Concorde, a marvel in aviation and a huge credit to human engineering. It was the plane that promised to transform air travel and when it was first introduced hopes were high. A trip from New York to London took 3.5hrs compared the 7hr slog today so why can’t we bring it back in 2020?
The Concorde was the second-fastest passenger jet in the world (behind the ill-fated TU-144) it was a marvel to many and a transportation method to few, nevertheless, in 1969 it was cited as the future of air travel. The thing is, it wasn’t. 2003 saw its last flight and no other passenger supersonic jet has flown since it’s almost like we went backwards, which in some respect we did. No other aircraft has been able to come close to the Concordes speed, not even close. Boeings 787-9 Dreamliner cruises at a slow old pace of Mach 0.85, Concorde cruised at Mach 2.02, it’s like comparing a snail to a car. But the speed machine wouldn’t work in 2020 and here’s why
Fuel consumption is a big issue in 2020, efficiency rules and with climate change, it’s now more than ever. Environmental activists would have a field day if Concorde started flying again. The similar-sized 787-9 burns on average per seat 2.49 L/100 km, Concorde burned a per seat of an average of 16.7 L/100 km. The difference is shocking, the 787-9 isn’t even the most fuel-efficient jet flying right now. The difference is also with the range and capabilities, the 787-9 can fly 14,800 km on a single tank of gas, enough to fly from the U.K to Australia, Concorde meanwhile could travel less than half of that distance, 7,250 km, not even enough to get you from London to the U.S West Coast, in terms of capabilities the 787-9 can fly across everything, land, water, oceans, my house, you name it, it can fly over it. Concorde meanwhile was restricted to ocean crossings and admittedly short ones such as the Atlantic. In 1964 the U.S government conducted tests over Oklahoma City to test the possibility of Boeing 2707 overland flights, residents were subjected to 8 sonic booms a day, the tests ended early as the sonic booms caused broken glass, cracked plaster and even a rising tide. The other factor is comfort and cost. Concorde seats were regular economy seats that cost a motza, it cost AUD$19,000 for a return trip between London and New York on Concorde with windows the size of your hands and noise that was “extremely loud”, compare that to a return trip between the two cities today on Virgin Atlantic. Lie-flat seats, a price of only AUD$5,000, large windows on a quiet jet that only takes a few hours longer, I think I’d take the latter option.
In conclusion, if Concorde were to come back in 2020 you would be flying on an earth-destroying, uncomfortable, medium-range, tiny window, extremely loud, supersonic jet that could only fly across oceans a few hours quicker. Until new technology comes that fixes all of Concorde’s problems such as Boom supersonic I think there is no place for a supersonic jet in modern society
British Airways Concorde in 2003 image credit