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London to New York in under 4 hours – Concorde, 50 years later

Tim Newton

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London to New York in under 4 hours – Concorde, 50 years later | The Thaiger

We’d flown in propeller-powered planes, then jets. Supersonic was the next evolutionary step in flying people around the world as the 1960s came to a close.

Nearly 50 years after Concorde’s maiden flight, supersonic flight is just another aviation pipe dream again as we queue up for cheap ‘flying buses’ which are not much different from the first successful commercial jets that flew in the late 1950s.

Flying, once a little bit glamorous, is now a trudge. Whilst Air Asia boasts that ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’, there was a time when flying was something you saved up months, or years, for. And you used to dress up too – no shorts and T-Shirts!

Just months before the Apollo 11 launch and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, the Concorde made its maiden flight in March 1969. The western world had just gone through a dramatic decade of change – music, politics, fashion, culture, war – and the Concorde would be the crowning technical glory of that tumultuous 10 years.

Only 20 were ever built but the best of Britian and France’s combined engineering excellence would not be able to overcome the decade ahead with a fuel crisis – the Concorde was a big jet fuel burner – and a new interest in ‘the environment’. The fuel crisis of the early 1970s and country’s concerns about the impact of sonic booms over voter’s heads, would leave only British Airways and Air France flying the Concorde on regular commercial services.

London to New York in under 4 hours - Concorde, 50 years later | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: It wasn’t just fast, it was a lifestyle – It’s Nice That

Whilst the man landing on the moon grabbed the headlines, the Concorde was an equally brilliant masterpiece of engineering and a breathtaking distraction when compared to ‘normal’ jets. It’s swept-back wings, pointy nose, slim-line passenger cabin, all made it look, well, supersonic!

But its sleek, timeless lines were more an artifact of the physics required to fly the plane at 60,000 feet at twice the speed of sound. Even the designers admit they had little ‘wriggle room’ in the design. That it still looks like a futuristic design in 2018, fifty years after it was designed, is amazing.

A new book titled Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde, written by Lawrence Azerrad, lavishes love on the plane and the lifestyles of the people who flew it.

“A lot of designs that were inspired by the dream and optimism of the jet age retain an air of the era in which they were born. They were futuristic at the time, but they definitely seem nostalgic now.” said Lawrence, speaking to CNN.

Concorde flew commercially for 27 years, from 1976 to 2003, and brought London and New York closer together with a flying time of under four hours, typically a 7.5 hour flight.

“Concorde wasn’t originally intended to be this exclusive bird of the rich and famous,” said Azerrad.

“All airlines had orders for supersonic planes. It was only once political and ecological objections made it commercially untenable that it became an ultra-premium experience.”

Concorde’s eventual demise started on July 25, 2000 when an Air France Concorde, departing Paris, sucked up a piece of debris into its engines during take-off. The flaming Concorde took off but crashed soon after, killing all 113 people onboard. In an otherwise flawless service history, the tragedy grounded the remaining fleet. Services resumed 16 months later but the Concorde would not survive the new era of airlines operated by accountants and share-holders. The final flight was from New York to Heathrow on October 24, 2003.

London to New York in under 4 hours - Concorde, 50 years later | News by The Thaiger

This writer was saving up for a flight from London to New York in the Concorde during the late 1990s – a trip in my generation’s most outstanding engineering achievement. To me it was a thing of beauty and a trip of a lifetime. It never happened due to the eventual failure of the airlines to sustain a business model.

With only 100 seats, all business-class sized and only four seats across, it wasn’t a large cabin. But, as you watched the speedometer climb to Mach 2, you could look outside at the dark purple sky and ponder the curvature of the earth, 60,000 feet about the ground (18,200 metres).

“It was kind of like a social club in the sky,” said author Azerrad.

“You could have Paul McCartney leading a sing-along of Beatles songs with the entire airplane, or Phil Collins famously taking the plane to play at Live Aid in the UK and the US on the same day. And then royalty, of course: the queen, the pope, countless heads of states.”

Concorde wasn’t the only supersonic passenger jet to fly. The Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144 – which looked remarkably similar but “lacked the elegance and grace of Concorde,” according to Azerrad – had a brief commercial stint in the late 1970s.

By all accounts the Tu-144 had all the finesse of a KGB interrogation.

Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde, published by Prestel, is available now.

London to New York in under 4 hours - Concorde, 50 years later | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Daily Mail



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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

Thai Life

Finance Ministry wants to give 1,500 baht to each domestic traveller

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Finance Ministry wants to give 1,500 baht to each domestic traveller | The Thaiger

The Finance Ministry says they are launching a new stimulus package to boost the country’s domestic tourism by giving Thais 1,500 baht each to spend when they travel to 55 provinces under the promotion campaign.

Under the campaign, Thais aged 18 and over can register for the program. The government will then deposit 1,500 baht into their accounts though the e-payment system. They can use the funds to make e-payments the shops that have joined the project.

“We are collaborating with the Tourism and Sport Ministry and Krung Thai Bank for the campaign and have set a budget of up to 15 billion baht. We will now propose the program to the deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak and the cabinet to consider as soon as possible. We aim to launch the campaign before July this year,” a source from the Finance Ministry said.

The ministry expects up to 10 million Thais to register for the program, he added.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Bangkok

Bangkok named most popular city for Japanese tourists

The Thaiger

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Bangkok named most popular city for Japanese tourists | The Thaiger

Thai PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha says he was happy after hearing that Bangkok was named the most popular destination for Japanese tourists during their Golden Week, a five-day long holiday which begins in late April.

The survey was conducted by Agoda, the online booking platform. Pattaya and Phuket were also ranked among the most popular destinations at #4 and #10 respectively.

“Japanese tourists are among the top 5 nationalities of foreign tourists visiting Thailand, particularly Bangkok where there are many beautiful attractions, delicious food, not-too-high cost of living, and friendly Thai people. The two countries’s cultures are also quite similar. They can go along quite well,” said a spokesperson for the PM.

Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak, the deputy spokesman of the Thai government, added that the PM loves to follow the updates on the tourism industry. Thai tourists love to escape the summer heat in Thailand, and visit Japan to experience the Japanese spring, visit popular tourist locations, sample authentic Japanese food and the Japanese people. The PM also invited the Thai people to be a good hosts, making all tourists feel welcome and helping keep them safe.

SOURCE: National News Bureau of Thailand

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Bangkok

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport

The Thaiger

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Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | The Thaiger

The Thai cabinet yesterday approved the construction of a third runway at Suvarnabhumi International Airport as part of the country’s ambition to become the aviation hub of ASEAN.

The 21.7 billion baht project will increase the combined capacity of Suvarnabhumi international airport’s runways to 94 arrivals and departures per hour from the current 64, said Lt-Gen Weerachon Sukonthapatipak, deputy government spokesman.

Suvarnabhumi Airport (aka. BKK) was opened in 2006 as Bangkok’s second airport. Initially it replaced the tired Don Mueang Airport but Don Mueang was later revamped as a low-coast airport to service the growing traffic demands.

Meanwhile Suvarnabhumi Airport was, and still is, operating above its designed capacity. An earlier bid to build a third terminal has been mired in controversy and is currently shelved pending a new brief from Airports of Thailand with a new round of design bids called for in the future.

Third runway for BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport | News by The Thaiger

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