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How Concorde Was Able To Fly Supersonic




Today marks a very special anniversary in aviation history. 52 years ago today, on March 2nd, 1969, Aérospatiale and BAC’s iconic supersonic airliner known as ‘Concorde’ took to the skies for the first time. While the aircraft was a symbol of luxury that only the wealthiest customers and businesses could afford to travel on, its futuristic design and supersonic capabilities inspired fans worldwide. Let’s take a look at what exactly made it capable of sustained supersonic flight.

British Airways Concorde
Concorde is undoubtedly one of the most iconic airliners to ever grace the world’s skies. Photo: Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia Commons

How Concorde came to be

Concorde was the product of a British-French collaboration between manufacturers BAC and Aérospatiale. Its origins date back to more than a decade before its first flight. The first meeting of Welsh aeronautical engineer Sir Morien Bedford Morgan’s committee formed to study the concept of supersonic transport (SST) took place in February 1954. It delivered its first reports to Arnold Hall of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) a year later.

Meanwhile, in the late-1950s, France’s Sud-Aviation was planning its own SST aircraft, known as the Super-Caravelle. After it became apparent that this design was similar to the British concept, the British-French partnership that produced Concorde was formed in the early-1960s. By the end of the decade, the aircraft had made its first test flight.

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Concorde and Tu-144
The Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany is home to examples of both Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144. Photo: Jake Hardiman – Simple Flying

Supersonic competitors

However, by the time Concorde took to the skies on March 2nd, 1969, its Soviet competitor, the Tupolev Tu-144, had already done so the previous December. It was thought that a US design, the larger and faster Boeing 2707, would also provide competition on the supersonic market. However, Boeing canceled this in 1971 before its prototypes could be completed.

Of the two supersonic designs that did make it to production, Concorde went on to have a far longer and more successful career than its Soviet counterpart. After the first Concorde prototype made its maiden test flight out of Toulouse in March 1969, the first British-built example did so out of Bristol just over a month later. However, supersonic test flights did not take place until October that year. But what exactly allowed Concorde to fly so fast?

Concorde first flight
An archive photo of Concorde’s first flight out of Toulouse, France on March 2nd, 1969. Photo: André Cros via Wikimedia Commons

Wing design

Almost everything about Concorde’s appearance is visually striking, and vastly different from subsonic airliners both back then and now. Perhaps one of the most conspicuous aspects of its design was its wings. These were known as an ogival delta, referring to the ogee curve on its leading edge that differed from the straight-edged designs on fighter jets.

The reason for the delta wing’s popularity among military aircraft is that its design results in numerous advantages that are conducive to high-altitude supersonic flight. As such, Concorde made use of this design to profit in a similar way. For example, the wings were thinner than on contemporary swept-wing designs, which reduced its drag.

Concorde Duxford
Concorde’s striking ogival delta-shaped wings instantly set it apart from contemporary subsonic airliners. Photo: Jake Hardiman – Simple Flying

Furthermore, the shockwaves that Concorde produced while flying at supersonic speeds resulted in high pressure below the wings. This provided substantial extra lift without increasing drag. This way key not just in terms of speed, but also in altitude. The additional lift helped Concorde to reach significantly greater heights than subsonic airliners. Here, it could profit from the thinner air’s minimal drag to fly supersonically in the most efficient manner possible.

Engine technology

The engines that were found below Concorde’s striking ogival delta wings were also crucial in granting Concorde its legendary supersonic abilities. The aircraft boasted four Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 Mk610 turbojets. These were based on the Rolls-Royce Olympus engines found on the RAF’s Avro Vulcan strategic bombers.

Avro Vulcan Duxford
Concorde’s engines were derived from those of the Avro Vulcan strategic bomber, as seen at the center of the photograph. Photo: Jake Hardiman – Simple Flying

Much like Concorde, the Vulcan flew at high altitudes, and sported a delta wing design. Its engines, originally known as the Bristol B.E. 10, were the world’s first two-spool axial-flow turbojets. Concorde’s Olympus 593 engines also featured reheat capabilities in the form of afterburners. This technology provided increased thrust on takeoff and during supersonic flight.

When running ‘dry’ (without the afterburners), each of Concorde’s four engines produced 31,000 lbf of thrust. However, with the afterburners on, otherwise known as running ‘wet,’ this increased by more than 20%, totaling 38,050 lbf of thrust per engine.

Concorde was a comparatively light aircraft, with a 185-tonne MTOW compared to 333 tonnes for the Boeing 747-100. As such, its engine technology made a big difference in allowing it to ‘supercruise’ at more than twice the speed of sound. Concorde would typically cruise at around 2,158 km/h (1,165 knots), just below its Mach 2.04 maximum speed.

British Airways Concorde Taking Off
Concorde was prohibited from flying supersonic over land due to the noise pollution from its sonic boom. Photo: Getty Images

Special paint

Even details as seemingly minor as the paint used on Concorde were key factors in enhancing its performance. Specifically, Concorde’s white paint was deliberately highly reflective. This allowed it to deflect some of the heat that arose during supersonic flight.

The ability to deflect this heat was crucial in preventing overheating and damage to its aluminum structure. As such, Concorde was able to cruise at supersonic speeds for extended periods of time without compromising its safety or structural integrity. For this reason, a promotional blue, Pepsi-liveried Concorde could only fly supersonic for 20 minutes at a time.

Air France Concorde Pepsi
F-BTSD in its short-lived Pepsi livery. Photo: Richard Vandervord via Wikimedia Commons

Adjustable nose

Concorde’s adjustable, drooped nose was also a factor in enhancing its performance, both while cruising and landing. As is evident from the side profile above, when its nose was pointing straight away from the cockpit, it gave the aircraft an incredible streamlined front profile with minimal surface area and, subsequently, drag. This, in turn, facilitated higher speeds.

However, when landing, Concorde had a very high angle of attack. Had the nose remained in the pointed configuration while touching down, its pilots would have had minimal visibility. The same could also be said for taxi and takeoff operations. As such, its nose could be lowered by an angle of 12.5° to improve visibility before landing. This was reduced to 5° on touchdown to avoid potential damage as the nose wheel hit the ground.

Concorde Landing Farnborough
Concorde landing at Farnborough in 1974, with its nose drooped in the trademark manner. Photo: Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons

The end of an era

Overall, six prototypes and 14 production examples of Concorde were produced between 1965 and 1979. The type entered commercial service on January 21st, 1976, and enjoyed a glittering 27-year career. However, sadly, all good things must come to an end.

The crash of Air France flight 4590 in Paris in July 2000 saw the aircraft’s safety reputation take a significant hit. Then, the following year, the 9/11 attacks prompted an industry-wide downturn among commercial aviation. These factors, alongside rising maintenance costs, rendered Concorde economically unviable for British Airways and Air France.

Concorde made its final commercial flight on October 24th, 2003. This brought to an end an awe-inspiring era of supersonic air travel, the like of which has not been seen since. Concorde’s fastest transatlantic crossing (New York-London) clocked in at a staggering two hours, 52 minutes, and 59 seconds. It will be interesting to see whether future supersonic designs will ever be able to match, or even beat, this incredible achievement.

What are your memories of Concorde? Were you ever lucky enough to fly on the legendary British-French supersonic airliner? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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Wow: Virgin Australia Sells 71,000 Domestic Tickets In 24 Hours





Virgin Australia experienced one of its busiest days of domestic ticket sales in 20 years just after the Australian government’s A$1.2 billion (US$920 million) stimulus package went into effect. The enthusiasm was sparked by half-price flights offered on subsidized routes, which included flights to the Gold Coast from the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, among others.

Like other Australian carriers, Virgin Australia’s flight operations have been severely limited over the past year. Photo: Getty Images

71,000 tickets sold in 24 hours

Within the span of a full day, Virgin Australia sold enough tickets to completely fill over 400 of its Boeing 737-800s (which have 176 seats each). The hottest tickets were for subsidized routes, for which the airline halved its standard prices.

Swept up in the momentum and also experiencing large jumps in ticket purchases were other ‘full-price’ routes, which included Melbourne-Perth, Perth-Sydney, and Melbourne-Sydney.

“The overwhelming response from Australians demonstrates loud and clear that they are ready to get back in the air and travel and are a positive sign for the aviation and tourism sectors as they look to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” -Virgin Australia statement via

While Virgin Australia had the record-breaking day, The Islander reports that the country’s other airlines saw spikes in web searches during the same period. Searches for “Qantas”, “Jetstar,” and “Virgin” sharply increased from around midnight Thursday and spiking again at 06:00 Australian Eastern Daylight Time.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia will benefit from the Australian government’s stimulus package. Photo: Simon_sees via Flickr 

The Australian government’s stimulus package

Announced in early March, the government support package includes A$200 million (US$152.6 million) for Qantas and Virgin Australia. Reuters notes that this funding will support the airlines from April to October, with the intent to help maintain mothballed aircraft as well as bring planes out of storage and support wages for international flying staff.

Another major part of the scheme, and the main reason for this story, is the government subsidization of 13 routes. Subsidization has meant that eligible airlines can offer half-price tickets. The impetus for the deal was to support airlines while encouraging domestic tourism at a time when international tourism has been hard hit. According to The Guardian, the routes are as follows:


  • Sydney: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Proserpine, Hamilton Island, Maroochydore, Uluru, Alice Springs, Launceston, Broome, and Avalon.
  • Melbourne: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, Uluru, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie, Broome, and Merimbula.
  • Adelaide: flights to the Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, and Kangaroo Island.
  • Brisbane: flights to Alice Springs, Uluru, and Launceston.
  • Darwin: flights to Cairns and Broome.
  • Perth: flights to Alice Springs.
  • Avalon: flights to the Gold Coast

The half-price fares were made available on April 1st and will continue to be offered until the end of July.

Having recently divested itself of its widebody Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s, Virgin Australia’s fleet is now completely comprised of Boeing 737s. Photo: Aero_Icarus via Flickr 

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

One key concern when it comes to domestic flight bookings is the ever-present risk of interstate border closures in the event of an outbreak during this global health crisis. While it’s hard to resist a good deal, it’s also wise to consider the possibility of such unwelcomed restrictions. Having flight bookings with flexible re-booking and cancelation policies will help greatly if such restrictions arise.


Were you a lucky Australian resident who managed to secure a half-priced flight? Or did you try and miss out? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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US Congressmen Call On DOT To Deny Norse Atlantic Airways Permits





The Chair of the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio, and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation, Rick Larsen, have called on the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to deny permits for Norse Atlantic Airways to fly to the United States, citing concerns about the airline.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Takes First Test Flight
Norse Atlantic wants to fly to the US with Boeing 787s, but it has ruffled some feathers. Photo: Getty Images

Members of Congress on Norse Atlantic Airways

Rep. DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, and Rep. Larsen, a Democrat from Washington State, have called on the DOT to deny Norse Atlantic Airways Operating permits on account that it is flouting labor protections.

Drawing on earlier language indicating opposition to the airline, Reps. DeFazio and Larsen have argued that, by organizing itself in a country outside of Norway, where there are strong labor laws, the airline is seeking to flout those laws.

Norwegian selling two 787s to Neos Air
Norwegian also used subsidiaries in other countries, which is a concern highlighted in the letter. Photo: Getty Images

Drawing strong comparisons with Norwegian

The two Congressmen believe the airline is doing this because one of its executives was a former executive at Norwegian, which used Irish and UK subsidiaries to operate long-haul low-cost flights between the US and Europe.

In the letter, the Congressman stated the following:

“Their long-haul low-cost business model was predicated on the use of pilots and flight attendants employed under short-term contracts and assigned to the Norwegian subsidiaries via third-party crew sourcing firms. In short, Norwegian exploited labor while enjoying the liberalized benefits of the U.S.-E.U.-Iceland-Norway open skies agreement and competing unfairly with airlines that do not subvert fair labor standards.”

Norwegian 787
Norwegian recently announced it would be ending long-haul operations. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Using Norwegian as a warning

The letter also urged the DOT to consider that Norwegian failed in its transatlantic operations. Between 2016 and 2019, the letter states that Norwegian incurred debt of nearly $7 billion.


Norwegian is currently under bankruptcy proceedings in Europe and has decided to shut down its long-haul routes and focus on its flights within Europe.

Norwegian made a huge splash when it started transatlantic operations in 2016 between the US and Europe. Using a fleet of mostly Boeing 787 aircraft, the airline brought large numbers of customers across the pond.


Norse Atlantic Airways has already indicated it will operate a similar model, using Boeing 787 aircraft it has signed leases for.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The Dreamliner is an efficient long-haul aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

US airlines breathed a sigh of relief

When Norwegian came into the transatlantic market, it followed its initial routes with plenty of growth. That growth put pressure on US airlines.

Now, without Norwegian in the market, airlines are breathing a sigh of relief. Without that low-cost competition in the market, airlines like United are bullish on their international exposure. Without Norwegian in the market, there is also room for plenty of existing airlines to move toward higher-yield transatlantic operations.

Norwegian 787
Norse will need to do what Norwegian could not: make long-haul operations profitable. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The return of transatlantic demand will depend greatly on the removal of travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Most airlines are focused on cargo with low passenger loads on flights to Europe currently. Only essential travel is permitted between the two areas.

Norse Atlantic is a startup to watch. It has the opportunity to massively grow to the size of Norwegian’s long-haul operations before it shut down, but doing so may come at a high cost and low profitability. It will have to make the long-haul low-cost model work to be successful.

For now, it is a waiting game to see how the DOT will respond to Norse Atlantic. US Congressmen are coming down on the side of the US airline industry, but the DOT may end up granting Norse Atlantic operating permission.

Do you think Norse Atlantic Airways should be allowed to operate between the US and Europe? Let us know in the comments!

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Frontier Launches IPO – How Can The Airline Benefit?





American ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Frontier Airlines has officially gone public. Pricing out at the lower end of its target share price, the airline is still expecting to raise over $200 million from the endeavor. Here is a look at how that could benefit the airline.

Frontier Airbus A320
Frontier Airlines is set to benefit from its IPO. Photo: Frontier Airlines

Frontier’s initial public offering pricing

Frontier Airlines announced its initial public offering of 30 million shares at a price of $19 per share. This was toward the lower end of the initial pricing for Frontier’s shares. The share consists of 15 million shares of commons tock offered by Frontier and 15 million shares of common stock to be sold by certain of Frontier’s existing stockholders.

Less the underwriting discount, commissions, and estimated offering expenses, Frontier will net proceeds of approximately $266 million. The sale of stock by the existing stakeholders will not raise Frontier cash. Overall, the net proceeds to both Frontier and the private stakeholders is expected to be over $500 million.

Frontier IPO
Frontier is now trading on the stock market. Photo: Frontier Airlines

The airline is being traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker “ULCC.” Since going public, the airline’s stock price has hovered between $18 and $19 a share.

The net proceeds

The amount that Frontier expects to receive is around $266 million. This is a respectable amount similar to the funding another airline IPO, Sun Country, received.

With $266 million, the airline can do plenty of things. Frontier ended 2020 with long-term debt of over $300 million. The airline can choose to pay down some of its high-cost debt with these proceeds. Or else, the money can be used to fuel expansion. The airline sees plenty of growth opportunities and has a sizable aircraft order book which costs money, and this funding can go a long way.


Frontier A320
There is a lot Frontier can do with this money. Photo: Frontier Airlines

The current state at Frontier

Frontier Airlines is one of the carriers leading the way with capacity increases through the year. The airline’s top stations are Denver, Orlando, and Las Vegas. These are major leisure travel hotspots, but some of them also provide opportunities for Frontier to sell connecting flights.

Frontier serves over 300 nonstop routes touching around 110 airports. Using a low-frequency model, the airline targets mostly point-to-point leisure travelers.


Frontier also sees plenty of room for growth. In the airline’s initial filing for an IPO, the carrier highlighted it had an opportunity to serve 518 additional domestic routes between airports within its existing network not currently served by a ULCC. This is a fascinating number, but it also raises the question of Frontier’s expansion.

Frontier AIrcraft
Frontier is a ULCC that generally operates on a low-frequency, point-to-point model. Photo: Getty Images

In the past, Frontier has not been very hesitant in terms of adding new cities and then cutting them if those flights do not provide the anticipated financial benefits. Moving forward, Frontier will face shareholders and stockholders that may temper some of those ambitions, but the carrier is still expected to add new routes. This is especially true as signs continue to point toward a summer surge, and the CDC outlines guidelines for vaccinated Americans to travel.

The airline is already making moves to become a more modern, fuel-efficient carrier with an eye on costs. The aging and comparatively expensive Airbus A319s will exit the fleet this year as the airline welcomes newer Airbus A320neo family aircraft. Those new jets will also feature lighter-weight seats that will save on fuel, which in turn saves on Frontier’s costs.

Frontier A320neo
Frontier has started taking delivery of aircraft with new seats inside. Photo: Frontier Airlines

Ultimately, Frontier has set itself up to do well in the future. The net proceeds from this IPO will go a long way in getting Frontier the cash influx it needs to survive the next few months and prepare to handle the increase in passengers expected over the summer. As the US airline industry starts to turn the page on the crisis, Frontier is expected to be one carrier that benefits early on from its mostly domestic and short-haul international leisure-oriented model.

Do you think Frontier made the right decision by launching an IPO? Let us know in the comments!

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Cheap ticket deal breaks Virgin’s all-time record, despite lockdown




Virgin Australia 737-8FE(WL) Brisbane Airport VH-YIB
‘Trinity Beach’ arriving into Brisbane Airport as ‘VA957’ in some windy and overcast conditions. 1/10th sec pan for those who are interested.

Virgin sold more domestic tickets on the launch day of the government’s half-price ticket scheme than on any 24-hour period in its history.

The result came despite fears Brisbane’s recent snap lockdown, which ended on Thursday, would put people off interstate travel.

Domestic aviation has been pinning its recovery hopes on the federal government’s plan to supplement 800,000 half-price airfares for passengers to 15 destinations including the Gold Coast, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island. It follows the end of JobKeeper last week.

Virgin said in a statement it sold 71,000 supplemented seats in the 24-hour period from 12:01am on 1 April. The top five routes were:

  • Melbourne to Gold Coast
  • Gold Coast to Sydney
  • Maroochydore to Melbourne
  • Cairns to Sydney
  • Adelaide to Melbourne

Destinations not in the scheme also received a “significant boost”, in particular, Melbourne to Perth, Perth to Sydney and Melbourne to Sydney.

“The overwhelming response from Australians demonstrates loud and clear that they are ready to get back in the air and travel and are a positive sign for the aviation and tourism sectors as they look to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” said the business in a statement.

“As a sign of renewed confidence and pent-up travel demand for travel, more than 85 per cent of the new bookings have been booked for travel from May onwards.”


Skyscanner also said direct interest in booking on Thursday were 25 per cent higher than the week prior, while web searches for “Qantas”, “Jetstar” and “Virgin” also leapt six-fold.

Greater Brisbane lifted its snap lockdown on Thursday at noon, following the state recording just one new case of community transmission.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did though announce a slight increase in restrictions, which will require residents to wear masks indoors and a limit of indoor gatherings to 30.

The good news came shortly before NSW announced no new local infections across the state, too.

The half-price ticket scheme saw Virgin announcing fares from just $55 between Melbourne-Launceston and Jetstar offering tickets from just $32 between Adelaide and Avalon.

The updated list of destinations now includes Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast/Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Gold Coast.

The fares are on sale until the end of July for travel until the end of September, with discounts applied automatically.

Both airline groups have also topped up the 15 locations with sales to other destinations and also extended fare flexibility in light of recent uncertainty.

The package of measures to support aviation in Australia also includes a new wage subsidy for those working in international aviation; cheap loans to small business coming off JobKeeper; and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative.

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