do the Brits lose money on the Chunnel while the French don't? I'd have figured what goes in at one end comes out at the other, and that everything would eventually have to return to the country of origin at some point... =)

        Do you by any chance have links? This sounds interesting.

        • by WebfishUK (249858) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @09:14AM (#5700743)


          I have no links with the channel tunnel project except that some of my tax money was used during its construction. The UK is currently having tremendous problems with its rail network. Whilst financially the two organisations are not linked, the poor performance of the previous privately owned rail network company Railtrack, has had knock on effects to the rail connections to and from the tunnel. The upshot is you can only travel direct from London and it takes as long to get from London to the tunnel as it does to go through the tunnel and get to Paris. The French on the otherhand have a far superior rail network and have much better integration. Fundamentally it appears to cost us more to manage our end.

          I bet Brunel is turning in his grave.

  • Well there goes my 11 O'clock daily reminder... Every day, at around 10:55, I can hear Concorde fly over me as it comes from Heathrow - only a 20 minute drive from here. It truely is a tremendous plane.

    I flew up to Edinburgh the other week, and just as I was boarding my place, Concorde was taking off. The ground literally shook.
  • by Aliks (530618) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:28AM (#5700397)
    Call me a troll if you will but . . . . .

    Concorde was anything but cool. It was a military jet thinly masquerading as a commercial airliner. If you have ever been anywhere close to the flightpath (Statement of Interest: I hear it blasting past every day)then you'll know that the noise pollution laws had to be specially bent to allow it to fly. Virtually every country banned in the world banned Concorde from their airspace for this reason.

    Concorde was an economic disaster, the development costs were landed squarely on the UK and French taxpayer, and operationally the damn thing never made a profit.

    It is no surprise that it was one of a kind. Noone else would be so silly as to develop one
    • Call me a troll if you will but . . . . .Concorde was anything but cool.

      Not a troll, but you have no soul. It is arguably the best looking aircraft.

      It was a military jet thinly masquerading as a commercial airliner.

      When there were already real supersonic bombers? I don't think so.

      operationally the damn thing never made a profit.

      Well that's odd because it says the opposite in this report just after the Paris accident:
      http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/highlights /crash/news db/816end.html

      "Although

    • by costas (38724)
      Well, except the Soviets (Tu-144 IIRC was a replica of the Concorde only with canards to solve the Take-off/Landing instability issue).

      As an aero engineer, I personally think the Concorde was cool, although I didn't have to live in its flight path: it has variable thickness wings, tail fuel tanks to change the center of gravity in flight (as the center of lift changes between subsonic and supersonic flight) and that famous drooping nose which solves yet another problem.

      The Boeing SST which was developed a
  • by maharg (182366) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:30AM (#5700405) Homepage Journal
    Damn. My place of work is right under the concorde flight path. When we hear concorde (and boy can we hear concorde!!) we know that the canteen is only open for another 15 minutes or so. It'll be sorely missed..
  • What's Next? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChuckDivine (221595) <charles.j.divine@gmail.com> on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:31AM (#5700418) Homepage

    The aerospace industry has been dominated by various governments for half a century. We have gone from numerous companies developing practical air travel down to Boeing and Airbus dominating a stagnant market. And, I am told, Boeing doesn't seem to be that healthy.

    What's the next thing to stop? Space travel? Possibly. NASA hasn't succeeded in developing a successor to the shuttle. Two attempts (NASP and X-33) have been failures. Young people are starting to avoid the industry -- it has a bad reputation. Dishonesty, abuse and failure seem to be its hallmarks today.

    The computer industry has done better. There's still room for innovation and development. Although, one wonders how long that will last with Microsoft dominance.

    Change is possible, though. Challenges to Microsoft (think Linux today) aren't going to go away. And these challengers are racking up real successes.

    Change is also possible in the more established aerospace industry as well. Three decades ago the U.S. military was in rough shape. People -- both inside and outside the military -- recognized that. Various reforms were implemented -- not the least ending the draft (conscription to Slashdot's readers outside the U.S.). Today the U.S. military, while far from perfect, is a much healthier institution.

  • Fuel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sploxx (622853)
    This may sound very trollish on slashdot, but...

    - Isn't flying in general, especially by a concorde extremly fuel-consuming?!

    - As I remember my early physics courses, friction is roughly proportional to the square of speed, isn't it? And then calculate the energy/kilometer traveled...

    - Isn't that another reason why flying should only be used for transcontinental travels?

  • Unreplaced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WebfishUK (249858) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:38AM (#5700457)


    The mothballing of Concorde represents an relatively unusual situation. In terms of flight time Concorde represents the most advanced way to travel. No aircraft built since, not even military, can sustain a mach 2 flight speed for over 3 hours. Yet this aircraft is to be decommissioned. Can anyone think of a parallel situation in the computing field?. Where an outdated technology is made redundant, yet whose performance has not be exceeded.

    • Re:Unreplaced (Score:3, Informative)

      by WebfishUK (249858)


      Several people have suggested that there are many aircraft (miltary and civilian) that rival the Concordes ability to fly at a sustained mach 2 for several hours. However, according to this site www.sr-71.org [sr-71.org] it is only Concorde and the SR-71 which can do this. I know there are aircraft faster, more efficient etc thats not the point. This is still beyond the performance of all civillian aircraft and virtual all military aircraft. Further, a sustained high speed must be a most desirable characteristic o
  • Commercial ScramJet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jez_f (605776) <jeremy@jeremyfrench.co.uk> on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:41AM (#5700482) Homepage
    Scramjets are in their early stages, but the potential is absolutely amazing. London to Sydney in less than five hours. Probably London to New York in less than one. Cheap LEO... *takes sedative to calm down* OK we are still 10-20 years off, but it is defiantly one to watch.
  • by privacyt (632473) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:44AM (#5700493)
    I flew on the Concorde in Oct '93 from Lonton to New York. It was a recently refurbished British Airways SSC and it was FANTASTIC.

    The main thing I noticed in flight was that the curvature of the earth was much more visible due to the much higher cruise altitude. Also, it was a very smooth flight. No turbulence whatsoever.

    Concorde is all first class essentially, and the fittings reflected this. Gray leather seats, 2 x 2 arrangement. The bulkhead was lower than in a conventional aircraft.

    I was on British Airways. There were 6 cabin crew for only 100 max passengers. The service in the air was impeccable (you get treated like royalty), and they even welcomed visitors to the cockpit. (Not sure if they'd do that today though, since everyone's paranoid about terrorism.)

    No movie inflight, but there were sterophonic headsets for music. Also, each passenger received a gift, (on this flight it was a 1994 date planner.) The seats are not at all wide; however. the armrests fold flat if there's no one next to you.

    But as I said, en flight, you can see the curvature of the Earth. I was amazed.

    Like skydiving, flying on the Concorde is something you don't have to do a second time...but once was fantastic.

    I know it's expensive and inefficient, but we're going to lose a real treasure when the Concorde stops flying.

    • I flew in 1993 from Jeddah to London - I had a standard BA ticket, but due to special offer for 400 pounds more I could fly 1-way on Concorde - needless to say I took it ! (I met someone of the plane who I knew - the regular BA flight had been overbooked and the first four people in the queue without seats got transferred from economy on a 767 to Concorde for nothing !)

      Takeoff was incredible - I was seated at the back and the noise was phenomenal, as was the feeling of being pushed back into your seat. Co
    • Also, each passenger received a gift, (on this flight it was a 1994 date planner.)

      On the reverse, it said "I spent £3,000 on a plane ticket and all I got was this lousy calendar".
      :-)
  • by YAN3D (552691) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:46AM (#5700512)
    Lancelot: Sweet Sweet concord, you will not have died in vain..


    Concorde: Im not quite dead sir

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:47AM (#5700522)
    I've been watching Foxnews and they told me how simple this world is :

    France = bad
    UK = good

    The concord is a french and british invention, so it's hard to decide if it's good or bad.

    Help !

    ATrollWhoNeedsHelp.

  • by mactom (515670) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:49AM (#5700538)
    Hmm, it may be sensible from a commercial point of view.

    But it is another dream lost.

    Why is it, that one flying dream after another is put into museums without a proper "flying dream" replacement. The next dream gone, will probably be the space shuttle.
    Next they will make private aviation a crime. And then all sensations of the actual "flying" feeling will be made unavailable. Oh yeah, I know: people dont look up to the sky anymore nowadays. They are afraid of it. Except, when the things in the sky are wearing Air Force markings of the country you are currently living in.
    Flying? They want to be transported, not flown.
    Concorde gone? Most dont care.
    Just continue your miserable lifes without dreams.
    Have you ever really gone flying?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2003 @08:51AM (#5700551)
    Regardless of whether anyone really knows of this term, the concept is basically understood by most who pay bills and buy consumer items. Flying has largely been a luxury for many as judged by their tolerance of prices and the current economy. It is shameful how high the price is in the year 2003 simply to fly 500 miles. If this was the 1930's then yes I could see the expense much like in any immature industry. Maturing of the industry should lower prices due to more efficient practices and technological innovations. Yet proportionally it has not really done so over the decades. If not for systems like Priceline.com then it would cost around 300 dollars to travel from one major airport on the East Coast to an area in the MidWest like DFW. This of course is if you schedule the flight months in advance. If for whatever reason you need to travel within 10 days or so then you should raise the range to 500 - 1000 dollars. This is all coach class, I've never bothered with first class... I don't see why you would pay more for eating with silverware, glasses and real plates. To each their own, I suppose.

    Next you factor in the time it takes to travel. It would seem that more and more the time to prepare and wait for the flight plus waiting on the plane, and the plane waiting on various taxyways you begin to approach or surpass the actual flight time with the exception of intercontinental flights (or coast to coast in the US). Now we see that some are recommending that you arrive at the airport 3 hours before a flight. Hmmm, I think I will drive. Take the bus? Well I suppose I could except those are notorious for being uncomfortable... but cheap rules that out so horray for bus travel. Some say, take the train. Haha, what a joke Amtrak is. They just can't seem to figure out that if you must pay the same or more than a flight but yet be more restricted on location and take MUCH longer then I am doubting many will view that as worthwhile. Trains have been in operation how long now?

    • Sorry, but that's a very American response. In Europe, it is cheaper to fly than to take trains, if you plan your journey sufficiently in advance.

      Flying is cheaper in a different sense in Asia as well. You see, on a per kilometre basis, it's cheaper to fly than to take, say, an auto-rickshaw in any Indian city. Has been like that for quite sometime now, really; if anything, SARS/911/Iraq has only added to the effect.

    • Well, it certiantly makes you wonder.

      Planning a little vacation for next month from Sacramento to Los Angeles, I came up with the following prices on the web for round trip:

      greyhound:$95

      Amtrak:$110

      Southwest:$95

      The obivous answer seems to be to fly. But I'm still shooting for the train. Why? Because if you take into account the drive to the airport (and having to find somebody pick you up at LAX--Amtrak takes you downtown where you can then jump on the subway), the time differences aren't that much d
  • I've seen the Concorde from the beach at Sandy Hook, NJ many times when I was a kid, but never up close. Mom won a trip once from NYC to London, out on the Concorde, back on the QE2. Boy, was that a trip.

    I've even been to and through Charles de Gaulle 10 times since September last year, but never got to see it. Knowing how amazing CDG's terminal 2F is, I've always wondered what the Concorde's concourse looks like! I guess nothing could be so severe that I need to get to a server in Paris within about 5 hou
  • by suhit (171059)
    This is so sad, it is the end of an era. One of the things I always wanted to do was to fly in the Concorde, however the one time that I called to enquire about tickets, I was informed that one round-trip ticket is a whopping $10,000. It was slightly outside my price range of $10.

    This is why I became a computer scientist, i.e. to make money quick and then...
  • The end is nigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kinnell (607819) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @09:02AM (#5700627)
    While the picture is bleak for commercial jet fuel demand, the losses for refiners are partially offset by the military's jet fuel consumption

    Is it just me, or does this sound like the collapse of civilisation?

  • by smallbites (150047) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @10:28AM (#5701463) Homepage
    Two years ago, I was bumped from a cancelled BA business class trip onto a Concorde flight from New York to London. This was just after the Paris crash, when I guess they had to bump people onto the Concorde just to have some warm bodies aboard.

    At first I couldn't believe my luck, and was phoning everyone I knew from the Concorde lounge ("Hey, guess where I am...?") but once on the plane, it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. It was almost empty, but it was still unbearably cramped. If it had been full, it would have felt claustrophobic in the extreme. By the time we were an hour into the trip, my wife and I were both agreeing that even if we were rolling in stupid cash, we'd never, ever fly it again. Give me first or business class any time. Hell, coach would have been more comfortable.

    And apart watching an LED display tick up to Mach 2, there is no particular experience of "speed"; you just feel like you're in a cramped, uncomfortable airplane, flying a little higher than normal.

    The food and tchotchkes were nice, though.
  • Claustrophobia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by panurge (573432) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @10:50AM (#5701703)
    After visiting the Concord(e) at Duxford Air Museum, I decided there was no way I could ever fly in the thing. Even on the ground, I got claustrophobia. I don't mind really small planes, even sailplanes, but somehow the idea of Mach 2 in a sardine can was just too much. And then one of the sardine cans crashed.

    Sadly, it isn't a superior technology. It's noisy, uneconomic and not very safe.

    And, actually, we are seeing something similar in other fields. For a long time we had no speed limits, then a mixture of road deaths, increasing traffic, and the 70s fuel crisis brought them in just about everywhere. Now we expect cars to be comfortable, safe, economical (even SUVs are actually more economical than midsize cars of 30 years ago) and to provide us with in-vehicle entertainment that we can hear above engine noise. Most of the journeys I do are now slower than they were 10 years ago, but actually less stressful. That's progress.

    Also, improved network technology has made many journeys less urgent. Twenty years ago it took me 3 days just to set up an international telephone call in Mexico. Ten years ago in Brazil I had to dial an international number an average of 200 times to get through. When Concord was designed, a 2 hour phone call from London to NY probably cost as much as a round air trip. Fax machines were a joke. And a portable telephone occupied the entire car trunk.
    Now, you could videoconference several people all day for less than the cost of a round trip between the UK and the US.

    So I'd say, Concord has actually been wiped out by progress. It's just that, as usual, progress came from a different direction from what people expected.

  • 30 years young (Score:4, Informative)

    by tmortn (630092) on Thursday April 10, 2003 @12:45PM (#5702769) Homepage
    Concorde still represents a pinnacle in civil aviation design in terms of speed.

    Let me repeat... Still a Pinnacle. A top acheivement. There are no incredible leaps in technology since its inception with which to top it. Only some incremetal improovements that might be made.

    More efficient engines could be produced but the cost of development versus the improovemnt would not be very economical.

    Flight control systems could be updated to modern electronics. might Eliminate a few hundred, perhaps even a few thousand pounds. But its about like the difference between a 30 year old power steering system and a new one. Not much end user difference. Perhaps easier to maintain... more likely the biggest change there would be in reducing easing the pilots workload with modern display systems and computerized system monitoring.

    The materials breakthroughs which made the design possible in the first place have only incrementally advanced. Mostly in the area of fabrication, not in terms of strength and thermal tollerences or most importantly in terms of cost which is the biggest issue.

    All in all you could could perhaps make a more efficient Concorde. But in terms of pure performance you couldn't really make a better Concorde.

    As I said, its design is still a Pinnacle of civil aviation design. Its also noteable in the military realm where supersonic designs have proliferated. Very few Military designs could keep up with a Concorde. The B-1 and Badger being the only two obvious designs currently in service that could keep up with it over the same range. There is also the XB-70 Valkarie mach 3 capable Bomber design that was never adopted which contributed a great deal of knowldege to Concordes Design, and of course the Retired A-12, and SR-71 Blackbird designs which still know no peer in the annals of aviation design.

    We have reffined the knowledge pioneered in the late 50's and 60's which make planes like the Concorde, SR-71/A-12, XB-70 and B-1 possible but we have not made any new breathroughs that allow us to go beyond them as yet. We also have never acheived any kind of economy of scale with regards to their production either. I don't belive combining the total production numebrs of all the above listed long range multiple Mach capable designs would reach half the number of Boeing 747's produced.

    As much economic sense retiring the Concorde makes... I still hate to see it go. Its one example of a big budget white elephant program I wouldn't mind having my tax dollars go towards. Of course living in the states I have never had my tax dollars go towards this particular white elephant. However, it is at least its something beautiful and tangible which theoretically anyone can get to have "hands on experience" with unlike so many other programs. Its hard to put a price tag on symbols and the Concorde has been a symbolic acheivment since its inception. Its retirment without a replacement is symbolic as well, one which represents something I don't much care to ponder.

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