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The Fastest Airplane.

-Pritam Sapkota (072BME 630)

Air travel is one of the most convenient forms of long distance travel. After the industrial revolution, people and goods mostly travelled using coal-powered railways, that too mostly domestic travels. The fuel-powered ships made it possible to cross the seven seas, but that too became much inconvenient as it took a significant amount of time and fuel for a single voyage. It was after wright brothers, when humans took into the skies. The commercial development of aircrafts brought upon convenience and speed into long distance travel. Today more than hundreds of thousands of airplanes take off on a daily basis.

Even with the convenience of air travel, commercial airplanes are quite slow compared to the possibility of speeds air travel can achieve. With airspeeds at an average of Mach 0.5 (half the speed of sound) during take-off and even less during the flight has had a significant affect upon the travel time. In fact, Singapore airlines offer a trip from Singapore to New York, roughly 9000 miles, clocks in at a 17-18-hour flight. The numbers may vary from airplanes to airplane and route to route, but the hectic lives of people in the modern day and age requires fast and convenient forms of travel.

In comes Concorde, the world’s fastest airline. This beautiful yet magnificent beast soared the skies during the 80s with speeds far surpassing Mach 1. The Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde is a British-French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner that was operated from 1976 until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h at cruise altitude), with seating for 92 to 128 passengers. First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years. It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially; the other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144, which operated in passenger service from 1977 to 1978.

 

(Wikipedia: Concorde).

The plane was so fast that it could cross the Atlantic in 3.5 hours, and it’s all thank to its unique design. After spending millions of dollars into supersonic R and D, a consequence of cold war competition and engineering, in came concord. At a time of no design software or computers, the Concorde was a consequence of Maths  and several trial and errors. It is significantly long, slender and a unique wingspan to compensate for the heat transfer at supersonic speeds. It’s Delta wing, a Greek letter shaped like a triangle was what made it stand out and made it possible for takeoff and landing. The next is the “Snoop droop”, a feature that lets the nose of the concord dip during landing. To minimize drag, it soared so high that one could see the earth curve!

The failure of the Concorde plane was the consequence of Air-France 4590 on July, 2000, when it crashed during take-off and killed 115 people. Another one was the September attacks on 2001 in the United States world trade Centre which depressed airline revenue. Another reason was its loud noise at supersonic speeds, making over land travel almost unbearable for the public. Being a luxury plane, the Concorde went into a drastic loss and eventually had to ground permanently, in 2003.

With newer technologies developing and taking innovation to a whole new level, the area of airline travel might also experience changes for the better. Maybe we can reduce the drawbacks of the SST (Supersonic Travel) and bring upon a safer, faster and cheaper means of air travel. With the insane growth and capability of the human mind, maybe we will witness a new form of travel within the century. But until, they perfect “ghost-effect” of Quantum physics, we have to make do with the commercial aircrafts we have today.

 

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