Letter: Supersonic aircraft have a viable future

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your recent correspondence (Letters, 7 July) on Concorde prompts me to come to its defence. I served on the aerodynamics group of the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee in 1956-57. It was chaired by the late Dietrich Kuchemann, head of the aerodynamics department at Farnborough.

Mistakes were made. The aircraft was too small and took about 20 years to develop. But nobody could have foreseen the steep rise in oil prices that occurred before it went into service.

In the United States, Boeing abandoned its design when it found that much more money could be made in the rapidly growing tourist market. So it developed the wide- bodied subsonic jumbo jet. The Russians abandoned their design, which resembled Concorde, when the prototype crashed at the Paris Air Show.

The economics of fast air travel is not about getting the passengers there quickly. They often suffer from jet lag. It is about the total cost of taking them there. Ocean liners are a thing of the past, except as holiday cruise ships.

A single jumbo can take as many passengers across the Atlantic as a ship, because it does many more trips. And its cost of manufacture and the number of flight and cabin crew are much lower.

More than 30 years on, a new supersonic transport is bound to come. It will be larger and backed by an international consortium. Technology has not stood still during these years.

Yours faithfully,

ROY RICHARDSON

Consultant Engineer

Kingston-upon-Thames,

Surrey

9 July

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