The concorde was the first ever supersonic commercial plane, making its debut in 1976 and travelling 2 times the speed of sound. It could take you from London to New York in less than 3 hours, whereas now it’s almost 8. So what happened to these impressive speeds? And will we ever experience it again?

Photo of the concorde National Air and Space Museum

When you put 2 different nations engineers together, 2 decades of time and 1.39 billion pounds into something, you get the Concorde, the fastest commercial airline ever. Achieving speeds of 2 times supersonic which is over 1100 km/h faster than the average speed of commercial planes. 

Though these flights didnt come cheap not only for the pocket but also the environment;a transatlantic flight required the aircraft to gulp jet fuel at the rate of one ton per seat, and the average round-trip price was $12,000. With its high operational costs and escalating maintenance expenses, compounded by environmental concerns about its sonic booms and fuel efficiency, led to its retirement in 2003. Additionally, the tragic 2000 crash further dented its viability.

But what happened to the technology, certainly we’ve advanced in the last 2 decades. Well the main problem is the high maintenance cost and price of fuels. Current supersonic engines use vastly more fuel than conventional engines. Air travel is already a major source of greenhouse gas emissions; reviving supersonic flight will deepen the problem. Adding to that fuel prices will keep increasing as they’re a non-renewable resource, and companies are trying to do the opposite and instead save fuel; as they lean to hybrids or even fully electric.

Although supersonic flight may not be lost, as developments in aircraft technology, materials, and aerodynamics. While also showing much increased interests from both private businesses and governmental organisations, such as Virgin Atlantic’s overture supersonic jet, there are hopes of seeing supersonic travel in the coming years. 

Photo of the Boom Overture 

Additionally there are currently efforts being made to address restrictions such as noise pollution, expensive running costs, and environmental issues. Supersonic travel may once again be a reality thanks to ongoing research into quieter engines, more efficiency, and environmentally friendly propulsion systems(such as electric propulsion). This would provide a balance between speed and environmental responsibility. Although there are still difficulties, the trend suggests that supersonic travel may someday have a revival.

Hemal Nayyar

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