The Michigan Engineer News Center

Commercial supersonic aircraft could return to the skies

Don’t call it a comeback.| Short Read

By Iian Boyd

Flying faster than the speed of sound still sounds futuristic for regular people, more than 15 years after the last commercial supersonic flights ended. The planes that made those journeys, the 14 aircraft collectively known as the Concorde, flew from 1976 to 2003. It traveled three times faster than regular passenger aircraft, but the airlines that flew it couldn’t make a profit on its trips.

The reason the Concorde was unprofitable was, in fact, a side effect of its speed. When the plane sped up past the speed of sound – about 760 mph – it created shock waves in the air that would hit the ground with a loud and sudden thud: a sonic “boom.” It is so alarming for people on the ground that U.S. federal regulations ban all commercial aircraft from flying faster than the speed of sound over land.

Those rules, and the amount of fuel the plane could carry, effectively limited the Concorde to trans-Atlantic flights. Operating the plane was still so expensive that a one-way ticket between London and New York could cost over US$5,000. And the Concorde often flew with half its seats empty.

This article is republished from The Conversation. Read the original article.

Portrait of Kate McAlpine

Contact

Kate McAlpine
Senior Writer & Assistant News Editor

Michigan Engineering
Communications & Marketing

(734) 763-2937

3214 SI-North

Researchers
  •  Iain Boyd

    Iain Boyd

    James E. Knott Professor Aerospace Engineering

Elizabeth Agee in the Amazon rainforest.

Hands-on in the Amazon

As the climate changes, a grad student and mom decodes the math that drives the rainforest. | Medium Read