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London to New York in under 4 hours – Will there ever be another Concorde?

Tim Newton



London to New York in under 4 hours – Will there ever be another Concorde? | The Thaiger
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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. Now, 50 years after Concorde’s early flights, supersonic flight is again just another aviation pipe dream as we pack into our cheap ‘flying buses’ which are not much different from the first successful commercial jets that first flew in the 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 for months, or years. And we used to dress up too – no shorts and T-Shirts!

Just months before the Apollo 11 launch, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’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 decade.

Only 20 were ever built but the best of British and French 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. But thank heavens some visionary people persisted with the dream of faster-than-sound flight.

London to New York in under 4 hours - Will there ever be another Concorde? | 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 just a reflection of the physics required to fly the plane at 60,000 feet and twice the speed of sound. Even the designers admit they had little ‘wriggle room’ in the design. That it still looks like an impossible, futuristic design in 2020, is amazing.

A 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.

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. 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 Concorde was able to take off, wings already engulfed in flames, 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 reaching for the bottomline. The final flight was from New York to Heathrow on October 24, 2003.

London to New York in under 4 hours - Will there ever be another Concorde? | 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 viable 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).

The plane flew nearly 3 times the speed of conventional jets and almost twice as high.

“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, but beleaguered, commercial stint in the late 1970s. By all accounts the Tu-144 had all the finesse of a KGB interrogation.

The likelihood of another Concorde, a plane capable of flying supersonically and drastically cutting down flight times, in our lifetimes, is unlikely. Although there are currently a few companies fleshing out the possibilities. The reality, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, is that accountants will be seeking profitability rather than innovation for the next few decades, as airlines struggle back into the skies.

For now, flights will remain lacklustre, soul-destroying trip in a packed aluminium tube. Oh, for the days of some glamour and a champagne at 60,000 feet!

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

London to New York in under 4 hours - Will there ever be another Concorde? | 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 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.


Will the Flying-V be the shape of passenger travel in the future?

The Thaiger



Will the Flying-V be the shape of passenger travel in the future? | The Thaiger

Since the first Boeing 707 (Dash 80) had its test flight in 1955, and earlier the UK’s De Havilland Comet in 1949, not much has changed in the way of passenger jet configuration – long, thin fuselage, wings, jet engines hanging underneath, with a big tail and rudder.

Since then it’s been a gradual evolution of the same theme (we’ve left out the entire Concorde era for now), with engines becoming lighter, larger and more powerful, and components increasingly light and composite. But, from the outside, same same (the service inside certainly hasn’t improved).

But now, out of left-field, researchers have conducted a successful maiden flight of the Flying-V, a new and fuel efficient passenger plane concept, that may one day carry us aloft inside its wings.

The project was announced last year in a partnership with Dutch carrier KLM. After a period of extensive wind tunnel testing and a series of ground tests in the Netherlands, it was time to perform the first flight and obtain an impression of the flight characteristics of the V-shaped jet.

The Flying-V design puts us all, along with the cargo and the fuel tanks, in the actual wings. It’s been estimated that the plane’s radical aerodynamic shape would cut fuel consumption by 20% compared to today’s leading edge economic versions, like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner series of passenger aircraft.

Last week a 3 metre scale model took to the skies in a successful test of the concept. It flew and at least proved the concept, although it was just the very start of what would be a long, long process to get an actual full size version into the sky, tested, approved and then, (the hard part) sold to airlines.

The Flying V has been developed by researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands working with airline KLM. The Dutch carrier has agreed to fund development of the new V-shaped aircraft. A team of researchers and engineers tested the aircraft at a guarded airbase in Germany, where they worked Airbus engineers to test takeoffs, flight characteristics, approaches, and landing.

Roelof Vos, assistant professor at the aerospace engineering faculty of Delft’s University of Technology, says their biggest worry was the actual ‘rotation’ or moment the aircraft takes off.

“One of our worries was that the aircraft might have some difficulty lifting-off, since previous calculations had shown that ‘rotation’ could be an issue. The team optimised the scaled flight model to prevent the issue but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You need to fly to know for sure.

Remotely controlling the aircraft, researchers managed take off at a speed of 80 kmh, while the aircraft’s flight speeds, angles and thrust were as planned.

They also noted, in the very first real-life test with the scale model, that the current design allows for too much “Dutch roll” which can cause a rough landing. The team say they will now conduct more tests on the model, and hope to provide the Flying-V with sustainable propulsion. They say the design lends itself to carrying liquid hydrogen instead of ‘av gas’ kerosene.

So take a seat, stow your tray table and come on the first test flight of the Flying-V concept aircraft.

Will the Flying-V be the shape of passenger travel in the future? | News by The ThaigerWill the Flying-V be the shape of passenger travel in the future? | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand enters space race, air force satellite launched

Caitlin Ashworth



Thailand enters space race, air force satellite launched | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok Insight

Thailand has entered the space race. The Royal Thai Air Force launched its first satellite into space yesterday morning. The satellite will be used for general data collecting as well as for security purposes in efforts to prevent foreign countries from spying on Thailand.

The nanosatellite, Napa-1, was launched at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. It was one of 53 satellites carried in the Arianespace Vega rocket, Flight VV16. 7 of those satellites were about 15 kilogram microsatellites while the others were smaller nanosatellites.

The satellite will be at a low Earth orbit 500 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. It will be used by the military to survey Thailand. It will collect data that would help with natural disaster relief efforts like monitoring water to provide data for flooding and drought management. It can also detect hotspots to prevent forest fires.

A core mission of the security satellite is to prevent foreign countries from spying on Thailand, according the head of Space Operation Centre Supijjarn Thamwatharsaree. In a June report from the Bangkok Post, he said the satellite will improve Thailand’s “space security.”

“The air force doesn’t intend to use this satellite for warfare or track specific individuals; it is to upgrade general security systems.”

SOURCES:Thai PBS | Bangkok Post

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TikTok CEO quits amid pressure to sell

Jack Burton



TikTok CEO quits amid pressure to sell | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Kevin Mayer - CNBC

Kevin Mayer, the high flying CEO of TikTok, quit today under US pressure for the platform’s Chinese owner Bytedance to sell popular video app, which Washington says is a national security threat. In a letter to employees, Mayer said his decision to leave comes because the “political environment has sharply changed.”

Mayer, a former Disney executive, joined TikTok as CEO in May. The resignation comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s order to ban TikTok unless its parent company sells its US operations to an American company within 90 days.

“I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for. Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”

Bytedance is currently in talks with Microsoft for the US firm to buy TikTok’s US operations. TikTok thanked Mayer.

“We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin’s role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision.”

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, and later bought, a video service popular with teens in the US and Europe, and combined them. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

TikTok gained immense popularity via its fun, goofy videos and ease of use, and has hundreds of millions of users globally. But its Chinese ownership has raised concerns about potential censorship of videos, including those critical of the Chinese government, and the risk Beijing could access user data. India has already banned it on these grounds, and other countries, including Australia, are expressing concerns and investigating.

Earlier this month, Trump ordered a vague, sweeping but ban on dealings with the Chinese owners of consumer apps TikTok and WeChat as the US heightens scrutiny of Chinese technology companies, citing concerns that they could pose a threat to national security.

SOURCES: Khaosod English | Washington Post | AP

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