Why You Never Got to Fly The American Concorde: The American SST Story

It would’ve flown nearly three times the
speed of sound and carry more than 250 passengers the distance from New York to Los Angeles
in under two hours. Its development was backed by a billion in
U.S. government funding and an army of Boeing engineers. And airlines were lining up to buy it. This, would’ve been America’s answer to
Concorde. The 1960’s was a decade marked by relentless
optimism for the future. Laser beams, satellites, and moon landings. This was a decade in which the world was changing
quickly. In just a few short years, propeller driven
aircraft had been replaced by sleek new jetliners. And while this new jet age was exciting, many
were expecting an even bigger leap forward. Air travel, was about to get a whole lot faster. A 1950’s propeller driven airliner could take
15 hours to fly from New York to London. In the 1960’s, a jet made that same flight
in around seven hours. But many were expecting that by the 1970’s,
supersonic transports would begin replacing jets. And they would fly two or even three times
the speed of jetliners. And that would cut a New York to London flight
down to under three hours. By the end of the 1970’s, hundreds of these
supersonic transports were expected to be flying. And nearly every major American aircraft manufacturer
was dreaming up plans for them. But these were still very much, just plans. Because actually building a supersonic transport
was an enormous challenge. The technological hurdles alone, were daunting. But supersonic transports wouldn’t just need
to fly fast, they’d need to be economical enough for airlines to actually operate. And these same airlines were already buying
American made jetliners. U.S. manufacturers had the commercial aviation
market, pretty much cornered. So there wasn’t the will to invest the massive
sums of money needed to get any of these plans off the ground. But across the Atlantic, the British and French
weren’t waiting around. In 1962, the two countries announced a partnership
to build Concorde, and this marked the first serious effort to actually build a supersonic
airliner. And a few months later, the Soviets also jumped
into the race with their Tupolev 144. The Americans had been keeping an eye on the
Concorde program well before 1962. Over the years, they watched the program transform
from a concept to a serious enterprise. And that began to worry American officials. Because if the British and French would be
the first to open up the supersonic transport market, and do so uncontested, well, that
could seriously threaten America’s lead in civil Aviation. Thousands of aerospace jobs could be at stake. A future American President might one day
be forced to fly around in a foreign built supersonic transport. And airlines, were now also beginning to show
interest. Pan American World Airways, at the time the
largest American international carrier, even announced its intention to buy Concordes. So in 1963, the race was on. President Kennedy announced that the U.S.
government would help fund the development of an American supersonic transport. Manufacturers were invited to participate
in a design competition which outlined an ambitious set of goals. Develop an aircraft considerably faster and
larger than Concorde, with economics comparable to regular subsonic jets. Just as ambitious were the design proposals
from the three participating American manufacturers. But after years of evaluation, it was Boeing’s
design that was ultimately chosen in 1967. And this was Boeing’s design entry, the
2707. It would fly considerably faster than Concorde,
and that introduced a whole slew of technical challenges requiring some pretty radical solutions. Like all supersonic transports, the Boeing
2707’s shape was highly streamlined. But it also featured something unheard for
a plane it’s size. A variable geometry wing. During landing and takeoff, the 2707’s wings
would be pivoted forward to allow for lower flight speeds and increased control. During supersonic cruise, its wings would
be swept back to counter the massive aerodynamic drag it would experience as it approached
three times the speed of sound. The 2707 would be powered by four Turbojets
fitted with afterburners. To counter the heat they generated, they were
uniquely positioned under the aircraft at the rear. But this this made the plane rear heavy. And that meant the 2707 needed an extra set
of landing gear. Because it would cruise considerably faster
than Concorde, atmospheric friction would heat the 2707’s exterior to several hundred
degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures hot enough to soften regular
aircraft aluminum. So Boeing would need to build the fuselage
out of titanium, with components and systems all specially designed to withstand the enormous
heat. And it would fly much higher than a typical
jet, which meant more pressurization. Hence the tiny cabin windows which were only
six inches. Luckily for passengers, the 2707 would feature
an advanced in-flight entertainment system with a cabin full of televisions. Boeing was confident that the 2707 could enter
service with airlines, by the mid-1970’s. But this plane was pushing 1960’s technology
way beyond its limits. It wasn’t even close to being ready. To start, the titanium alloy needed for the
2707’s airframe was expensive and difficult to work with. The swing-wing mechanism was complex and enormously
heavy. It wasn’t going to work, and eventually, Boeing
was forced back to the drawing board, designing a plane with a more conventional delta wing,
like Concorde. But even as Boeing struggled to work through
massive engineering hurdles, there was an even bigger problem. At supersonic speeds, aircraft generate loud
sonic booms that can be heard along the entire supersonic flight path. A Boeing 2707 cruising at 60 thousand feet
would produce a sonic boom heard as much as 30 miles away. It was estimated that a single transcontinental
flight would produce sonic booms heard by over 5 million people. And to see just how tolerant people were,
in 1964, the good people of Oklahoma City were to subjected six months of daily sonic
boom testing by the FAA and Air Force. With supersonic jets regularly flying overhead,
booms cracked windows on two of the city’s tallest buildings. The tests were forced to end early. More than 15 thousand residents filed complaints
and a further 5 thousand made claims for property damage. A full quarter of the city’s residents claimed
they couldn’t tolerate living with the noise. The Oklahoma boom tests happened only months
after America’s Supersonic effort was announced. But it was one of many warning signs that
officials seemed unwilling to acknowledge. Practical realities were put on hold, because
the competitiveness of America’s aviation industry and national pride remained at stake. But as the 1960s wore on, the program was
plagued by technical setbacks. The ambitious program requirements were not
being met, and an anti-SST movement had grown from a handful of concerned citizens to a
major national coalition of environmental organizations. Growing public opposition to sonic booms had
spread to other kinds of other fears. Some worried that hundreds of supersonic airliners
flying at high altitude would emit enough nitrogen oxide to destroy the ozone layer. They painted a picture of a dystopian future,
where exhaust gases and water vapor would cover the earth in a permanent haze. In 1969, Nixon took over the presidency. By this point America’s Supersonic Transport
Program was delayed by years, its budget ballooning out of control, and the public’s enthusiasm
wavering. Two comprehensive reviews commissioned by
the government questioned the future viability of supersonic transports, and recommended
ending public funding for the program. So now, it was on President Nixon’ shoulders
to make the difficult decision. For fifty years, the United States has lead
the world in air transport. The decision that we announce today means
that we will continue maintain leadership in this field. The supersonic transport is going to be built. But by this point, many could see that the
Boeing 2707’s days were clearly numbered. With a worsening economic situation in the
United States, the program was quickly becoming a contentious political issue. In 1971 the U.S Senate rejected any further
funding for the project and the Boeing 2707 officially died. Two years later, the FAA banned all civil
supersonic aviation over the United States due to sonic boom noise concerns, greatly
impacting the sales potential of the Concorde, and the viability of any future supersonic
transport. During the 1960’s many had predicted that
hundreds of SSTs would fly the skies within the coming decades. While the Concorde flew many years, only 14
were ever delivered to just two airlines. The Soviet Union’s TU-144 only flew regular
passenger service for 8 months on a single route. When the 2707 project was canceled, the threat
of foreign competition and concerns about national prestige were no longer great enough
to offset political, economic and environmental pressures. The public’s view of government programs
and optimism over technology had waned. Over the course of the 1960’s the world
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100 thoughts on “Why You Never Got to Fly The American Concorde: The American SST Story

  1. Thanks for watching! Just quick note… I made a typo @ 1:47 .. it should read "Convair" not "Corvair". Good luck getting a Corvair to hit Mach 1 😉

  2. id say that 1 supersonic flight over land a day is okay, and not on weekends. and to have it midday when most people are at work and are busy with other things anyways. and if i was president i wouldve pushed for new technologies like this because its awesome 😀

  3. The plane that Broke Boeing in fact If It where not for a (Government Bail Out) Boeing would not exist today. They choked on their Aspirations.

  4. Poor and middle class taxpayers paid a billion dollars ($8 billion in today's money) in corporate welfare to subsidize a massively polluting plane only the very wealthy could ever afford (just like Concord). If that isn't socialism, I don't know what is. Of course Boeing's conservative board then and now is totally against socialism and would vehemently deny they ever played a part in ANY kind of socialist endeavor right? I'm sick of conservatives that hate to share their own wealth whine about socialism and then practice it by praying on the poor and middle class. Hypocrites

  5. I think boeing can do it today the tech is there and the problem solving half can be overcome i mean look at old tech like the sr71 i think if we look to our aviation past can we truly unlock our future with super sonic passenger jets being common place

  6. What USA can built Concords has the technology the engineers the money hahahahaha?! First learn how to build houses roads then cars hahaha with those low wages hourly pay hahahahaha mexicanized bum beggars homeless hungry nation!

  7. Why did america need an answer to the Concorde… they could have just purchased Concords if they needed them. Always trying to be better than everyone else even if you fail at it and without reason for it.

  8. The B747 pretty much killed off any ideas of SSTs as economically viable. The economics of the airline industry dictate that you want as many bums on seats as possible on every take-off. One B747 could carry as many bums as five Concordes. Game over.

  9. Yáll can't fly no arr-planes oér Nebraska. Lizard folk an contrails an such. Locals be bring'n out thar shoot'n irons.

  10. If that isn't the most 'murica intro to a video that I've ever seen then I don't know what is. The world needs more afterburner closeups with rockin' backing tracks!

  11. I grew up in New York and we would go to Jones Beach or when I lived in Valley Stream you had a perfect view of the south shore and you would see the Concorde taking off or coming in for a landing , it always made everybody stop and look . I remember being in the play field at recess and every single person would stop and look and watch for the two or three minutes as the plane flew overhead I’m talking about 300/ 400 people yeah everybody was amazed by the airplane and we were always wishing we were on the plane ourselves

  12. If only Al Gore was born earlier and invented fracking, BOEING Model 733; we would've designed and built this beauty! For over ocean flights.

  13. Are people really such perpetual whiners that a sonic boom lasting well under a second is an "issue"? Pathetic. "I' have to hear a loud noise momentarily once a day so I'm going to write to my Congressman to put an end to it."

  14. this information is fake, he didn't even cite his work. plus everyone knows the 3 times the speed of sound in a comercial airplane is imporsible today

  15. As Chen said, we made numerous sr71,s that go Mach 3 the sst should have a cake walk so sad when I watched the last flight and the crash, end to a magnificent plane!

  16. America: "Well, we're in the lead, time to stop developing and racking in the bucks."
    Also America: "Our president flying in something made by foreigners?! Let's jump back on the bandwagon"
    Greed and Pride, such sound reasons in technological advancements.

  17. How about…. for transatlantic flights, just fly supersonic over the ocean, then slow down once you're near land. New york to London would still be around 2 hours

  18. America: Stop that program
    Engineer: Why?
    America: It causes many problems
    Engineer: Ok
    America: But I have an idea
    Engineer: Yes?
    America: Lets make a super sonic spy plane!
    Engineer: …
    America: Would you agree?
    Engineer: Do you have enough funds for that?
    America: Yes
    Engineer: Aight Lets do this!
    SR-71 Blackbird was born!

  19. At the time of concord: built a supersonic plane on paper then made it in real life

    Now: still can’t figure out the Boeing 737 Max

  20. crazy that in 30 years they went from biplanes to super sonic jets, and we are stuck with the same stuff we had 30 years ago…

  21. My grandfather worked at the SST project at Boeing (documenting the communications system). Today is his birthday incidentally. He would be 115 years old if he were alive… Happy birthday grandpa! 🙂

  22. We never got to fly a british or french concorde either mate. In fact nobody did unless you are most likely of the older generation, a millionaire, and have been a millionaire for at least 20 years or so 😉 – A 50 year old millionaire for 10 years just won't cut it i'm afraid!

  23. Now lots of modern synthetic composit materials available for making fuselage of this type designs of supersonic aircraft possible.

  24. Ironically, the plane meant to be cancelled within only a few years and only a few dozens of units built saved Boeing as the 2707/733 almost bankrupt Boeing: 747 Jumbo Jet Queen of the Skies

  25. Boeing's enormously successful Jumbojet 747 wiith much quieter fuel efficient High Bypass Turbofan Jet Engines pretty much kill any appeal to go fully supersonic with more prestige of having gas guzzling military style jet engines capable of supersonic speeds

    back in the late 1950's and early 1960's when commercial passenger jet airlines were coming on line, i absolutely hated flying in them, especially as a child, where the discomfort of very loud jet engines on long flights over the Pacific Ocean (often with stopovers in Hawaii for refueling) plus incredibly painful cabin air pressurization/depressurization was very distressing to bear.

    when very young, one didn't know how to voluntarily adjust one's eustacian inner ear canals to allow for pressure equalization.
    often, even after a flight has ended, and one has already disembarked, one's ear pressure remained imbalanced making one's hearing deaf-like, for a day or two, till it cleared up. (i hated this bizarre ordeal, when a kid, it was painful and disorienting!)

    it's easier to do as an adult knowing when and how to avoid rapid air pressure changes can by anticipated with voluntary "clicking" ones eustacian tube inner ear muscles.

    years later, when big jumbojets with their much quieter turbofan jet engines, and huge interiors, air travelling was much calmer, less wearisome, more comfortable, and enjoyable, especially given one could travel with young children who would suffer less from engine noise, but they still had to learn to voluntarily adjust their inner ear air pressure to avoid ear pain from cabin pressurisation cycles causing inner ear pressure imbalance.

  26. In the early 90's, I was drinking beer at the Sailor's Choice bar / restaurant in Port Canaveral, a truck pulled in with what looked like a spaceship on it, not surprising since we were near the gates to the Canaveral Air Force Station but low and behold, it was the SST mockup's nose section.

  27. I wish I had been of a traveling age before the Concordes were retired! I totally understand the risk with the sonic booms and the insane costs to first create and then operate a supersonic plane, though… A flight on one would be EXPENSIVE!

  28. USA are too incompetent to build their own supersonic plane, so instead they banned Europe's from being used on their territory so that America could maintain its "superiority" and dominance. Way to go!

  29. Makes you question to viability of using Space X's starship as a commercial vehicle. It might be able to travel at thousands of miles per hour and reach most the planet in 30 minutes. But I imagine the tickets are going to be horrendously expensive.

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