back to article American upstart seeks hotshot guinea pig for Concorde-a-like airliner

An American startup claiming to be building a modern-day Concorde is hiring a test pilot. Boom Supersonic, which, among other things, enjoys support from (who else?) Richard Branson, tech incubator Y Combinator, and a slack handful of venture capitalists, is recruiting a chief test pilot who will put its 1,451mph aircraft …

  1. bazza Silver badge

    Bon Voyage

    Good luck to Boom. It'd be nice to see a supersonic champagne tasting session once more (i.e. very civilised). The problem is engines, hopefully they'll be allowed some military power units; very expensive to develop from scratch...

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    The Tu-144 was a straight visual ripoff

    Bollocks, Tu has retractable canards allowing it lower takeoff and landing speeds and better manoeuvrability at approach speeds. Concorde does not.

    Does this look identical:

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/T_YCUvu8ykQ/hqdefault.jpg

    versus

    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/45644000/jpg/_45644490_-5.jpg

    The aerodynamics and control especially in subsonic flight are quite different. Engine positioning significantly differs too, wing profile is different, etc.

    They look similar only to someone who has ABSOLUTELTY NO clue like the Daily Mail. If anything Tu looks more like the Valkyrie, not like Concord. The whole canard assembly is also still till this age ahead of its time by the way.

    1. david bates

      Aye.

      Tu-144 does look rather like it was nailed together in a shed by someone who had heard Concorde being described but had never actually seen it

      1. bazza Silver badge

        There's also a lot of aerodynamic subtlety to the shape of Concorde's wing that was less obvious back then than today. And the wing was also, I think, quite difficult to manufacture.

        So if the Soviets did have copies of the drawings, it might not have been readily apparent why the shape was how it was. So perhaps the Tu-144 came out a bit more flat-plated than Concorde owing to a lack of understanding of Concorde's shape and not wanting to simply copy it verbatum (if they had the drawings that is). Still, to get the Tu-144 into the sky was still quite an achievement, even if it wasn't totally successful.

        Delta wings are often disliked by some aviation design communities. They can suffer from a lack of controlability at slow speed (the pitched up wing masks the control surfaces at the rear from the air flow, so no control). The fix is canards. The Americans went off deltas some time ago; SR-71/A12, B58, F106, etc are all quite old. In contrast the British (Javelin, Vulcan, Concorde, Typhoon) and French (endless Mirage's, Rafale, Concorde) liked delta wings. Concorde also had weird drag / speed characterstics; as the speed bled off and the aircraft was pitched up to maintain altitude, the thrust would have to be increased; tricky stuff.

        For all things techno-geaky about Concorde, it's well worth ploughing through this extensive, multi year thread on PPRUNE.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          it might not have been readily apparent why the shape was how it was.

          Gawd can people stop repeating this pathological nationalistic drivel which has no basis in engineering and actual aviation history.

          The "subtle" form of the Concorde wing: It was tested by Tupolev including going WAY BEYOND that and chronologically EARLIER than that. The prototype is still sitting in a hangar somewhere and pictures are available. It flew several years before the "final form" of the Concorde wing took to the air. The name in Russian is "оживальное крыло" and it was something both sides of the Iron curtain experimented extensively on during the rather short period when 2M+ bombers seemed like a good idea. The claim that it is exclusive to Concorde (which sports only a minimal variant of this design) is a fairy tale - there are Mig, Boeing, etc prototypes flown with that design long before that.

          I cannot be arsed to look for a better pic, this is just fishing for 5 seconds of google images specifically for Tu-144: http://www.razlib.ru/tehnicheskie_nauki/sverhzvukovye_samolety/pic_310.jpg

          Tupolev dropped it exactly because he got significantly lower cost to manufacture, similar hypersonic performance and better low speed performance with the canards. End of the day it is an engineering problem. If something can be built with the same or better final result using a significantly simpler and lower cost to manufacture that is what should be done.

          As far as the question of "who stole from whom" - they both stole from XB-70. Massively.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Vladimir's Right Hand

            Gawd can people stop repeating this pathological nationalistic drivel which has no basis in engineering and actual aviation history.

            Gawd, and can you stop trying to be a low rent version of RT, you just aren't good enough to be part of the current Russian propaganda campaign.

            In the brief period of openness between Communism and Putinism the engineers working on the TU-144 went on record about the programme, and it's too late to try to rewrite history now.

          2. defiler

            Concorde vs Tupolev "rip-off"

            Something I've pointed out to many people over the years. There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but given a specific level of technology and a given physiology of cat there's only one optimum way to skin a cat.

            Ergo, engineers trying to strive for the same (difficult) goal will often tend to converge on similar designs even when working in isolation.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: Concorde vs Tupolev "rip-off"

              "Ergo, engineers trying to strive for the same (difficult) goal will often tend to converge on similar designs even when working in isolation."

              Do Apple and Samsung know that?

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          "There's also a lot of aerodynamic subtlety to the shape of Concorde's wing"

          True.

          And the Russians did not appreciate it, hence the canards retrofitted in the testing phase.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Concorde also had weird drag / speed characterstics;"

          Nothing weird about that - it's called the airspeed unstable regime where induced drag dominates and most airplanes exhibit the same behavior at least in theory. That's why you _don't_ use thrust to control the airspeed when flying slow - you use the elevator instead (and thrust is used to control the rate of climb/descent).

    2. steelpillow Silver badge
      Headmaster

      TU-144 was indeed conceived as a ripoff. But, to be fair, both the French and English had already merged equally similar designs and any other configuration was just crap (as Boeing found out). The canard moustache was only added because it turned out a badly-engineered ripoff. And yes, conceptually they are identical, just that comparing them is like comparing a da Vinci to a Mona Lisa painting by numbers kit.

      The similarity of the Boom to these blasts from the past is no coincidence either, you can't beat the tailless delta. Its reputed aerodynamic advance lies in the subtlety of its curves to minimise the peak boom. I have my doubts about cruise efficiency though, moving the engines like that will reduce the boom but it will also lose out on waverider lift (see also XB-70 comment elsewhere).

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        The canard moustache

        Does that have to be cleaned off before the cooking with orange sauce?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bollocks, Tu has retractable canards

      Yeah, their copy of the Concorde delta wing didn't produce enough lift.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The original prototype Tu-144 was different than the production version

      The original prototype Tu-144 had ogival delta wings and no canards.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-144#/media/File:Tu-144-schoenefeld.jpg

      The production version changed the wing to a double-delta design, and added the retractable canards.

      The engine locations were always different from the Concorde on both the prototype and the production versions.

      The landing gear were moved from outside the engine nacelles to compartments within the nacelles between the engine inlet ducts.

    5. rsole

      Thanks, I had forgotten how beautiful Concorde really was.

    6. JerseyDaveC

      There are similarities but they're basically different. It's worthy of note that although Concorde required re-heat to be engaged to move through the sound barrier, it could then be disengaged for supersonic cruise: I gather that the TU-144 had to retain re-heat whilst supersonic. One would think that if they'd blagged the verbatim blueprints it would have been possible to avoid such a fundamental aerodynamic drawback.

      Also, I gather that after relations had calmed down between the US and Russia, the TU-144 was used briefly by NASA for scientific research.

  3. Mr Dogshit

    Tu-144 was longer, heavier, noisier.

    I think a Russian gentleman was arrested in a Paris hotel room with the blueprints of Concorde's nose landing gear.

    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171018-the-soviet-unions-flawed-rival-to-concorde

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Legend has it that the DGSI/DGSE had found out that the Soviets had a pipeline into the Concorde project. They had an idea who it was after a while and decided to deal with it their way. They supplied the mole with plans that were heavily doctored so much so that they would be dangerous to work off. Once they'd let enough of the dodgy material out to bugger the Konkordski they moved in on the suspect.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Jeroen Braamhaar

    Hmmm

    Interesting how the XB-70 Valkyrie has been completely forgotten.

    This was a plane contemporary with (and similarly sized as) both Concorde and the Tu-144 ... yet was capable of cruising at Mach 3.

    Only 2 prototypes were ever built, and the 1960's emphasis on ballistic missiles (plus a fatal midair crash on a photo op flight of all things) put an end to the program before it ever had the chance to fully develop.

    AFAIK, the second prototype achieved Mach 3.4 on a test flight ...

    both planes were turned over to NASA Dryden Flight Research Center where they conclusively proved that sonic booms and population centers were an incredibly poor mixture :D

    http://xb70.interceptor.com/ for its intriguing story!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "Interesting how the XB-70 Valkyrie has been completely forgotten."

      Not really.

      The problem with such a design (part of what killed Boeing's SST design for the USG as well) was it relied on a couple of very big parts moving into the right positions at the right times, otherwise the aircraft falls out of the sky.

      Civilian designs that depend on this (or active lift systems, like those on the Starfighter and Buccaneer) have never succeeded because if they fail in take off or landing (which is when they are usually most active) it is a very bad day for the passengers and crew.

      The real triumph of Concorde's aerodynamics was it achieved adequate performance outside it's core flight range (IE M2.2 at 40 000+ ft) without massive slabs of moving metal to do so.

    2. TDog

      Re: Hmmm

      XB170 was jolly jolly good. Howsoever, it did not (as far as I can recollect) have the sustained cruise capacity of the Concord (e was courtesy of Tony Benn [Lord Stansgate]) to keep the French happy(Best thing he ever did.));

      So the key aerodynamic / weight / shape configurations were basically built around the engines. As in (if I have an engine that can do this; with that much fuel, and produce all of this thrust) then the compromise was some sort of linear equation (or second order of such), in which this, that, and product were optimised for some expected requirement [or outcome].

      All the rest is just history of one paradigm or another.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Howsoever, it did not..have the sustained cruise capacity of the Concord "

        Actually the whole point of the plane was sustained M3 flight.

        While other M1+ planes were designed to stay inside the "shock cone" of it's nose the XB70 used "compression lift" caused by the engine package to raise the air pressure under the plane, and the flip down of the wing tips to trap the pressure under the fuselage.

        AFAIK it was the first (and last) "shockwave rider" design

        Still astonishing and advanced (built in steel honeycomb to be affordable as 1 XB70 was 10x bigger than an SR71 in payload) even 7 decades after its construction (and you won't find many turbjets that big anywhere either).

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      plus a fatal midair crash on a photo op flight of all things

      Caused by an F-104 Starfighter.

      A plane so dangerous, it even killed other planes by accident!

      (The pilot of the F-104 was put into a position where he found it very difficult to tell how close to the Valkerie he was. The wing vortices from the Valkerie gradully pulled him in until the wings touched. At which point, the F-104 flipped over the top of the Valkerie, destroying much of the wing and upper canard. For once, not a pilot error)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " bears a marked resemblance..."

    And why not? Stick with tried and tested, then innovate from there.

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Engines at the rear?

    If my memory serves me right, wasn't there an eposide of 'Thunderbirds' that featured a supersonic aircraft with the engines on either side of the tail?

    Black Helicopters because the Military will be all over this if it gets anywhere past a prototype. Then it will be burried deep, really deep in Area 51.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Coat

      "memory..eposide of 'Thunderbirds' ..a supersonic aircraft..engines on either side of the tail?"

      I think it was the pilot.

      This was the "Fireflash." The worlds first nuclear powered civilian airliner.

      Historically this was due to long distance jets needing "engine out" capability over water and earlier generation engines not having the reliability.

      Today only Dassault still make 3 engine biz jets. Modern engine designs are reliable enough that most mfg's go with just two.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: "memory..eposide of 'Thunderbirds' ..a supersonic aircraft..engines on either side of the tail?"

        "Modern engine designs are reliable enough that most mfg's go with just two."

        They say in their FAQ that three engines gives them more routing flexibility (i.e. shorter and faster) than ETROPS allows.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Engines at the rear?

      makes a number of changes – in particular, moving the engines to the rear of the fuselage rather than slinging them under the wings.

      From the pictures, only two are moved to the rear - there are another two under the wings. Odd that a plane that's no bigger than Concorde (maybe slightly smaller?) and with 50-odd years of advanced aerodynamic and engine development should still need four engines.

      M.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Engines at the rear?

        Suspect it's actually 3 with a single fuselage mounted engine fed by side mounted inlets..

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The British Airways LCY to JFK route is just silly.

    I've flown it a few times (paid for by clients) and you have to stop at Shannon where you go through Customs and Immigration clearance while they top up the fuel so total flight time becomes about 10-11 hours at which point it almost makes more sense to go to Heathrow (if you're business class you don't have to arrive two hours early).

    BA had to cut back on the number of flights as there just wasn't enough demand, on one occasion it was just me and one other passenger on the plane.

    A new outfit called Odyssey Airlines plan to fly the same route using a non stop C Class Bombadier, I wish them luck but have serious reservations about the demand.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: The British Airways LCY to JFK route is just silly.

      But clearing US immigration in Shannon means you arrive into JFK as a domestic flight, and avoid the hellhole that is JFK immigration. Some flights from the Gulf pull the same trick.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: The British Airways LCY to JFK route is just silly.

      The article implies that LCY to JFK is a possible route for this new aircraft. Given that the A318 is the biggest aircraft that can get into the air from that short runway, I'd be very surprised if something like the Boom could even nose-up before landing in the docks :-)

      M.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: The British Airways LCY to JFK route is just silly.

        The article is wrong. Boom allegedly needs a 2000m runway, ideally 3000m. London City's is 1500m.

    3. JerseyDaveC

      Re: The British Airways LCY to JFK route is just silly.

      The feature seems to imply that LCY-JFK is the only BA route from London to New York. Worth noting that there's plenty of BA stuff doing LHR-JFK, using 777s and 747-400s.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: The British Airways LCY to JFK route is just silly.

        Yeah, I was a bit confused by that part. There are plenty of non-stop flights from London to New York, from a whole bunch of airlines using just about any plane capable of flying the route. In fact, finding the route mentioned in the article is quite an effort, and it turns out that it actually takes nearly 10 hours, instead of under 8 hours if you fly direct from Heathrow or Gatwick. I assumed that Concorde must have flown the route in question and this was meant as a comparison, but apparently Concorde flew from Heathrow, which leaves me utterly baffled why the author thought to bring up this piece of utter irrelevance.

  9. herman Silver badge

    Who ripped off who? The TU144 flew 4 YEARS before the Concord.

    Unless someone made a time machine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The TU144 flew 4 YEARS before the Concord

      Try 2 months, not 4 years. 31st Dec '68, versus 2nd March '69

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    XB-1? I remember what happened to the original one of that name/designation.

    55 seats? Means it won't be profitable. Or very expensive mode of travel. Or highly subsidized.

    But hell yes.. I go for trip on one.

  11. YARR
    FAIL

    XB = Experimental Bomber

    Unless I'm mistaken, the designation XB means experimental bomber. Could this be the first service to drop passengers off at their destination, saving them the bothersome journey from the airport? I guess that's why they need a military pilot with aiming experience.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: XB = Experimental Bomber

      There's a reason it's called Boom...

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    I've seen their site. The story does not add up.

    Hmm.

    Innovations

    "Area ruled fuselage"

    Developed in the US in the early 50's. BTW subsonic airliners also use it in what are called "Küchemann Carrots," or "anti-shock" bodies.

    "Chines"

    Used on the SR71 and in Lockheeds SST entry, AKA "Leading edge strakes"

    "Refined delta wings"

    Well given the 6 decades from the design of Concorde and the Shuttle you'd kind of expect a bit of refinement, wouldn't you?

    "Propulsion"

    J85-21.

    Turbojets without after burner, to be replaced by a mid flow turbofan in design.

    BTW this was already being planned for the Concord B, described here

    Most of this stuff has been around for decades. Could a modern spin on the design do better? Yes it should. Will it do better enough to make it worthwhile? On a budget that commercial investors can afford? Time will tell.

    But the size of this thing is just strange. This is pretty big for a biz jet and tiny for an airliner. Concorde, at 100 passengers, was viewed as borderline for economical service in the 1960s, at 1960 fuel prices. Most studies seem to think 300+ passengers are needed to make a design close. And if you can't radically lower the boom carpet you've still got a huge problem to deal with.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: I've seen their site. The story does not add up.

      And if you can't radically lower the boom carpet you've still got a huge problem to deal with.

      Reg Turnbull's book on Concorde espouses (if I remember correctly - I can't look it up right now) the conspiracy theory that many of the noise objections in the US were entirely politically motivated, and that the delays to the start of transatlantic service these caused were one of the main reasons airlines cancelled orders.

      I wonder if a home-grown SST would have the same problems?

      M.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: I've seen their site. The story does not add up.

        And most of those noise objections disappeared when

        A. people found out that concorde did'nt hang about once it had taken off

        and B. Someone played the noise of concorde and another aircraft to a bunch of congress critters and pointed out concorde was the quieter of the 2 and the noisy fekker was airforce 1 ....

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: I've seen their site. The story does not add up.

          Concorde took off on afterburner. It was loud. I used to work under the flightpath - admittedly only a few miles from the runway.

          When I say loud, I mean that I couldn't hear myself talking on the phone (let alone the caller) for over a minute, inside a building. Oh and my coffee cup was vibrating - along with everything else...

          I'm sure it was much better when cruising.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          And most of those noise objections disappeared when...

          A. people found out that concorde did'nt hang about once it had taken off

          and B. Someone played the noise of concorde and another aircraft to a bunch of congress critters and pointed out concorde was the quieter of the 2 and the noisy fekker was airforce 1 ....

          Boom is claiming that it's design will be 30x quieter than Concorde.

          That said even the full size one is 1/3 the size of Concorde, so it should be somewhat quieter.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And most of those noise objections disappeared when...

            Sorry, not buying it.

            I used to live directly under the approach to Heathrow at Canary Wharf (I know it's a long way....but they fly pretty much right over it when the wind blows out of the West).

            Anyway, while it's quite possible on a measurement of loudness Concorde was quiter there is no doubt that the sound pitch of the engines made it sound louder (it was much more of a roar then a 747).

            I can say this with certainty as my flat was on the river and double glazed and I could easily tell when Concorde was flying over and step out on the balcony to see it).

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder if a home-grown SST would have the same problems?

        Can pigs fly?

        No

        and the same answer applies to your question.

        Naturally, it also needs a good number of very think brown envelopes to be passed around AND some really, really generous campaign contributions to ensure that 'No' is the answer.

        Then it would need repeating to make sure that the thing gets built in the right place.

        W. Virginia has a lot of soon to be laid off (when Trump gets kicked out) coal miners. I'm sure that they will be up to the task of building a high tech aircraft.

        {why does it all remind me of DeLorean???}

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Coat

          "Naturally, it also needs a good number of very think brown envelopes to be passed around"

          You have to understand.

          Freedom ain't free. Democracy is expensive.

          Now I've got to go and drop off a few such packages to some greedy needy causes.

      3. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: I've seen their site. The story does not add up.

        Reg Turnbull's book on Concorde

        Really should try to look things up before posting :-)

        The book is by the BBC correspondent Reginald Turnill (not Turnbull!) and called Celebrating Concorde, published 1994 long before the AF crash. It's well worth a read if you can find a copy - Reg was at most of the key events in person and includes quotes from his reports.

        M.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Refueling after 4500NM

    A real shame that their homage to Concorde includes its stunted range: given contrary winds that means having to refuel between Heathrow & JFK, so losing much of the time saving.

  14. Egghead & Boffin

    A lot of the similarities in appearance are because of the demands/limitations of the aerodynamics and the engines. It's the same reason that so many different marques of car look so similar. Fuel efficiency in a car requires (among other things) low drag factors. Avoiding a large boom footprint likewise (high speed trains have an aerodynamic nose to avoid similar problems when passing through and leaving tunnels). The aircraft must generate enough lift for landing and take-off but not generate too much in supersonic flight, etc. Because of all this there are always going to be similarities in the appearance of supersonic passenger aircraft, no matter who designs and builds the airframe.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    As for forgotten aircraft tech....

    You did not need an SR71 to get to M3 even 40+ years ago with competent engineering and a good starting design.

    CFD was still in its infancy then so I'd guess things would be more likely to run right first time (or at least in the ball park) than then.

    Still doesn't eliminate the boom though.

    The other real challenge is getting politicians to lift the M1 speed limit over the US (for "suitable" aircraft only of course).

  16. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    There are a couple of excellent documentaries on BBC iPlayer at the moment about Concord(e), one of which includes some material about the Ruskie version. I can't dig out the exact links to share here, because I'm posting from work, where the Fun Police dwell.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      because I'm posting from work, where the Fun Police dwell.

      You rang?

      (Yes, yes, highly unlikely to be posting from my Orkplace)..

  17. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Concorde and TU-144 museum exhibits

    There is a museum in southern Germany, near Heidelberg that has both an ex-Air France Concorde and a TU-144 on display. They also have a flight test prototype of the Russian BURAN spaceshuttle at a nearby location. Allow a couple of days to visit both

    AUTO & TECHNIK MUSEUM SINSHEIM

    https://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/

    https://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/concorde

    https://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/tupolev-tu-144

    TECHNIK MUSEUM SPEYER

    https://speyer.technik-museum.de/en/

    Russian Spaceshuttle BURAN (flight test prototype)

    https://speyer.technik-museum.de/en/spaceshuttle-buran

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