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Dec 20, 2012

Supersonic biz jet patent by Gulfstream revealed

The dream of unrestricted supersonic passenger flight has been boosted by US patent filings from corporate jet maker Gulfstream

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The patent drawings covering the Gulfstream inventions

You need to go to Flightglobal here to read all about this, but it looks like Gulfstream has made some very promising breakthroughs in suppressing the shockwaves that have been a barrier to the development of supersonic passenger aircraft that can fly directly over cities.

There is no information about its range or payload as this is all about engineering and design features, but if it could be made to work for a supersonic business jet or SSBJ then naturally the same innovations can be scaled up one day to airliner size.

One day soon, many would hope. Concorde was a wonderful yet limited machine, which could carry up to 100 passengers at maximum speeds of just under or over mach 2 between New York City and London, but the supersonic boom it generated was too damaging at its most intense to be acceptable over built up areas.

The last Concorde service flew in October 2003, after a retirement brought on by the need to replace and upgrade some of its systems at a cost far in excess of any plausible returns.

Contrary to popular reports, the jet was profitable for British Airways for a period during the 1980s, when it made around £ 600 million in profits, although the acquisition costs of the very expensive Anglo-French jet were not borne by the two operators, BA and Air France, but by the taxpayers of each country.

Those glory days in terms of expense accounts passed, and in the 90s these services made rather less if anything for the two airlines, with a significant factor being the rising cost of fuel and the consumption by Concordes of around four times as much of it per passenger or flight as the most efficient Boeing 747s of the times.

Concorde was not the fastest nor highest flying SST, the USSR’s TU-144 at mach 2.3 and sustainable altitudes of more than 63,000 feet was able to fly faster and higher, however it couldn’t do so safely, or for useful distances, while Concorde was superbly competent at crossing the North Atlantic both ways with full payload.

The display Concorde at Heathrow after flights ceased
Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.

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8 comments

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8 thoughts on “Supersonic biz jet patent by Gulfstream revealed

  1. johnb78

    BA’s services were profitable, although perhaps only marginally so, until shutdown. AF’s were lossmaking before AF4590 and massively lossmaking afterwards.

    BA only withdrew its Concordes from service reluctantly, after Airbus refused to continue providing technical support in the wake of AF’s decision to withdraw its fleet.

  2. Ben Sandilands

    I interviewed Colin Marshall and Mike Bannister less than a week before the last scheduled flight in 2003 and both said that the cost of meeting new regulatory requirements for its aged electrical system was excessive.

    There were references to support for the jet which had been taken over by Airbus (which didn’t exist when it was built of course) but if I recollect correctly, Airbus wasn’t interested in putting any money into something which had nothing to do with its core preoccupations and that had possibly sealed its in-service fate as you indicate.

    Air France was in a hurry to quit operations but BA held out until later. It had customers in a volume AF never saw for its Concorde operations.

    At the time in the early naughties I wasn’t the only semi-regular visitor to Toulouse to notice that Airbus wasn’t even spending money to keep what I believe to be Concorde 201 clean of bird sh*t at its resting place near the final assembly line.

    However more recently that particular relic of the first SST age has been cleaned, and possibly repainted even, and looks like it could fly tomorrow from where it now stands near the Airbus delivery centre. I understand but can’t confirm that a second Concorde from the Air France fleet has also been parked at Toulouse.

  3. Aidan Stanger

    johnb78, BA’s reluctance to withdraw the Concordes was fake – they enthusiastically withdrew them as they were by far the noisiest aircraft in the fleet, and they wanted to reduce the Heathrow noise contours in the hope of getting another runway approved. Airbus support wasn’t needed as Ttupolev had offered to take over. And if BA couldn’t keep operating them profitably, Virgin Atlantic wanted to try.

  4. fractious

    I lived in various places more-or-less directly west of LHR for quite a few years in the 80s. While I get that I wasn’t right underneath the thing in Hounslow or Staines or Maidenhead and therefore didn’t have the ceiling in my lap in every time it took off, a lot of the hoo-haa about its sonic boom was bollox. By the time it was far enough from LHR to open the taps it was over Devon or Cornwall, most of which was open game for the RAF and its EE Lightnings and F4K Phantoms using television masts as target practice. Me and especially my Dad loved the sound of the thing doing its party trick. What with decomissioning Concorde and later the GR9 Harriers (which it sold to the US for an absolute pittance) some of us Poms still cannot fathom how and why British engineering excellence got sold out so cheaply and so quickly.

    Apologies Ben for using your blog as a footstool for my rant.

  5. ltfisher

    Agreed fractious. A classic example was in its early pre scheduled days Concorde flew in to make an appearance at Farnborough. I was there. The weather that Sunday was atrocious with the cloud base almost on the grass. After landing Concorde backtracked and immediately took off again. Later that afternoon there were numerous complaints lodged by Bristol residents upset by the noise made by Concorde. Typically of course it was just part of a campaign designed to give Concorde a bad [environmental] name as unknown to the complainants Concorde didn’t land at its Bristol base that afternoon preferring, because of the minimal weather, to go just up the road and land, without a complaint, at LHR.

  6. dunph

    The most memorable flight of my life – Concorde from LHR to JFK – the bulkhead dial told you what speed you were travelling at – and it was more effective than counting sheep for the jet-lagged traveller: I watched it get to Mach 1.1 then the next thing remembered was being woken up by an unappreciative Chairman who remarked that he hoped I had enjoyed the unique experience 🙂

  7. TheFamousEccles

    Interesting article, thanks for the link – I hope that Gulfstream get it happening.

  8. bill mecorney

    It is a little known fact that to obtain a US Patent, no proof of functionality is necessary. It need not work. The drawings are a tickle, an F-111 with a Trident tail? Mounting the engines outdoors? The needle nose is 60’s Edwards Air Force Base. Fifties?

    I like noise. And I loved Concorde. I saw her take off out of RENO one day. Lord, what a glorious racket.

    In the age of Billionaires who argue with the waitress over the cost of a soda, anything is possible.
    I fix the cost of Supersonic travel for four swells at 65,000USD/hour. After development, and the politics is amortized.

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