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Oh, Your Private Jet Is Just Subsonic? 311

zerogeewhiz writes "Found this article here at The Sydney Morning Herald . It seems that Bill and his mates need to move a bit quicker these days and for a cool US$80 million, you too can overtake the Concorde on a dash to Harrods for dinner. As described in the article, the main complaint about Concorde is that it can only fly supersonic over water and creates those nasty sonic booms that punch holes in buildings and shatter windows. They reckon they can get rid of these waves by making the plane longer. These are gonna be fast but hideous. 737-700s are suddenly passe as a corporate jet..."
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Oh, Your Private Jet Is Just Subsonic?

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  • Everything can be remotely administered, why, just SSH into,

    Ahh, nevermind.
  • by barzok ( 26681 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:50PM (#2251762)
    There's no mention of any customer at all. Are we taking potshots at MS for absolutely no reason now? There's no connection here at all.
    • That's a rethorical question, right? This is Slashdot, ofcourse they're taking potshots at MS for absolutely no reason.
    • by daviddennis ( 10926 ) <david@amazing.com> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:06PM (#2251848) Homepage
      I seem to remember Bill flew in Coach class until his well-known appearance made that a non-starter, so I don't think Bill's that great a candidate.

      Larry Ellison, on the other hand, will buy the first one available, the microsecond it comes up. And Warren Buffet will buy a few for his Executive Jet fleet.

      You can charter a Gulfstream V for $8,500 per flight hour, which means a transcontinental flight would cost about $ 38,000. Skyjet.com reports round trip charters on an IV at $60,000 for the same flight. Ownership is, of course, mind-bendingly expensive; a Gulfstream V is in the $45 million range, and the Citation X (fastest bizjet around, but less luxurious and with half the passenger capacity) is $18m. You also need a full-time pilot and copilot, together with very expensive maintenance, all of which amounts to an overhead of tens of thousands of dollars a month.

      After being squeezed in like a sausage in the USAIR tourist class cabin, I can very much see the appeal of having your own jet. I'm sure that if I was as rich as Bill or Larry, a jet would be one of the first things I'd get. Bear in mind that the Gulfstream has a top speed of Mach .80 and you can get up to Mac .93 on a Cessna Citation X. So it might not be worth the extra money to go supersonic unless you're doubling or tripling the speed of sound (as you do with the Concorde). The long and thin design also might not be as comfortable as the Gulfstream.

      The aforementioned Citation X is about 100 knots (or 25%) faster than a typical commercial flight, and you can arrive at a general aviation airport about 15 minutes before takeoff. Since general aviation airports are most likely a lot closer to you than commercial ones, you can save literally hours by just getting there in ten minutes and taking off almost immediately instead of taking an hour to get to the airport and taking off an hour later. This speed and flexibility is the jet's main advantage compared to, say, simply buying a first-class ticket on a scheduled airline.

      In other words, if your time is worth a lot, you probably want a jet. And if you can fill it to capacity, it's not that much more expensive than first-class airfare. A Gulfstream IV can fit 19 people; first-class airfare coast to coast is about $3,068 for a non-stop flight. So if you're paying $60,000 for your round trip flight, you're paying $3,157 per person instead of $ 3,068 for first class; not too shabby.

      (I spent quite a bit of time flying with a friend who owned a small propeller plane, so I can attest first-hand to the ease and convenience of general aviation airports. Sadly, I have yet to fly on a private jet).

      • There are a lot of cheaper aircraft that go slower but can still do better than the airlines for midrange hops. If you are flying on a King Air (twin turbo-prop) about 300 kts I think. You probably can do better than on an airliner for several reasons:

        1) It goes when you want to not when the airline wants it to.

        2) You can go to a lot of smaller GA airports that the airlines don't fly into. So instead of flying to a hub then renting a car and driving for 2 hrs you might be able to go direct.

        3) You can skip the hubs. There are over 5,000 airports in the USA. In a GA plane you can go to any of them. OK the jets can't get into many of the smaller ones. But if you need to get say Berlin NH (I think there is an airport there) or somewhere like that where there is no airline service it is a major win.

        Hell it can even be a major win in something like a Cessna 172 which flys at about 105kts.
        • You are correct; I found this to be the case in my friend's Mooney - you can beat commercial aviation in a 180knot plane if you're going on short hops up to, say, about a third of the way across the country.

          But the interior resembles an early 1980s Subaru - the same cramped cabin, the same lousy seats and the same flimsy feel. (If you push your finger on the skin of a Mooney, it will flex underneath).

          The King Air would be a lot more comfortable, but as you well know, there's something dead sexy about a jet. However, I should probably consider the Citation X over the Gulfstream V, even if Larry and Steve swear by the latter. It's a bit faster and should be far cheaper to run.

        • Forget economics, it's all about cool (and saving time).

          If you really want to be cool (er, save time), a jet helicopter is for you... :)

          I can't tell you how unbelievably cool it was to rip down the Charles in Digital's Bell Jet Ranger, and swoop up over Air Force One to land at Logan (Clinton fouling Boston traffic even more than usual is why we got the ride in the first place).

      • Sadly, I have yet to fly on a private jet

        I have and I can say without a doubt that being a billionaire would be pretty cool :-) I work for $LARGE_COMPANY which owns many aircraft, including 2 Lear jets for internal corporate use. We have a few flights that we run regularly just because we do it so much that it is cost effective compared to commercial flight. A typical trip would be to drive to our own corporate hanger, walk through to the jet, taxi and take off right on schedule, land and hop out at the jetway (not a terminal) and be driving off in a rental car within a few minutes. Oh, and the leather seating in the Lear is nice, too. After doing this a couple of times, I can say with some authority that the normal delayed, crowded, sardine can commercial flights well and truly suck.

        • I work for $LARGE_COMPANY which owns many aircraft

          Likewise. I haven't taken a trip on my company's Learjets yet, but have flown in their King Air a number of times. I've also flown commercial when their aircraft weren't available, and the differences are amazing.

          Commercial: Arrive at airport. Check in. Xray luggage. Wait half an hour if you time it right. Whoops, airplane is behind schedule. Wait another hour. Board. Strap yourself into flimsy uncomfortable seat with 80 other people. Fan yourself with magazine because it's too damn hot in there. Wait another half hour. Takeoff. Eventually, land at another airport, wait 3 more hours and repeat above procedure. Arrive at destination.

          Private: Arrive at airport. Board plane immediately. At worst, wait 5 minutes because you got there early. Hand baggage to pilots, climb aboard and get lost in the plush leather seating. Take shoes off, lean seat back and put your feet up on the seat in front of you. Temperature is perfect. If not, tell pilots to turn the AC on and get instant gratification. Hungry? Grab some peanuts, chips, doughnuts, or whatever. Thirsty? If you can think of it, they've probably got it, including hard alcohol. Enjoy the luxury and arrive at destination refreshed and ready to go.

          Nothing compares to flying in a nice, private aircraft. The trips I've taken were $600 commercial. It costs them ~$1500 to fly the King Air on that route including fuel & pilots. So if three people fly (the plane holds 9 plus pilot/copilot) the company saves money. Actually, if one person flies they save money, because it's a 1 hour (one way) direct trip. Commercial takes 4+ hours (one way) and time is money.
      • There is more economic benifit to corprate jets than just getting your employees from point A to point B faster. A number of companies use them as sales tools. I once had a supplier fly me and 4 other engineers and technicians from the local airport near our plant to their production facility in a very nice corprate jet so that we could do a supplier audit* on them. They were trying to get a very valuable supplier contract with us, but it hinged on whether we thought they could consistently provide us the quality we required. We approved the company's product and process, and so they got the contract.

        In this case it had very little** to do with the aircraft; we were impressed with their Quality Assurance system at the plant. BUT, if the team sent to audit the plant had consisted of a bunch of muddle-headed artsie craftsies with MBAs then I could easily see them being swayed by the possibility of more such rides, and the free steak dinners, and the liquor, and... I have got to schedule more supplier reviews.

        Anyway, properly used a corprate jet can be a great tool for the sales staff in addition to transporting a companies own people. Winning one big sales account for this company could easily pay the annual maintenance and salaries to support that plane (yes, I know how expensive that is).

        * A little word of advice to younger engineers; never trust a supplier's ISO, QS, or other certification. Remember how much stuff the auditor missed on your audit? They did the same thing for your suppliers. If quality is important then check them yourself.

        ** It did let us take the trip sooner than if we had driven or scheduled commerical flights; so they wound up getting the contract sooner than they otherwise would have been able to. But that comes back to just getting from Point A to B. Plus we were in a better mood at their plant than if we had taken conventional travel and could spend more time there. That allowed us to do a more thorough audit than we probably otherwise would have, but since these guys had a 1st rate facility that helped them more than it hurt them.
        • I strongly suspect the improved mood helps more than the possibility of a stronger audit hurts.

          I know I'd be ready to savage a company if I got there through a standard full economy-class flight. Just as a way to prevent that from happening, the corporate jet probably paid for itself.

      • The long and thin design also might not be as comfortable as the Gulfstream.

        Er. The Gulfstream V is a Gulfstream IV with an extended fuselage. The Gulfstream IV is somewhat narrow, and they haven't widened it because they want to keep the larger windows. (And when I say larger, I mean larger; the windows are ovular and about 2 to 2.5 times the size of the normal ones you see on commercial jets.)

        The larger windows are part of an old series of planes with the FAA used to allow but have since grandfathered. You can't use the larger windows on new planes unless if you're using the exact same fuselage as was previously allowed; extending the fuselage was allowed, however, hence the Gulfstream V, which has a larger capacity and I think also more powerful engines, but is just as narrow as a Gulfstream IV. But what a view out of those windows; when you're cruising at 6-12 thousand feet over the coastline of the pacific, it's absolutely gorgeous.

        There's other advantages to owning a private jet, in addition to the time advantage, but money isn't one of them. Not having to deal with all the other passengers is a big one. Having your own private movie system, complete with DVD players and VCRs and screens for each seat, is a nice perk. Being able to see flight information, like how high you are, what your ground speed is, and ETA is especially nice. On-board private fax, modem, ethernet, A/C outlets, etc. etc. But like I said, you won't be saving money by having your own jet, no matter how much you travel. Feul, landing fees, storage, maintenance, crew, all add up. Not to mention the millions that you pay just to own the jet. But fortunately, most private jet manufacturers artificially inflate the price over the years, to create inflation. With light to moderate use you'll get most of the cost of the jet back when you sell it, assuming you've paid for regular maintenance, of course.

        Most private vehicles tend to be bad investments unless if you're using them to sell rides (e.g. busses, taxis, commercial airlines, trains, etc.). It's much more economical to go commercial than to buy a private jet, no matter how much or how little you use it (similarly, it's much more economical to ride the bus than to own a car). But the time savings and comfort level are phenomenal.

      • I think in sum total the reasons why the wealthy often own private jets are as follows:

        1. Much higher flexibility in terms of travel schedules. By no longer being tied down to airline schedules they can go anywhere in the world often at a few hour's notice. With the arrival of the long-range Gulfstream V and Bombardier Global Express business jets, most of the world is easily within one fuel stop of anywhere in the continental USA. For example, if Apple CEO Steve Jobs needs to be in Singapore on business, he could fly his private Gulfstream V there from its likely home airport (San Jose International Airport) with only one fuel stop in Japan.

        2. Private jets offer security and privacy not possible with commercial flights. Many famous Hollywood celebrities now fly private jets to avoid the security headaches to moving them through commercial airport terminals. Besides, many Hollywood celebrities have their own private jets, too. Think about it: would you want to subject a star like Michael Jackson to the public spaces of airport terminals and all the security headaches that implies?
      • Larry Ellison, on the other hand, will buy the first one available, the microsecond it comes up.

        And then sue San Jose Airport to force them to let him land or take off at any time of the day or night he damn well pleases.

        You missed one significant part of the finances of private jet ownership, hiring it out. Very few corporate jet owners make enough use of the thing to justify the cost and hassle. If you think waiting in an airport is bad then try buying a plane - hint maintenance, insurance, employing 2 pilots etc.

        The reason it makes sense is that you can lease your private plane to a 'management company' that handles all the tedious stuff for you and in addition leases the plane out to other people when you are not using it. If you only use the plane occasionally it can be a lucrative source of income.

      • The aforementioned Citation X is about 100 knots (or 25%) faster than a typical commercial flight, and you can arrive at a general aviation airport about 15 minutes before takeoff.

        So you can keep taking off and landing and move further and further back into the past? Now thats a neat plane, guess it doesn't matter how fast it actually moves through the air if its got a flux capacitor fitted.
    • Calm down dude, first of all, suggesting that someone may buy a private jet is hardly a potshot. Would you be offended if I said that you might be interested in a private jet?
      Secondly, I think the main reference was just made because Bill is one of the few people who could afford an $80,000,000 jet. In fact anytime ANYBODY wants to make a reference to being wealthy they use Bill Gates. "$100 a head?! What am I.. Bill Gates!", etc. etc. etc.
      Maybe the problem is you see everything as an insult towards Microsoft when it really isn't.

    • Wasn't Bill Gates the richest man in the US for a good long while?

      What BETTER person would a comment about frivolous spending by the rich be targeted at, than the richest one?

      (Omitting, of course, that one rarely becomes rich by spending frivolously, but rather by hoarding and spending only where there's a return on investment)
    • "Are we taking potshots at MS for absolutely no reason now?"

      I think the point is that if you were to make a list of people who could afford to plop down $80 million for a plane without batting an eyelash, and then were to sort the list by order of name recognition, Bill Gates would be at the top of that list. BFD -- Slashdot took a horrible, horrible potshot at Bill by implying that he's rich. Next they'll start accusing Stephen Hawking of understanding physics.

    • I think the poster was just referring to the billionaire's club, of which Bill is probably the most notable member.
  • by Rura Penthe ( 154319 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:55PM (#2251781)
    I'm somewhat confused on this count. Would extending the length of a plane actually prevent a sonic boom? According to Britannica : "If the aircraft is especially long, double sonic booms might be detected, one emanating from the leading edge of the plane and one from the trailing edge."

    Has new technology been developed with regards to this?
    • Read the article, the story poster got it wrong, they're elongating the front and the eng of the plane, ie stretching them out so the angle isn't so great, not making the plane longer. They're not actually trying to say they can prevent sonic boom, afaik that's not possible (hey prove me wrong), they just want to controll it a bit so it's not so damaging to ears / buildings / windows / fine crystal wine glasses
    • by costas ( 38724 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:28PM (#2251959) Homepage
      Short lesson on high-speed aerodynamics follows:

      * The "intensity" (read: energy) of a boom is proportional (roughly) to the speed of the aircraft and the angle of attack of the wing or fuselage.
      * To lower the energy wasted in a sonic boom, you can either go slower (neah...) or lower the angle of attack. For a wing, this is kinda easy: either sweep it back (notice a how much further back a fighter's wings are than an airliner's?) or make it thinner (so that the cross-sectional angle of attack, so to speak, is less).
      * For a fuselage it gets trickier: a fighter need only fit one person, and you can extend the nose long enough to lower the leading angle of attack. And you don't care about traling shocks or really shocks at all, because you're in a fighter. You're supposed to terrify people.
      * But for a commercial jet, you will have to take care of both ends of the fuselage, and the only way is to make them longer, and have them taper out smoother. Look at the Concorde's absurdly long nose (so long, it has to be pivoted so that the pilots can see the runway at take-offs and landings) and its thin tail. Now, you know why they're there.

      Supersonic business jets have always been possible. However, new, more efficient engines and cheaper high performance materials are only now making them affordable (well, relatively at least :-)...
    • There is actually a way to soften the sonic boom by lenghtnening the plane.

      What makes a sharp sonic boom is the dissipation of a lot of energy over a small distance. You can't do much to lower the energy of a plane's shockwave when it reaches Mach 1, but you can expand the area over which that energy will be concentrated. This is done by lenghtening the cone-shaped high-pressure shockwave that surrounds the plane.

      This way, the shockwave's pressure gradient is spread over a longer surface (roughly a cone starting from the tip of the plane), and thus, with the same pressure difference over a bigger distance, the gradient is lower.

      The sonic boom's enery is the same, but since it's spread over a longer distance and hence a longer time, it gives less instantaneous power. So you have a flattened pulse that is theoretically muffled, instead of a sharp spike. (If you want to visualize the concept, burn a candle, then explode a hand grenade. See, the total energy was roughly the same, but the grenade produced it in a sharp spike.)

      The resulting experimental plane looks like the old supersonic fighters of the 60's, with a cone tip that looks way too long for modern standards.

      There was an article about this in Aviation Week but their web site is subscribers only.

      -- SysKoll
  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:55PM (#2251782) Homepage
    Have you seen a photograph of a Concorde cockpit? It looks like something straight out of a 707, it's ancient. There's not an LCD, CRT, or even an LED to be seen. The typical "flight computer" is usually the pilot's own handheld PDA, ditto for GPS. If I were going to pay $big for private use of a Concorde, it by gosh better have some real avionics [linuxdevices.com].

    Even the B-52H [aol.com] has a nice modernized cockpit with screens galore. If that old clunker can be up to date, there's no reason why a Concorde can't.
    • by SirWhoopass ( 108232 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:03PM (#2251836)
      Aviation is one of those areas where, if it ain't broke, don't fix it [insert Concorde crash joke here]. People's lives are at stake with the equipment in an aircraft, so you don't want to upgrade simply to make everything look cool.
      • People's lives are at stake with the equipment in an aircraft, so you don't want to upgrade simply to make everything look cool.

        But you still want to upgrade. Reducing pilot stress is one main factor in improving safety and those cockpit's from the 60's and 70's suck. You should see the cockpit of the infamous Comet, pity I don't have a link... Modern avionics are just as reliable as old dials, but pilots don't like the feel of not having control. I used to fly airplanes (ok, Piper Cherokees) and if I could have a dial showing me tire temperature or rudder angle I'd surely want one, yet usefulness would be highly questionable.

        The Concorde is a weird beast, and most things about that airplane are are different. Let me give you two examples:

        Cruise flight in a modern airliner is boring. You just supervise a few systems and sip your coffee (or actually sleep, as many pilots acknowledge. Some other things they won't acknowledge...). Not in a Concorde. That airplane burns lots of fuel considering its size, which means weight and CG change considerably during a trip. The flight engineer has to monitor the fuel in the many tanks and transfer it from here to there to maintain the CG where it's supposed to be, which also depends on how the plane is loaded in each trip. Lots of calculations, lots of monitoring. Also, the lighter the airplane, the highest it will fly at optimum fuel consumption. In normal jet aviation you're given a flight level and during the trip you are tipically allowed to switch to a higher level two or three times. The Concorde flies high, above 40.000 ft, where airspace is not controlled, so the pilot can gradually increase altitude during the trip. Actually one *has* to, if consumption is to be kept to the minimum. These are two tasks that should be handled by computers in my opinion, drawing attention from the crew only if something goes out of pre-established parameters.

        • The Concorde flies high, above 40.000 ft, where airspace is not controlled, so the pilot can gradually increase altitude during the trip.

          Almost. Class A airspace extends from 18,000 feet to 60,000 feet (Actually, 18,000 feet to FL600, but I digress). Class E airspace overlies Class A, extending from FL600 upward, presumably indefinitely (I have never heard of an official top to that Class E). Class E is also controlled airspace for those aircraft on an IFR flight plan.

          Concorde flies in Class A airspace above FL400, so it is controlled. They do climb during cruise, though--instead of a specific altitude, they are cleared to cruise at a "block altitude," an altitude range with a lower and upper limit. Such a clearance might read "maintain between FL390 and 550," which would indicate that the aircraft may be operated between FL390 (approximately 39,000 feet) and FL550 (approx. 55,000').

          Incidentally, I mentioned that Class E is only controlled to IFR aircraft; if you are VFR, Class E is uncontrolled (for all practical purposes). Entry into Class A requires that you be on an IFR flight plan, so to climb to the overlying Class E, you would have to be on an IFR flight plan. You can cancel your IFR clearance after leaving Class A, but it would be impractical, and airliners are required to fly IFR at all times anyway, so Concorde would never be uncontrolled, even if it were in Class E airspace.

    • ...you know the rest. Besides, pilots are like any other user. They get used to a certain type of display and moan like hell if it's changed.
    • It's no different to any other plane of it's era, compare it with say a 747-100. No airline in the world can afford to replace the entire cockpit and get it certified as flight ready. The miltary can afford the costs of major refits, so that's why the very expensive refit of the B52's included a new cockpit.
    • The B-52H [bombnav.org] [bombnav.org] does have a cool looking CRT in it, but we are NOT talking glass cockpit here. All of the instruments are conventional dials (and, with 8 engines, that's a lot of dials). The CRTs are merely used to see outside.

      Of course, seeing outside the aircraft is pretty important, too. Especially when you consider that, when these aircraft take off in a nuclear scenario, all the cockpit windows are covered with heavy (and opaque) thermal curtains. The only way the crew can see out is by looking at the CRTs.

      For those who might be curious, the B-52H has two cameras mounted just below the nose: an infrared camera, and a visible-light camera. The view from those cameras is displayed on the cockpit CRTs, along with radar-derived terrain-avoidance data. Very handy for skimming the ground at night over hostile territory, with intermittent thermonuclear detonations occuring in the middle distance ...

      Now, for a truly cool-looking glass cockpit, check out the B2 [bombnav.org]. Yours for only $1,999,999,999.95 [Prices are MSRP including delivery, plus any options. Your final price may vary, contact your dealer.]
  • by Macaw2000 ( 103146 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:55PM (#2251783)
    Article = cool technology + attack on Bill Gates + class envy + conspiracy + neo-liberalism.
  • by Nick Number ( 447026 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:56PM (#2251787) Homepage Journal

    for a cool US$80 million, you too can overtake the Concorde on a dash to Harrods for dinner

    Er, for that kind of money you might as well pick up a used F-14 Tomcat. It may not have a cushy interior and cleverly-shaped bourbon dispensers, but show me another corporate transport that mounts Phoenix missiles. You'll be envied (and feared) by all your rivals chugging around in those wimpy Learjets.

    • Well it probably wouldn't do what you want. Most fighters can't stay supersonic for a long time. For one thing they don't have the fuel. For another the engines were not designed to do it.

      They just refuel in the air.
      • Indeed - I have read that limited range is a significant commercial problem for Concorde.

        When it was designed in the 1960s, New York to London was big business, and was the kind of range you could make money with. Now it's L.A. to Hong Kong, far beyond Concorde's reach unless you refuel. Which kills the speed advantage.

        I've heard Concordes take off from Heathrow, and they are indeed loud. They have that turbojet shriek that you only hear from military jets nowadays.

        I still want to ride on one.

        • OH the LHR-JFK (and LGW-EWK) runs are still big. BA alone does about 10 flights a day each way. The smallest (JFK-LGW) on a 767. Add all the other airlines going New York to London and you will find that you probably have 25 or so large airliners going each way each day.
    • Actually, I was looking at the feasibility of picking up a surplus C-141, rewinging and re-engining it, redoing the avionics, then fitting a nice passenger cabin inside. You could get the whole mess for about what a G-V would cost, and those don't come with a two-car, drive in garage, or air-to-air refueling capability (if you can get someone to lug the gas up there for you...). On a more practical front, it makes for a much more convenient people + equipment toter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:57PM (#2251798)
    The original Telegraph article [telegraph.co.uk] is much longer and talks about the economics of production, and other developments in the fast-plane industry.
  • Newscientist Article (Score:2, Informative)

    by null-loop ( 111543 )
    There's a very cool article over at newscientist.com about this (http://archive.newscientist.com/archive.jsp?id=23 044700 free reg required), I read the print version of it. They've got a number of technologies they want to bring to supersonic travel, lengthening the plane being just one of them.

  • but have you ever seen one? Check out this image [nasa.gov] I found a little while back.
    (http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap010221.html for the concerned web surfer)

    When I read stuff like this, I can't help but wonder how long it's going to be before we'll all travel at super-sonic speeds for our presonal excursions, not just the ultra-rich.
  • Bill? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:01PM (#2251823) Journal
    Bill and his mates..Huh? There's no Bill in the article. If this is a reference to Bill Gates, it has to be the most contrived jab at Microsoft in the history of this site. (And that's saying something -- remember "Hotmail About To Collapse Under Load" or the whining about X-Box bundling recently?)

    Geez, Larry Ellison flies a MiG! And Gates flew in coach, sleeping with a blanket over his head, until the mid 90's, IIRC.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:01PM (#2251824)
    ... I bet that you could put together a teleconferencing system with close to IMAX quality. It would use a lot less fuel, too.

    A dedicated 100-Mb fiber link should be sufficient. Imagine hardball business negotiations in 9-channel Dolby surround sound.

  • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:02PM (#2251830) Homepage
    Some of the my most memorable journeys have been long train trips. So what if it takes you three days to travel coast to coast? You get to relax, get up, walk around, meet some of your fellow travellers...it's great fun and a hell of a lot more civilized than being strapped into a supersonic missile like so many Aztec sacrifices...

    Besides, you know how much we get pissed-off when some Yuppie asshole's cell-phone starts ringing when we are trying to enjoy a nice restaurant or theatre performance? "Look at me! I'm so fucking important that I need to disturb everyone around me!" Well that's just going to get a whole lot worse. "Look at me! I'm so fucking important that I need to smash out everyone's windows as I race off to yet another "important" meeting!"

    Anyone know where I can get a Patriot missile battery cheap?
    • If I have a week of vacation, I'm not going to spend 6 of those days traveling. And have you checked train prices? Just as expensive as flying, if not moreso. Can't see it.

      Although I've always wanted to ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Or the Orient Express. And from what I understand, if you're sight-seeing in Europe, a Eurail pass is hard to beat.

    • Some of the my most memorable journeys have been long train trips.
      Besides, you know how much we get pissed-off when some Yuppie asshole's cell-phone starts ringing when we are trying to enjoy a nice restaurant or theatre performance?

      I dunno, but whenever I take Amtrak (which is actually quite frequently -- I go between NY and MA a couple times each semester), there are always a ton of people making and recieving calls on the train. And it really pisses me off when the person sitting behind me starts talking really loudly into eir cellphone. And the conversations are all the same: "Hello... I'm on the train... We're currently in [wherever] and we should be [somewhere else] in about n minutes. Can you come pick me up?" The same damn phonecall (made by a different person) every few minutes. And now Amtrak is starting to advertise that the fact you can use your phone is an advantage of the train over the airplane. Grrr.

      But, from Manhattan to where my parents live in southern MA, it's actually quicker to take the train than fly... no getting to/from all these airports and waiting around, and I don't have to make reservations weeks in advance. Now, if all these "service improvements" they've been instituting recently actually improved service, I'd be happy...

  • Sloppy Reporting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hanway ( 28844 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:04PM (#2251838) Homepage
    Concorde is "the world's dirtiest and loudest aircraft?" That's pretty sloppy reporting. It's probably true for commercial airliners, but there are probably many military planes that are louder and belch more smoke. I'll bet that the B-52 is dirtier and the SR-71 is louder.
    • I'll bet that the B-52 is dirtier and the SR-71 is louder.

      Yes, but neither lands in residential areas quite as frequently.

      • Yes, but neither lands in residential areas quite as frequently.

        I might take that bet...

        I grew up in North Dakota - stop the "residential" snickering, I'm way ahead of you already - and you had B52's and B1's buzzing around all the time. Always fun to watch them fly over you as they touched down. I'm sure other cities with bases near by shared the same problem. The only place the Concord flew out of was Coastal cities, though at $5K a seat, I don't really know what areas they service.

    • SR-71 is no longer operational
  • by mr_death ( 106532 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:13PM (#2251875)
    The government takes a dim view of sonic booms over the US land mass.

    http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/cfrhtml_00/Ti tl e_14/14cfr91_00.html

    91.817 Civil aircraft sonic boom.

    (a) No person may operate a civil aircraft in the United States at a true flight Mach number greater than 1 except in compliance with conditions and limitations in an authorization to exceed Mach 1 issued to the operator under appendix B of this part.

    (b) In addition, no person may operate a civil aircraft for which the maximum operating limit speed MM0 exceeds a Mach number of 1, to or from an airport in the United States, unless --

    (1) Information available to the flight crew includes flight limitations that ensure that flights entering or leaving the United States will not cause a sonic boom to reach the surface within the United States; and

    (2) The operator complies with the flight limitations prescribed in paragraph (b)(1) of this section or complies with conditions and limitations in an authorization to exceed Mach 1 issued under appendix B of this part. (Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 2120-0005)
  • I could have anyone in the world kidnapped and brought to my secret Caribbean base while coffee colored lesbians peel me grapes and fan me.
  • Eye Candy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:14PM (#2251883)

    Take a look at a photo of a sonic boom [yahoo.com].

    And for the record, the Lameness filter sucks.

    • Re:Eye Candy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by David Ishee ( 6015 )
      This isn't necessarily a picture of a sonic boom. If the aircraft is traveling close to the speed of sound, the acceleration of the air over the wing and around the fuselage will start forming a shock wave (but you won't hear a sonic boom yet). If the atmospheric conditions are right, the rapid decrease in pressure behind the shock wave which causes the air temperature to drop will cause the moisture in the air to condense into fog.

      I've seen this happen to an F-18 at an air show on a high speed pass by the crowd and it was pretty cool. You saw the cloud of fog flash like a strobe light a couple of times, but it wasn't stable.
      • Re:Eye Candy (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fishstick ( 150821 )
        >This isn't necessarily a picture of a sonic boom

        You are probably technically correct, but in this case, the photographer took this picture at the exact instant the sonic boom happened:

        Through the viewfinder of his camera, Ensign John Gay could see the A/F18 drop from the sky as it headed toward the port side of the Aircraft Carrier Constellation at 1,000 feet. The pilot increases his speed to 750 mph, vapor flickering off the curved surfaces of the plane. At the precise moment of breaking the sound barrier, 200 yards form the carrier, a circular cloud formed arourd the Hornet. With the Pacific Ocean just 75 feet below the aircraft being rippled by the aircraft's pass, Gay hears the explosion of the sonic boom and snaped his camera shutter once. "I clicked the same time I heard the boom and I knew I had it." What he had was a technically meticulous depiction of the sound barrier being broken on July 7, 1999, somewhere on the Pacific between Hawaii and Japan. Sports Illustrated, Brills Content, and Life ran the photo.

        The photo recently took first prize in the science and technology division in the World press Photo 2000 contest, which drew more than 42,000 entries worldwide. Because Ensign Gay is a member of the military he was ineligible for the cash prize. "In the last few days, I've been getting calls from everywhere about it again. It's very humbling." Gay, 38, manages a crew of eight assigned to take intelligence photographs from the high-tech belly (TARPS POD) of an F-14 Tomcat. In July, Gay had been part of a Joint Task Force Exercise as the Constellation made its way to Japan.

        Gay used his personal Nikon 90 S, set his 80-300 mm zoom lens on 300 mm, his shutter speed at 1/1000 of a second and the aperture at F5.6. "I put it on full manual," Gay said. "I tell young photographers who are into automatic everything, you aren't going to get that shot on auto. The plane is too fast. The camera can't keep up."

        At sea level a plane had to exceed 741 mph to break the sound barrier.
        The change in pressure as the plane outruns all of the pressure and sound waves in front of it is heard on the ground as an explosion - the sonic
        boom. The pressure change condenses the water in the air as the jet passes these waves. Altitude,wind, speed, humidity, the shape and trajectory of the plane - all affect the breaking of the barrier. On July 7 everything was perfect. "You see vapor flicker around the plane. it gets bigger and bigger, then BOOM - it's instantaneous. One second the vapor cloud is there, the next it's gone."

  • "Engineers say the baby Concordes will herald a new supersonic age, something that seemed impossible when the Air France Concorde crashed outside Paris just over a year ago."

    Maybe it's just me, but I recall that the Concorde flew supersonically for years before one of them crashed, and the one that bit the dust was due to metal on the runway, not a major design flaw. When the first automobile crashed, did we mourn the end of the age of the car?
    • It wasn't even really the Concorde's problem either. A few years ago I went to an air show on the local base. All around, there were all these propoganda signs warning about the evils of FOD. I asked my Dad what FOD was, and he didn't know. Eventually, we discovered that it's military speak for Foreign Object Damage. The military is very sensitive to the fact that debris such as sticks, nuts and bolts, sheet metal, or seagulls can cause damage to engines. They do everything they can to prevent that from happening.

      The Concorde ran over a hunk of metalic debris on the runway which got thrown up by the wheels and punctured the engine. In other words, it got FODed. The "fix" for the Concorde involves wrapping critical components in Kevlar. They really ought to have had a FOD education campaign like the US military.

  • missed the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joss ( 1346 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:25PM (#2251948) Homepage
    Concorde can fly perfectly well across land, but Boeing successfully lobied US government to ban it from being used across continental USA.

    This came as a rude shock and completely fucked the economics of concorde which was explicitly designed for long-haul, eg LA-London flights. It's the main reason so few were built.

    Morons - what did they expect ? The US will always protect it's own corporations from competition if it can get away with it. This occurs at the expense of it's citizens, but nobody cares about that. Just like any other nation of course, but it's a lot harder to bully the US into accepting competition than smaller countries.

    • Re:missed the point (Score:2, Interesting)

      by RocketRay ( 13092 )
      Obviously, you've never been near a Concorde as it flies.

      I was in London at Kew Gardens in 1997, right beneath the "draining toilet bowl" pattern for Heathrow, and a Concorde was coming in. At 10,000 feet, the Concorde was louder than a 747 at 2,000. When the Concorde came in at 2,000, it was so loud you had to put your hands over your ears.

      Furthermore, the Concorde *can't* fly from London or Paris to Los Angeles. It burns as much fuel as a 747 just to get to New York, and it carries only 100 people. The plane was a money-loser when it was built, and everybody knew it. It was built purely for the prestige which, arguably, it has in abundance even though it crashed & burned last year.
  • Learn more (Score:3, Informative)

    by Blackjax ( 98754 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @01:28PM (#2251963)
    This article had an annoying lack of details. These stories have more information on why this is being explored now:

    aviationnow [aviationnow.com]
    savannahmorningnews [savannahmorningnews.com]
  • Way back when I was in High School and the Cold War ended, there were articles in Aviation Leak...err...Week and Popular Mechanics about how the NeXT Big thing was going to be corporate jets that were transonic.

    Rumor at the time was that Boeing and Sukhoi were working with Lear on a supersonic 40 seat corporate jet, and they had 50 confirmed orders.

    So this kind of thing is kind of old news.

    I'd expect Boeing to ship the Sonic-Crusier cheaper and more flexable than any other corporate type jet, even thought the article mentions Boeing. I'd see the Sonic-Cruiser being the replacement for the 737 and 727 in these circles.
    • Re:Boeing-Su (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dohcvtec ( 461026 )
      Reminds me of watching "Beyond 2000" in the late 80's when they had visions of supersonic flight being common by the mid-to-late 90's. It's been nothing but food for thought ever since the Concorde went into service.
  • Sure, I've been tempted by corporate jets in the past, but they were never quite right for me.
    Too slow or too big or too cramped or too something or the other.
    These new supersonic jets sound like just the ticket.

    Wonder how much I can get for my old Plymouth Laser in trade? It needs a new clutch, and the radio is, um, random, but it runs ok if you ignore the oil smake starting out.

    Hope they'll give me plenty, because I'll need to keep the monthly payments down.
  • First, about 10 years ago, I heard that Dassault was looking to build a supersonic bizjet. Then it was Suhkoi. Then it was Dassault and Suhkoi together. Now it's Dassault working with Gulfstream and Suhkoi working with Boeing.

    I'm not holding my breath for this to become a reality. But I sure hope my old flying instructor who flies Gulfstreams gets a job on one.
  • The only reason the concorde can't go supersonic over land is because of noise pollution, and has nothing to do with it's actual abilities. It can certainly go supersonic anywhere it feels like it, as long as the altitude is high enough.
  • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @03:22PM (#2252503) Journal
    Airplanes spend most of their power just pushing air out of the way - their drag rises as the cube of their airspeed. An alternative to trying to push faster through air is to build an evacuated tube between New York and Los Angeles. Put in a superconducting maglev train similar to what the Japanese have and let her rip. Since the tube's evacuated, you're not moving air out of the way so the majority of the fuel is used for acceleration and deceleration - the train coasts for most of the trip.

    The maglev train's inventors have posted a proposal for a mach 3 train [maglev2000.com] that would get you coast to coast in an hour and a half. Make the tube ultra straight and you can make the same trip in 45 minutes.

    A Swedish engineering firm recently built the world's longest tunnel through hard rock for less than $10 million/mile. If the trans-continental tube came in at around that cost, it'd run $22 Billion. The trains themselves are estimated to cost around $5 million per car - a lot cheaper, and faster, than a $80 Million Gulfstream V.

    • Interesting concept. First a correction and then a comments.

      Airplanes spend most of their power just pushing air out of the way - their drag rises as the cube of their airspeed.

      Drag rises as the SQAURE of the speed, not the CUBE. If memory serves me from a course I took in college:

      drag = 1/2 * rho * U^2 * S * Cd
      rho - density of air
      U - speed of the vehicle
      S - surface area
      Cd - coefficient of drag

      I'd be concerned about the construction of such a long, evacuated space (nature abhors a vacuum) as well as the ability to maintain it, protect it from damage (say from an earthquake or a leak - solid rock has fissures) and defend it from terrorists. I'm not saying it's impossible, but rather that there is more to it than it would appear on the surface (umm, well, that's not quite the right word, but you know what I mean! ;^)

    • The Big Dig in Boston is causing major problems and cost overruns, and that's just an unpressurized underground street system, for chrissakes! And you think we can manage to build a tunnel across the country? And keep it in a vacuum? Hah!

      Questions: What happens if a large rock is placed on the track by a terrorist group?

      • The Big Dig in Boston is causing major problems and cost overruns, and that's just an unpressurized underground street system, for chrissakes! And you think we can manage to build a tunnel across the country? And keep it in a vacuum? Hah!

        This is very true. However, the Big Dig also has the problem of being completely located in a highly populated area with many drivers who are agressive in the extreme. It's also disrupting almost every major artery, both raised and surface, in downtown Boston. And the roads that are still available to drive on are in horrible disrepair.

        A low-pressure tunnel from NYC to LA would be primarily built under areas that are not densely populated. Also, if you're just building a single, very straight tunnel, I would think that you could start at one end, drop a subterranean drill in, and work your way along underground, building support structures behind the drill as you go. Your problems there, of course, include: getting through all sorts of materials; clearing anything buried and in the way like cables, wells, etc.; getting permission from everyone; building neccessary above-ground support buildings and connecting them; and keeping the whole thing straight and on the appropriate curvature. No simple feat.

        Questions: What happens if a large rock is placed on the track by a terrorist group?

        The terrorist "what if" is a factor in just about any endeavor. In this case, yeah, if that happened and the train hit it there would definitely be massive problems including the destruction of the tunnel, probably the destruction of the train, and possibly the destruction of anything above the tunnel. However, I would think that there would be numerous systems to detect and prevent something like this.

        Of course you're going to have to have periodic airlocks for maintenance and safety. But those airlocks should be reasonably secured on the outside and wired up so that a thousand alarms go off if someone so much as opens the outside door. But let's say someone manages to get around this and get into an airlock without being detected.

        An airlock opening into the tunnel is probably going to cause a very slight, localized pressure change. More sensors and alarms hooked up to something like this. You might even design a slight difference in, as extra security. OK, so somehow you've managed to get around this as well.

        The inside of the tunnel would be lined with sensor packs, including cameras, IR detectors, and possibly laser nets. And the wiring and apparatus would be completely within the tunnel, such that you'd have to be inside, or at one end or the other, in order to screw with them. Humans would be watching these, as well as a dedicated computer system running custom image recognition software to detect unexpected changes. OK, somehow you got around this too.

        I'd also expect there would be some sort of "sweeper" apparatus, or roving scanners that would constantly patrol up and down the tunnel looking for anything out of the ordinary. You managed to get around this too? Congratulations. It probably would have been a lot easier to pick a convenient spot at surface level, drill down to just above the tunnel, and drop some explosive in there timed to go off when the train passes underneath. Wouldn't take much.

    • I could swear that a few years ago I read about some commercial jet flying across the vast nether <boringmidwest> regions of the United States when, for some fluke reason the plane began a power dive. IIRC, the plane broke the sound barrier!

      There was all kinds of consternation and investigation, etc., without much result that I can remember.

      I do sympathize with the pilot, though, after guiding those commercial jets in flights that are probably as exciting as watching paint dry!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Among the different classes of aircraft,
    private jets (including corporate) have one of
    the worst accident rates.
  • by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:28PM (#2252707) Homepage Journal
    MSAirforce One 2002
  • Since Harrods closes at 7pm, it'd have to be an early dinner... not mention that it's a department store. (Although according to their website, they do have 19 eating/drinking establishments inside nowadays, rather than just the worlds most expensive cafe)
  • I'd fly supersonic everywhere. What are they gonna do? Arrest me? I just blew 80M US on a jet, I can afford the fines and reparrations for damage. Maybe I can drop leaflets behind me saying, "For $ to fix your roof, call 1 (123) 555-1234".

    Take it as a joke.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak