Technology: Faster than the speed of sound

ITC | 25 Mar, 2014

It was an incredible technological feat of ingenuity, and Concorde is still to this day is hailed for its futuristic, advanced creation.

To celebrate our forty years in luxury travel, as well as being one of the first tour operators to charter Concorde, we spoke to Captain Mark Jealous; a former Concorde pilot who still flies for British Airways on their A380. Here’s what he told us about the technology behind flying supersonic…

How advanced was the technology?
“Concorde was unbelievably advanced, given that there wasn’t even computers or household calculators back then!
Mathematics was done on slide rules and everything had to be done with technical drawings by hand…all human input and trial and error.

The fleet was designed before the age of computers. But our intake system on the engines actually had digital computers. They were so advanced that even in 2003 when the airplane finished they had to be returned to the government because they were still classified!

The magic of supersonic flight was that you would feel no difference between sitting at 60,000 feet above the ground than you would sat in your armchair at home. The magic was through the design. When you looked down you could actually see yourself moving, which you can’t in a normal aircraft. But the ride was so comfortable you would have no idea that you were going faster than a rifle bullet.

We always used the same full power take off so passengers had the ‘Concorde experience’. To get through the sound barrier we needed a fifth engine, which we couldn’t have, so we had what the military have – a reheat system. These are incredibly light and give you 40% more thrust with virtually no extra weight. But to get the extra thrust you’re doubling your fuel flow.

On take off, going to New York or Barbados, we would have 100 tonnes of fuel on board. On take off we would be burning 85 tonnes of fuel an hour. So about 1 minute 20 seconds after take off we would turn the re-heats off – this would reduce the noise and would reduce the fuel flow by half.”

Could you hear the sonic boom?

“We are travelling at twice the speed of sound – so we’re ahead of the noise, so no. Concorde handled like a fighter jet. It was built for speed rather than comfort, so it wasn’t spacious. So you had a choice of riding to Barbados in a Ferrari or a Bentley! It handled beautifully. It was streamline and built for speed not comfort.”

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