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2000-07-26 13:43:27+00 by Dan Lyke 8 comments

Concorde crashes in Paris, 113 dead. A plane which captured my imagination when I was young, I used to run out of the house when I was visiting my grandparents who live under one of the JFK approaches to watch it go by. As airplanes go this has been spectacularly incident free, it rather surprises me that Air France and British Airways immediately jumped on the "we're grounding our fleet" bandwagon, I don't remember that same reaction the last time a 737 or 747 went down, I'd like to learn a little more about this sort of risk management...

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:12+00 by: anser

Actually, when you only have 17 planes in a fleet it is not difficult to be "incident free." Only a tiny fraction of the world's 12,000-odd airliners ever hit anything. This may boost interest in the revived Tupolev Tu-144 "Concordsky" which was recently announced as resuming production.

#Comment made: 2000-07-26 15:50:27+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

"Incident free" as in the only thing I can find is an FAA directive suggesting a change in procedures for a blown tire. But yeah, I agree, when an airplane is mainly a PR ploy, the flight to ground time is high, and they only have about 8 hours of flight per day between 'em... The Tu-144 is revived? You're kidding, right? "Hey, let's rip off the Concorde's plans, put the engines somewhere else so they can't tell, and hope it flies long enough that we can sell it..." If it was the Israelis doing the reengineering I'd be more optimistic (ie: the Kfir), but the Russians?

#Comment made: 2000-07-26 22:53:08+00 by: anser [edit history]

The Tupolev supersonic project was mothballed after a horrible 1973 airshow crash at Le Bourget, but was recently revived as a testbed for the next generation of SST's: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Projects/TU-144/
http://www.bird.ch/Russians/Tu144/TU144P03.html Airframe design was (and still is) a very competitive business, and the Tu-144 might have worked if there was a market for it. With any luck, in 10-15 years we'll have the option of flying a LOT of people VERY fast over long distances. Of course the food will still be bad.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:13+00 by: Dan Lyke

How much quieter has that sort of engine gotten in the intervening years? 'Cause one of the ways we knew the Concorde was coming was that it was so much louder than a 747. I also have trouble believing that it's economical, given all the rest of the hassle around flying, cutting down flight time is only half the battle. I'll put my chips on telecommuting...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:13+00 by: anser

I doubt that anything really built for production today would use the old Ilyushins (or the BAE Rolls Royces for that matter). Engine tech is the one thing we can legitimately say has advanced quite a bit in 30 years. Telecommuting (or more properly teleconferencing) probably does more damage to the conventional subsonic long haul business travel segment than to SST. In effect it says, "The picture is so real that there's no way I'm traveling - unless it was REAL FAST." :)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:13+00 by: ebradway

Dan's point about reducing in-flight time as not being economical. Maybe on trans-oceanic flights - which the Concorde normally handled - it would be a possibility. Afterall, how else could Phil Collins have made it to the AIDS benefit concert in both London and New York? Seriously, though, I just flew from San Francisco to Chattanooga. It took a total of nine hours door-to-door. Less than five of those hours were spent in the air. The rest was fighting traffic to and from the air ports (okay, in that case just fighting traffic to SFO), waiting in the airport for an hour (don't they recommend a two-hour lead time for international flights?), sitting on the runway waiting for clearance, etc. Cutting the air-time in half would have made the entire trip take 6.5 hours instead of 9. I've heard the Concorde costs about $12K each way from New York to Paris. Compared to about $600 round trip for coach?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:13+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think it's actually $12k round, $9k one way. So if the hotel-to-hotel time on each is 10 hours versus 6 hours and, as Eric says, the price for a round trip on a subsonic is about $1k, you're talking about $11k to save 4 hours. I can see it as reasonable for a certain class of business traveler (ie: The person making more than $2.5k/hour or $5 million/year, or guys with really small penii who just have to say "I arrived on the Concorde"...), but my bet is that you'd get a better return on investment from making the 747 lounges really swanky. Since the trend seems to be away from that (does anyone still have pianos in the 747 lounges? It's been a while since I've flown overseas), unless Greenspan is a veritable saint my guess is that we won't see another SST until we get a better ground transport alternative to the automobile.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:13+00 by: baylink

I'll point out here that, in large part, descriptions of the average passenger on Concorde do not include penis size. Some of the women might get offended. The passengers, I mean. ;-) On another point, the reason the Speedbird still flies is, just like anything else, that there's a market for it. There are some things that you simply cannot do with bits, and the people most likely to have those sorts of things to do can get someone to pay the freight. As for the fleet grounding, there *are* only 13 of them flying right now, and they are sort of 'the franchise'. This is interesting, especially, to me, in light of the fact that I was just the other day preaching to someone that we're getting exactly what we're asking -- and paying -- for from the commercial aviation industry. I'm a bit surprised, though, that for 50% of 100x$9K per flight they can't keep the damn things in better repair.