Fifty years later, the same flight takes longer. Why?

Originally published at:

Summary: It takes about the same flight time, but due to so many more people traveling than did in the 60’s, airlines now take into account the delays/etc that will inevitably occur from gate to gate. But why haven’t the planes gotten faster though? Because they’ve gotten cheaper to fuel instead.

It’s still a really good video that gives good high-level explanations of various jet engines, airline progress, the downfall of the concord, etc.


I figured it was to allow you time to really savor the coach experience before discovering the wonders of the next airport.


I really like the line that he ended it with: “Cost is the enemy of the masses, and time is the enemy of the privileged few.”


The film’s quite unkind about the Concorde’s engines, which were spectacularly efficient for what they were designed to do - supercruise at Mach 2. For that, a carefully-engineered zero-bypass turbojet is still the best design (though they’re right that this is a fundamentally less fuel-efficient way to travel than subsonic with a huge turbofan in a large plane).

Not entirely accurate about the commercial prospects of Concorde either: BA had a reasonable business (making its operating costs back with some profit and prestige as a bonus) right up to withdrawal. The reason they “could not afford to keep flying the plane” was due to ageing airframes, the downturn in air travel post-9/11, the failure of Air France to make their operations pay, and the desire of Airbus to withdraw the airworthiness certificate. The seats may have been spartan, but there was a (small) loyal market prepared to pay serious money for NYC->London in 3 hours.

Incidentally, if anyone wants to read one of the most epic online forum threads ever, I can recommend this Concorde thread on PPRUNE. Obviously full of people who are Concorde fans, but including several people who worked on the design, others who flew it or worked as cabin crew. Lots of technical detail as well as colour stories.


The train from my town to NYC is slower than it was in the 1800s. Why? Same tracks, more stops.


Since I learned of great-circle distances, way back, I can’t look at those visualiations of connections between two point on a map without thinking “this should really look ab bit different.”


When I first moved to Northern Virginia in the early 1990’s, I used to LOVE watching the Concorde taking off from and landing at Dulles. It probably caused a fender-bender or two on I-66 twice a week.


+1 for the PPRUNE Concorde thread. It is EPIC. I spent a month going down a Concorde rabbit hole from that thread, gaining an appreciation for what an amazing engineering achievement the aircraft was. It was Europe’s moonshot.


Jeez, you seem to know a lot about aviation but your name suggests you can’t even spell airplane correctly


Quite explicitly in some circles. There were people at the time saying “The US is sending a few people to the Moon, but WE are creating the next generation of air-travel.” In the end, the next generation turned out to be more people traveling cheaply, rather than the same, small number of people traveling faster. At the time that was much less obvious than it seems in hindsight. 747s owe their weird hunch-back profile to the idea that they might be superseded by SSTs for passengers, so they’d better be designed for efficient conversion into air-freighters.

The discussion of turboprops vs turbofans vs turbojets doesn’t mention that the first generation of jet-liners were powered by turbojets.


How ironic they both ended up in the dumpster of history, short lived programs with no direct legacy. No doubt Concorde had tech spinoffs like NASA, but the assumptions of inevitability at the time were mistaken.


It’s interesting that the same justification for travelling by slower planes, overnight, is the same reason that I like to travel by sleeper train. And yet throughout Europe, sleeper train services are getting axed, and a large component of this is competition from airlines. It’s one of these situations where subsidy to one service is impossible to bear, but another receives subsidy without thought or mention.

Flight, London to Edinburgh is 0.24 tons of C02. Taking the train is 0.01 tons - although one should probably allow a premium for the reduced occupancy of cabins relative to normal carriages.


trying to get concorde’s flights to the west coast was the downfall


In the US, plane travel is way less expensive than sleeper train, and it has the benefit of not being a sleeper train. I would rather shoehorn myself into an airplane seat for three hours than get stir crazy on a train for 24 whole hours, but YMMV.


Aeroplane is correct, but:

Is not :wink:


I thought he made that point - or maybe it was in a different video about the Concord I saw. But the point was that NO supersonic engine is efficient compared to the non-supersonic.

And fair point that they made some money - which is why it wasn’t cancelled sooner. But they weren’t making enough that replacing the air frame was worth the cost.

He has some other good videos on the Airline industry and how tough it is to make money.


Yeah, it’s certainly easier to make money flying a plane when the government has written off the development costs and the planes and spares stock are transferred to you ‘as a fully depreciated asset’…




And here I had always thought that the problem was the sonic booms. Probably because we got sonic booms in Tulsa during the 60’s, I know not from what military base. These things made people very nervous, esp. during the Cold War.

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