You may have already heard the exciting news; United Airlines are hoping to bring air travel into the future by harking back to the past? The exciting or worrying news, depending on how you look at it or how good your memory is, that United Airlines have added fifteen planes to their fleet that are capable of travelling at twice the speed of modern airlines with the aim of bringing back supersonic travel. To those of us that remember the pitfalls of the Concorde, and its fabled final flight, this seems slightly concerning, and almost a clear example of history repeating itself. But with it being eighteen years since Concorde’s final flight, is it the right time? Has engineering had enough time and experience to correct the past failures and bring the Concorde booming into 2021?
When googling Concorde, it’s clear to see why there is so much trepidation at United Airline’s decision to bring back this relic from aviation past. Travelling faster than the speed of sound and breaking the sound barrier does have its own long list of complications, and from the impressive list of incidents Concorde has racked up, it seems ludicrous that this is something that anyone would want to revisit. Perhaps the most monumental incident that shook the aviation world for good was the Air France Flight 4590. It was an international charter flight from Charles de Gaulle Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The plane used was the Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde, and on Tuesday afternoon on the 25th July 2000, the aircraft ran over debris on the runway during take-off. This led to a devastating domino effect which, due to the speed of the aircraft, was mortal. The runover debris caused a blown tire which in turn sent more debris flying into the underside of the left wing and into the landing gear bay. This did not puncture the fuel tanks directly, but sent out pressure shockwaves that ruptured the fuel tank at its weakest point. Fuel gushed out from the bottom of the wing and was ignited. Control over the aircraft was rapidly lost, and the crew were unable to redirect and safely land. They crashed into the Hotelissimo Les Relais Bleus Hotel and sadly all the passengers and crew were killed along with four fatalities from the employees of the Hotel.
After this tragic incident, flights of the Concorde were pretty much grounded; the public has lost all interest and faith in the craft, and airlines were losing money trying to sell tickets for this. And so the world moved on with the aim if airline travel being comfort over speed. This is evident in all the adverts and marketing going into the lifestyle of flying with certain airlines. We all secretly look forward to the inflight movies, and if you are one of the lucky customers who flies first class, then the gourmet meals and extreme levels of comfort. So, is there a market for the Concorde in this day and age? Perhaps Covid-19 has made us all realise how much we want things quickly, at the snap of our fingers, and it is a better way to connect the world. The aim for progressive technology is ease and speed, but are we ready to trust this plane again? Has the murky past of this sonic plane been erased from our collective consciousness for the Concorde to boom through the skies once more?