View Full Version : Are We going Anywhere?

1st Jan 2009, 15:57
Is progress on a back burner?


1st Jan 2009, 16:17
One wonders! As Jeremy Clarkson so eloquently put it "Grounding Concorde was one giant leap backwards for aviation"

To an extent air travel has always been about going faster. Anyone who has ever travelled from, say, London to Sydney knows that it's till a b****y long way in an aeroplane! Imagine being able to fly this sort of journey non stop in 3 or 4 hours! I wish!

1st Jan 2009, 16:27
Wasn't Concorde operationally inefficient? The more so because of recent fuel prices.
I was dismayed when the RY Britannia was withdrawn from service, but having visited and toured her I realised how outdated her equipment is.

1st Jan 2009, 16:27
I think Barnes Wallace had the right idea with HOTOL.
But that brilliant concept fell foul of the "Bean-counters"
many years ago.
London to Sydney in 40 mins as I remember. All GONE!

1st Jan 2009, 16:57
Wasn't Concorde operationally inefficient?

G-CPTN, well not as far as those that flew Concorde on a regular basis were concerned and I expect our Queen Elizabeth was more than happy to continue voyaging on the RY Britannia but there is, as they say, no point in crying over spilt milk. How many other sub sonic jets are still flying around at an age which well exceeds that of the Concordes?

1st Jan 2009, 17:03
"Wasn't Concorde operationally inefficient? The more so because of recent fuel prices.
I was dismayed when the RY Britannia was withdrawn from service, but having visited and toured her I realised how outdated her equipment is."

Good point. But just imagine (pipe dream) if RR had updated the power plants to the operational constraints as of today, I would imagine computer updates as to flying configuration might be incorporated via Airbus Industries.

I still have 'conspiracy' thoughts as to the crash in France. If it never happened would this a/c still be flying now? Or , this sad loss of life might have been a opportunist move of the French. Let us not forget.....BA were holing it's own with transatlantic. Twas the French who were loosing revenue.

As far as I can ascertain, Paris-NY needed a refuelling stop. Froggies never liked that.

1st Jan 2009, 17:42
Governmental, legal, and societal stagnation.

Each of the above has become risk-averse either through fear or apathy.

No one will take a risk because the inevitable failures along the way will bring out uncounted chattering heads and lawsuits.

And we wonder why China and India are moving ahead in space, for example?

1st Jan 2009, 18:01
Governmental, legal, and societal stagnation.

Each of the above has become risk-averse either through fear or apathy.

No one will take a risk because the inevitable failures along the way will bring out uncounted chattering heads and lawsuits.

And we wonder why China and India are moving ahead in space, for example?

Ah, I actually believe the conspiracy theory here........Branson offered to buy the Concorde fleet and keep it live but was turned down.

I reckon he'd have taken one look at the operational costs and announced to the world that generations of people had been ripped off paying what they'd paid and he could run the operation at a profit by charging x-dozen percent below current prices.

Ergo, his offer was turned down; and technology took a major step backwards.

1st Jan 2009, 18:30
I remember somebody telling me a few years ago (20+) that Concorde only needed 19 paying passengers to break even. A little different to the 747, but then again was not the ticket price 10% above the normal 1st class fare, to places like New York?....

1st Jan 2009, 18:39
I remember somebody telling me a few years ago (20+) that Concorde only needed 19 paying passengers to break even.

I would not bet a beer on that highly inaccurate statement. That somebody was wrong.

1st Jan 2009, 18:40
Branson offered to buy the Concorde fleet and keep it live but was turned down.

Had he stood any chance that his offer would have been accepted he would not have made it in the first place.

It was Airbus Industries who refused to support Concorde any longer. i.e. nobody was able to fly it anymore.

1st Jan 2009, 19:00
The problem with Concorde that it was just the first generation of supersonic transports. So it had it's flaws. It's a bit like the Comet in that way. Unlike the Comet, which was developed somewhat and soon had rival designs in service. Concorde was alone in it's category. (Ignoring the Tu-144)

That's the real problem. If the Americans had developed their own SST and Concorde was stretched and modernised. We might still have routine supersonic travel.

However supersonic airliners are simply too expensive to design and fly. The fact that Concorde lasted as long as it did is simply down to the fact that the British and French governments cut their losses and basically gave them to BA and Air France.

We have actually reached a plateau in technological progress at least on the macro scale. In the past, each new invention spurred a competition to make it faster or bigger. Cars, trains, planes, ships. There is no actual technical reason why supersonic airliners don't fill the skies. It's all about money, profit and loss.

The space race is a classic example. Man landed on the moon forty years ago. Based on that rate of progress, we should have a permanent base on the moon by now and be beginning to colonise Mars. Space travel would be a bit like travelling on Concorde, expensive but relatively common. Spending a week on space cruise station would be the trip of a lifetime. Visiting the now preserved scene of the first moon landing should be routine. But the space race collapsed because it was unaffordable.

All the futuristic ideas I read about when I was a child are actually possible. But remain pipedreams because they wouldn't sell enough to make a profit.

It's easy to assume that air travel should continue to develop with faster aircraft. I doubt it somehow. Unless there is a leap in technology, supersonic airliners are a thing of the past. This is as good as it gets. As for sub orbital aircraft. Who is going to put up the money?

1st Jan 2009, 19:20
Well stated corsair. :ok:

If the Americans had developed their own SST

I am sorry to say that the citizens of the fair state of Oklahoma had a major part in preventing an American SST. In the late 60s the US Air Force performed supersonic flights over Oklahoma, mostly over Oklahoma City, to judge public opinion of the effects of SST flights over land mass areas with a population of around one million people. The aircraft that were used were F-106s and F-104s.

To say that the public opinion was highly negative would be an understatement. Therefore, Congress passed a bill prohibiting supersonic flight over the landmass of the US, except for designated military airspace away from populated areas.

The result was of course was the death of the Boeing SST before it's birth.

In fact this law is so prevalent in the minds of the US Military that during the attacks of 9/11 the few fighters launch shortly after the attacks went off shore before going supersonic to get the target areas, except one flight of Air National Guard fighters from a Northeast state that went supersonic shortly after takeoff. I forget which unit it was, however, Brick may know who they were.

1st Jan 2009, 20:01
I believe it was the Otis (MA) F-15s that went to NYC, but the memory could fallible. I also recall, without 100% accuracy, the ND F-16s sitting alert at Langley went through the Mach heading to DC.

Of course, going supersonic quickly makes the gas gauge sink to "E" and I don't know if there any available tankers.

1st Jan 2009, 20:12
I wonder about this a great deal. When I look around, I see St Pancras, Parliament, The Royal Pavillion, Leeds Castle, St Pauls. I also see Liverpool Cathedral (the round one), The bleeding Gherkin, The South Bank, Rowan Point industrial estates, you get the idea.

I appreciate that before urbanistion, people lived, worked & generally stayed in the same place & therefore worked for peanuts, but large swathes of this country are wastelands - Harlow, Slough, Livingston, all of Reading, most of Sunderland & definitely all of Teeside:E

Some things should be about more than the bottom line me thinks.

1st Jan 2009, 20:13
I believe it was the Otis (MA) F-15s that went to NYC,

That sounds right, I believe you are correct.

1st Jan 2009, 20:19
As far as I can ascertain, Paris-NY needed a refuelling stop. Froggies never liked that.

No, not quite, but I remember being on an AF flight, just arriving CDG and we were held while "her majesty AF001 CDG/JFK" taxied to the RWY. It was announced that we were letting the Concorde go by because it had to preserve all the fuel she had.

1st Jan 2009, 20:42
Photo perhaps a bit misleading. This thread is not necessarily about Concorde or go fast.

1st Jan 2009, 21:15
RT, your point is that to which I responded.

I believe the West has become fat and risk-averse due to a fear of criticism by those in government, litigation run amuck, and a general apathy about taking chances in pursuit of dreams.

1st Jan 2009, 22:40
Brick, F-15s going supersonice but not F-16s would probable be because of the low fuel capacity of the Falcon versus the Eagle?

I would have liked to see supersonic travel, but it doesn't mean we haven't come a long way! Bombay to New York without refuelling?! Incredible! I had a (non-aero-oriented) friend ask me "Why don't manufacturers build more fuel efficient planes like the car-makers do?". I had to give him a crash (no pun intended) course in efficiency improvements :)

Wish Boeing's Sonic Cruiser had gone through. Oh well. The 787's wings are beautiful too. And being an avionics person, I'm proud of fly-by-wire (yes, yes, don't tell me about the Concorde and the TSR2) advancements too!

1st Jan 2009, 23:01
It's true, there is little of the 'grand vision' left in the west. Meanwhile India is sending missions to the moon even though they still haven't figured out how to feed their own people. Perhaps too much of the grand vision in that case.

For a bit of fun, consider all those inventions and objects, which if they were invented in our risk averse, litigation fuelled modern times would never see the light of day.

Let's look at glass for example, brittle, easily broken, dangerous to handle in that state. So you want to use it for windows and as a vessel for drinking from? Imagine allowing drunks to handle objects made from glass!

Cars, no chance. There are so many things wrong with that idea. They travel much too fast for safety. The need expensive roads to travel on. Then there's the fuel, it's explosive. Worse you need fuel stations all over the country. Do you think anyone would want a business selling explosive fuel close to their homes?

Pick anything, stairs, ladders, bikes, trains, aeroplanes, knives, forks, beer. None of these things would see the light of day with our current nanny state mentality.

I'm not one for predicting the end of western civilisation but frankly when you see how things are going. How we are doing everything we can to avoid risk and how big ideas are out of favour. Then perhaps we are at the beginning of the end.

As a child of the space age, perhaps I am disappointed at the way things have turned out. When I was youngster and aspired to a career as a pilot. My big worry was with the pace of change they would invent something that rendered flying obsolete. Despite all the science fiction stories of starships and visions in Star Trek like stories of 'warp speed' etc. I for one do not believe man will ever venture much further than Mars, if we even get that far. Space travel is strictly for science fiction. Unless there is a significant discovery of a method of proplusion so far unknown.

Our future is pretty much set in stone. After all, if you think about it. That's the norm. Someone invented the idea of the sail on a boat. With improvements, that was pretty much it for thousands of years, until the steam engine arrived.

I don't think we are going anywhere. The 20th century will go down in history as a freak event. We may never see the like again.

1st Jan 2009, 23:02
Talking of TSR2 - what really happened? (I mean the truth)

1st Jan 2009, 23:10
The TSR 2 would be a classic example. A pefectly good aeroplane. But it got expensive and with the short term mentality of politicians. It had to go.

1st Jan 2009, 23:28
Luckily my Dad's mate secured a (large) bit decades ago. Lucky old me eh.


1st Jan 2009, 23:37
I doubt that you'll be able to find a use for it . . .

1st Jan 2009, 23:42
How is the 380 going, my initial thoughts were that it is too bloody big. Check in, boarding, numbers required to make it viable, pushing and shoving, the 'I want' irritants going ten to the dozen.

Tell me I am wrong....or something!

Chesty Morgan
1st Jan 2009, 23:44
On the subject of the 380.

Is it just a double decker 320 or has it progressed in terms of avionics and computer trickery from the early 80's?

2nd Jan 2009, 01:27
Define progress, Chesty. It (from all reports) is phenomenally quiet - so much so that I remember reading resting pilots were having trouble sleeping because of the lack of a familiar drone and because passengers' sounds would carry further. Add to that it can carry more people over more range without being much larger in size.

On the avionics front, almost everything on the aircraft is controlled electrically. The days of pneumatic secondary power are gone and those of hydraulics for big planes are on their way out. More redundancy, lighter weights.

The computers are faster, of course (the 320 uses 286s - and Intel has stopped the line, Airbus bought the last lot so beyond 2010, no more new 320s). And they do a lot more stuff. Then can figure out what has stopped working down to almost the last bit and report it to the ground so that the replacement bits are ready before the plane reaches the destination.

It's not truly groundbreaking, but it's evolving.

2nd Jan 2009, 11:33
I saw her at Duxford. An unconventional beauty, she is. Sits right between the Concorde and the Vulcan, making it one of the best spots in the world for an aircraft lover to stand and stare at all three at once. With a Canberra overhead!

2nd Jan 2009, 13:48
Took 2 tons of eggs to Gib once in a Canberra.
I think they were a bit scrambled on arrival.
Bl**dy Spain shutting the border every 5 minutes.

2nd Jan 2009, 14:03
from what i've read about tsr-2 it was about competition with the F-111 for a strike bomber. development costs of tsr-2 were increasing, so the government scrapped the project and ordered the F-111, which they subsequently cancelled as its' costs were higher than tsr-2. then they went out and bought the phantom and buccaneer instead.


this is from what i've read, i wasn't alive at the time. beautiful aircraft, i've seen both TSR-2s at cosford and duxford (the cosford one being more complete mechanically).

i've put up a couple of photos at www.aircraftgallery.net (http://www.aircraftgallery.net) under the air museum galleries.


Lance Murdoch
2nd Jan 2009, 14:49
I used to work on the Boeing 787. It is certainly an impressive piece of engineering as is the A380. They are far more efficient than their predecessors meaning reduced fuel burn, longer range and less pollution. The problem is that improved efficiency does not capture the public imagination in the same way as flying from London to New York in three hours or landing a man on the moon.

Some years ago I went to a RAeS lecture given by a member of the Mars Society. His argument was that a manned mission to Mars would capture the public imagination and would spur technological innovation and give western society a definable goal to work towards. I thought he had a point then and I still think he has a point now.

2nd Jan 2009, 16:44
I'm glad you think he had a point Lance.
Personally I think it would be a total load of b*ll*cks!
We've got enough problems down here want sorting
without swanning off to Bl**dy Mars! For what purpose?
Could send all the Earth's scum-bags there I suppose.
I'll sort out a passenger list next week, O.K.?

Hang on! Didn't we do that with some place down South
a couple of hundred years ago???

2nd Jan 2009, 18:32
I don't think we are going anywhere. The 20th century will go down in history as a freak event. We may never see the like again.

corsair, I think you are correct! Try reading Richard Koch & Chris Smith's book which confirms what you have stated:-

Suicide of the West (http://www.amazon.com/Suicide-West-Richard-Koch/dp/0826497616)

Concerning the TSR2, when I trained at Hamble in 69/70 one of the ground school instructors had previously been heavily involved in the design and development of the terrain following radar on it. He told us it was capable of pulling up over a 5,000 ft "mountain" and descend back down the other side whilst supersonic at low level - all done on the autopilot! Although the project was expensive I think we had a world beating design and the cancellation was a crime!

TSR2 (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=GXdJxjvQZW4)

Watching that clip brings it all back!

More TSR2 (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=a7JAYHHsVU8)

2nd Jan 2009, 19:22
Was that (terrain avoidance at supersonic speed) a design spec or was that proven performance? I know the TSR2 had superb speed compared to even the Lightning, but the mechanics involved are something no one has managed yet.

And as far as I know, the F-111 (and EF-111 Raven) was bloody quick even with terrain following engaged. The MiG-23 sadly did not have any autonomous systems but could also do supersonic to single digit metre AGL.

But yes, it hurts that it did not go further - this aircraft, the Avro Arrow and the B-70 Valkyrie.


What might have been...

If there is one aircraft that still turns my fancy, it would be the F-22. Stealth, super-cruise, super-manoeuvrability in one package. I would be sorely upset if the US did not buy the 280 it has now come down to.

Lance Murdoch
2nd Jan 2009, 21:04
Storminnorm, I think that going to Mars would be a fantastic achievement. I hope that it is handled somewhat better than some of the colonisations that have happened on this planet although judging by our previous track record your cynicism is understandable. The question raised by the thread is whether technological progress has slowed or even stopped. What we do with said technological progress or lack thereof is down to our own consciences.

3rd Jan 2009, 08:13
If the water on Mars is really near-surface and as abundant as recent surveys suggest, fuel in that neighborhood will not be a problem. Conventional, turbine and ion powerplants will have all the drive power they need from water and sunlight (plus a bit of wind, maybe) feeding the fuel plants.

It would seem the next unique class of flying machines may be rather odd hybrids optimised for ops in super-thin atmospheres at relatively low manoeuvering speeds.

They are likely to be different in many regards from terrestrial flying machines, yet tailored for and suited to the mission of wide-area aerial roaming in cold, windy, arid reaches of Martian terrain. Plausibly the early designs might resemble pterodactyls in more ways than one - relatively vast wingspan, silly looking, and possibly using long legs with feet on ' em as gear for landing and for surface movement.

3rd Jan 2009, 12:36
We'll need to do something pretty quickly!
They're predicting the end of the World on
one of the other threads!

Lon More
3rd Jan 2009, 13:07
Talking of TSR2 - what really happened? (I mean the truth)

Wiki (updated with release of cabinet papers in mid 2008 states
At this time the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) at Aldermaston was inundated with work, having, in order of priority, the strategic bomb Red Snow, the anglicised US W-44 warhead Tony, the anglicised US W-54 Wee Gwen for a British Davy Crockett, and the anglicised W47 warhead for the UK Skybolt programme, as well as the OR.1176 warhead for OR.1177, to complete. As a result, work on the TSR-2's tactical nuclear weapon was delayed.

Then in June 1962 Prime Minister Harold Macmillan came under pressure from the Conservative Party and Cabinet over the cancellation of Skybolt. The cancellation of Skybolt was a great blow, and the Macmillan Government almost collapsed. The government was also divided over the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, Macmillan's view being that any use of such weapons would inevitably escalate into an all-out global nuclear war. As a result, in July 1962, Macmillan issued a directive that British tactical nuclear weapons yields were not to exceed 10 kt, and OR.1177 was cancelled. Four days later the crisis within the Cabinet became public when Macmillan sacked seven Cabinet Ministers, including his Minister of Defence, in what became known as the 'Night of the Long Knives'.

Macmillan was deeply affected by his experiences of World War I, in which he was wounded four times, and was a combatant in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme. It was said that these personal experiences of war led to a view that the use of tactical nuclear weapons would be likely to lead to escalation, and all-out global nuclear war. As if to confirm Macmillan's views, soon after these events the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. [5]

TSR-2 was beset with numerous problems stemming from poor project management and cost overruns, and at this point in July 1962 it also became a very expensive aircraft project without a suitable weapon. Macmillan’s directive limiting nuclear yield of tactical nuclear weapons to 10 kt mortally damaged the whole raison d'être of TSR-2....

....cancellation had already been considered during Macmillan's tenure, and Labour were merely implementing policy that was inevitable following Macmillan’s decision to limit tactical nuclear weapon yield.

Lon More
3rd Jan 2009, 13:18
The increasing threat of litigation is one of the main reasons for the lack of progress. I was once told that 10% of the purchase price of any new Cessna went to cover legal costs. IIRC They were succesfully sued by the family of a drunken flight student who managed to get a 172 into the air one night with 5 friends on board and subsequently crashed killing all on board. The reason was that it was possible to open the doors and turn on the ignition using a screw driver.

Businesses are meeting the same problem

“A 20-year-old Jamison man, who was shot last summer, says a Warminster bar is partially to blame for the incident. Had he not become drunk from alcohol consumption that night, Martin Joyce’s judgment would not have been impaired, he would not have approached an unknown man for change and he would not have been shot, alleges a suit filed in Montgomery County Court.”

3rd Jan 2009, 13:40
I always blamed Roy Jenkins for the demise of TSR 2.
Now, having read some of this load of twaddle, perhaps
I got that wrong? Hmmmm.

Mind you, some of the people I met along life's journey
that HAD actually worked on the project gave me the
impression the the "Gravy Train" deserved to be De-railed!
The description rhymed with "Tankers" but began with W.