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Travel video of the week: Supersonic air travel is finally coming back

Supersonic air travel is back. 15 years after the Concorde was grounded, everyone from aerospace companies to NASA to small startups is working to bring back ultrafast civilian aircraft. The Verge takes a look at the engineering challenges that make supersonic flight so difficult, and try to figure out what’s different about this new generation of planes.
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Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. I was on a European flight last week and almost half the plane had been given over to Business Class. My point is that business is increasingly global. Time’s money. All of the companies footing the bill want to keep their employees working in the Business lounge for as long as possible. Moreover, in the Business Lounge those people are having multi-million dollar/euro/pound/yen telephone conversations. Airfares are small fry compared to the potential value of the business.

    I think the demand and the funding is there for supersonic air travel. If a business can get their best man or woman out to a new market in half the term I think they will pay a hefty price for supersonic ticket.

    1. And don’t forget what I’m going to call the Orient Express Factor – people booking an expensive journey with gourmet food and champagne to celebrate an anniversary or birthday. I can see that working for something like the New York to London flight for the ultimate birthday treat day out.

      So, I would agree that the demand is probably there.

  2. Supersonic air travel has failed once and I can see it failing again. In my opinion things have got worse rather than better since Concorde’s last flight.

    Although not everyone accepts the idea of global warming, enough people have been the victims of hurricanes, flooding and heat waves to be very suspicious about any new technology that will add to the catastrophes.

    The Green Movement is far more powerful than it ever was before. There’s a whole generation growing up who are more aware of protecting the fragile world they live in. Supersonic air travel will be a very symbolic target for them to oppose.

  3. What’s the point of getting from LHR to JFK in 3 hours if you are then stuck in a stack for 45 minutes and spend an hour queueing to get through immigration? You can call me cynical but there’s far more to rapid air travel than just hiking the technology up a notch, the whole product’s got to be ratcheted up through the gears.

  4. I can remember walking to school in the late 1960s and being scared by a loud bang that seemed to come from nowhere. Looking back on the experience my mother tried to explain to me that it was Concorde on trials. She was even less successful at explaining the science behind the Sonic Boom. I’m sure that technology will reduce that boom to some extent but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live near airport with that sort of noise overhead.

  5. And we all know what the first routes will be don’t we?

    New York to London
    LA to Tokyo
    Singapore to Sydney
    Moscow to Dubai

    This new generation of speedy planes will just make the world’s big cities even more congested as LA does yet more business with Japan etc etc. What we really need are fast services to Africa to tap its vast unreleased potential.

    1. Agreed. Commercial realities. The companies will have huge R & D costs to recover. Consequently they will focus on routes where they can maximise seat sales and revenue.

      Ultimately we can hope that as the technology becomes cheaper it can take business people to those parts of the world that desperately need their trade.

  6. I don’t know if this is a good idea but there’s no harm in giving this a chance to evolve our airlines. I wasn’t born yet when it was launched decades ago but I’ve read some news about how it failed. I am hoping this time it would bring not just convenience and but safety as well. I only wonder how much will it cost for people that are flying economy seats?

  7. I hope this time it would be a success because this can really reshape the aerospace industry. Travellers will also dig this because who doesn’t want a faster transportation that will get you to your dream destination as quick as possible? This will be another great breakthrough if done properly.

  8. Like many families we’ve gone global and are dispersed all around the world. Some of the family are still in the U.K. but my brother works in the Far East. His company scarcely stops for Christmas and at best he only gets 4 days off. With conventional air travel it just wouldn’t work for him to try to get home but I know that he would pay almost anything if he could halve the travel time. In some ways he is lucky, it’s the European families with relatives in New Zealand and Australia who really need superfast, supersonic flights.

  9. I’ve just literally watched the air crash disaster of the Concorde in the year 2000, where it went downhill for the supersonic air travel. I didn’t think it would have a chance of coming back, especially since it cost too much to travel by one. And now with the advent of budget airlines, I’m not sure how the supersonics would compete. But it would be an option especially for those who can’t stand long-haul flights. I for one, hated flying 14 hours from the US to Asia. If you could cut down the travel time in half, we would be saving valuable hours we can spend exploring our destinations. Not to mention possibly lessening jetlag. But I wonder how they are progressing now with this pandemic.

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