End of Commercial SuperSonic Flight

Wow, last flight of the Concord was today. Sad sight seeing it. I am not sure but I hope there is some replacement in the works but I am not sure. Did they decommision them because of their age or lack of market?
 
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Lack of passenger willing to pay to fly on it, not very good fuel economy and even if there were enough passengers to fill concorde it didn't have enough places to make it worth while.
In the future, planes will be 6 million seates with 1" of leg room and they will fly at sub-sonic speeds and have good fuel economy.
 
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I agree with lavalamp. Ultimately it comes down to what the bean-counters say in the finance section of airlines. Supersonic aircraft experience a disproportionate amount of drag for their speed, which was why many skeptics before the sound barrier was broken thought the speed of sound to be an 'unbreakable' barrier in science. Figures vary a bit, but one set is that the Concorde manages about 18 seat-miles per gallon while a 777 manages up to 100.

Then there's also the fact that, yes, you might have Concorde flying at Mach 2, but it can only seat 128 passengers maximum with a range of ~6100km. In contrast, the Boeing 777 has a high subsonic speed of Mach 0.84, seats up to 440 (usually about ~310) and a range of ~10,900km. So while the Boeing is slower, it carries that much more passengers.

Haven't been in one, but apparently for all its glamour the seating space is cramped. Why fly for an uncomfortable few hours when you can get royal treatment in the first class section of your regular Boeing or Airbus at a fraction of the price?
 
What about the skycar?

You may have heard of the skycar (or similar vehicles) on television or on Coast to Coast.
Paul Moller says that until the congress will approve of a "virtual highway" and comes to the point that they get sick of waiting in ground traffic, it might be a while before we're doing the Jetson thing.

I didn't hear a mention about the problems of windshears or birds but he said that riding in the skycar would be statistically much safer than driving a car due to the fact that people would not be controlling the vehicle (no worry of drunks, people talking on the phone, putting on makeup, changing the radio station).
He has backup after backup to make the thing safe in the event of a power loss or emergency landing (multiple engines, computers, even parachutes) but I still like the idea of manual override in the (extremely unlikely) event that a computer makes a mistake and it becomes necessary for you to dodge something in an instant.
Machines do a great service to mankind but unfortunately, the value of human life is not a factor in their processes.

So what might some solutions be to these scenarios? If the populations of major cities keep growing, sky transportation will become a necessity. It's just a matter of time, as Moller says.
 
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With all the flying-into-building terrorism concerns, I wonder if the nice skycar concept will ever take off...excuse the pun :wink:
 
Well, it's really no more a threat than someone driving in traffic with a bomb in their car.
The skycar is controlled by a computer (which is not always a good thing in my opinion), so there's no threat of someone going kamikaze with other cars while on the "skyway".
The biggest problem is getting a large company to buy Moller out (or something along those lines) and getting congress/FAA to create a virtual highway.
 
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Actually the threat is worse than a car bomb. An aircar can fly over concrete blast barriers, walls, etc. erected for the purpose of keeping such things out. It can also hit buildings above ground level. Shooting it down is a lot harder too.

As long as the car is mechanically sound, any electronic/software 'safety' guards can be bypassed/hacked, if the terrorists have enough time and skill.
 
According to Mr. Moller, they will have to hack several different computers to control the car.
The virtual highway is a little mysterious to me.
The car is designed for trips over 50 miles, not just for hopping over to the grocery store (guess we're supposed to use Dean Kamen's inventions for that, lol). So I'm wondering just exactly how this skyway is going to be mapped out.

Guess the air would be a bit cluttered if were were all going to a block party and taking off in our skycars at once. Obviously the skyways will have to route around airports and any space launches.
 
Almost forgot that he mentioned the down-side of the technology is that the FAA and skycops will be watching you and controlling your vehicle and will know everyone's identity that gets into a sky vehicle.
As far as where one can get permission to drive freely, that is not going to be easy because all coordinates are going to be preprogrammed and I don't know that they'll let anyone have actual control of the car (at least not without a special pilot license).

And one thing about terrorists is that most of them are anti-technology yet they will hypocritically use it to their advantage when it comes to terrorist acts.
Still, most terrorists generally do not keep up with the latest technologies because they are opposed to that lifestyle and that's what will actually make things safer.
A group of people wanting to hang on to the "old ways" are very opposed to technological advances because things like mass communication defeat their cause (when you can't isolate someone from the rest of the world, it's tough to feed them a load of bull$#|+).
 
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But some things to remember are that terrorists have been trying to get hold of a nuclear device...not exactly technophobic Luddism. Osama bin Idiot has been quoted to say that getting WMD's is part of every Muslim's duty. Also, they don't need to have the expertise to do the hacking. There are always anarchic or downright greedy people out there who are skilled enough to do the job...for a price. Call them hacker-mercenaries.

The 'dumbest' example any terrorist could do, of turning a skycar into a bomb would be to have a pair of wire cutters handy. They plan the route so that at some stage they are in line with their target, and cut the flight computer's cables. Even if it disables the engines, the car will still fly by inertia (somewhat inaccurately) to their target. This is before we are even talking about the more tech-savvy terrorist doing things like hacking into the computer or bypassing them (the skycar equivalent of hotwiring).

As a sidenote, I agree with your sentiment regarding terrorists.
 
Originally posted by Tyro
They plan the route so that at some stage they are in line with their target, and cut the flight computer's cables. Even if it disables the engines, the car will still fly by inertia (somewhat inaccurately) to their target. This is before we are even talking about the more tech-savvy terrorist doing things like hacking into the computer or bypassing them (the skycar equivalent of hotwiring).
Can you help me program my VCR?
 
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Originally posted by aliens 4 speed bumps
Can you help me program my VCR?
Sure, mate :wink:
 

LURCH

Science Advisor
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I agree with Burt Rutan; hypersonic flight will be next. In an interview I recently read, he said people sometimes ask him why he thinks hypersoar tech will take off when the Concord couldn't stay in business. His response is that supersonic flight through the atmosphere will become obsolete for the same reason high-speed ocean liners became obsolete with the advent of the comercial aircraft. Once people have the option to fly across the ocean, it no longer makes sense for ships to compete for speed. In the same way, once hypersoar or trans-atmospheric flight becomes available, supersonic flight through the atmosphere will cease to be a worth-while effort.

Oh yes, another drawback of the Moller Aircar; it doesn't fly! He's never gotten one airborne, AFAIK. I think that limitation would have to be overcome before any other advances can be made.
 

russ_watters

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Originally posted by LURCH
In the same way, once hypersoar or trans-atmospheric flight becomes available [italics added], supersonic flight through the atmosphere will cease to be a worth-while effort.
Unfortunately, the word there should be "VIABLE." And thats a loooooong way off - if it ever happens. There are significant inherrent limitations to the economic viability of supersonic much less hypersonic travel for the general public.

And the aircar - its been around (but not up) since the 60's.
 

drag

Science Advisor
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Greetings !

I believe that in a few years, when the air transportation
industry recovers, the major companies will take upon
themselves the challenge of building a new supersonic jet.
(As far as I remember the costs estimate for such
a project is at least 4 billion $ US.) I doubt that hypersonic
flight is gon'na work anytime soon and suborbital transport
flights and other rocket related designs are certainly not going
to be economicly efficient for the next decade, at least.

Live long and prosper.
 

LURCH

Science Advisor
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Originally posted by russ_watters
Unfortunately, the word there should be "VIABLE." And thats a loooooong way off - if it ever happens. There are significant inherrent limitations to the economic viability of supersonic much less hypersonic travel for the general public.
But that's his point; once available, hypersonic travel in a hypersoar flight profile is likely to prove more economically viable than supersonic travel pushing through the atmosphere. Just as it's cheaper and easier to make a plane go 500mph through the air than to make a boat go 100mph through the water. For one thing, the engines will be off about 2/3 of the time. During that same 2/3 of the flight, heat from atmospheric friction will dissapate in the cold of space.

Still though, there really are some big engineering problems to overcome. Pressurization, for one. You'd want adequate safety backups to assure pressure is maintained. After all, a "sudden loss of cabin pressure" in hypersoar will not be remedied by a little plastic mask dropping from the ceiling!
 

russ_watters

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Lurch, I can't afford a $9,000 plane ticket to London (the LOWEST price on the Concorde) and cutting the flight from 2 hours to 1 hour isn't going to change that.
 

LURCH

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Again, the point is that hypersonic flight above the atmosphere will be cheaper than supersonic flight through the atmosphere.
 

russ_watters

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Originally posted by LURCH
Again, the point is that hypersonic flight above the atmosphere will be cheaper than supersonic flight through the atmosphere.
I'll believe that when I see it, but in any case it will need to be an order of magnitude cheaper to be economically viable - and that I think, is out of the question.
 

drag

Science Advisor
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Greetings !
Originally posted by LURCH
Again, the point is that hypersonic flight above the atmosphere will be cheaper than supersonic flight through the atmosphere.
Indeed, but like I said, that technology ain't even
working in the lab yet.

BTW, another intresting technology are atmosphere
breathing rocket engines - rocket engines that have air intakes
and burn oxygen from the atmosphere, thus greatly reducing
the amount of propellant they carry onboard. But this
technology is likely to be used in the space-launch sector
and not for atmospheric transports.

Live long and prosper.
 

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