back to article Concorde without the cacophony: NASA thinks it's cracked quiet supersonic flight

NASA says the preliminary design review of its Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) project suggests it is possible to create a supersonic aircraft that doesn't produce a sonic boom. We've been able to build supersonic passenger planes for decades, but they're tricky things. Russia's Tupolev Tu-144 proved highly unreliable. …

Re: Engines

I disagree that they wouldn't take a chance. The A380 has lost money on every unit. It may break even per unit but the total program is a huge loss. The 787 is $33 billion in the hole so far. Taking a chance on an innovative plane that addresses an untapped market (getting somewhere a hell of a lot faster) might be interesting to Boeing and Airbus since other than 737s and A320s they haven't a lot of new ideas in the pipe. [The 797 is simply a 757/767 replacement that has a narrow market segment with 737 MAX10 and A321 encroaching in the medium single aisle category and 787, et al right above it in wide body.]

They both need a new winner.

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Re: Engines

The first day I flew, in December 1960, the second leg was on a BOAC Comet 4 from Heathrow to Zurich and they made a similar announcement about a sudden drop in engine noise that would occur just after take off. But nothing to do with supersonic flight of course!

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Anonymous Coward

Concorde's engines

"I thought this was due to the military-grade engines rather than the airframe shape."

Concorde's engines were certainly derived from a turbojet originally developed with military applications in mind, but there was a huge gap between the subsonic Olympus models used by the RAF and what was developed for Concorde.

It says here in the Concorde Haynes manual:

"But the final evolution, the Olympus 593-610, had only its genes in common with its subsonic (and RAF) cousins. Initially, the model 22R engine earmarked for the RAF's BAC TSR2 was chosen. [stuff about fancy alloys and performance envelope]"

"It was during this period that then 593 line in the Olympus family tree began [...] Olympus 593D [...] "D" for Derivative, i.e., and engine derived from the 22R, benchtested to 28,800 lbs thrust, the highest power ever achieved by a turbojet anywhere in the world at that time"

"The 593 gained 2.5 inches in diameter and 10 inches in length to accommodate larger compressors and turbines: it was designated 593B, where suffix "B" stood for Big! and big it was, being bench-run to 32,800 lbs thrust without reheat [...] big enough to have 41,000 lbs pencilled in for the "B" model aircraft and beyond"

There's an awful lot more on the engines - one notable improvement that Concorde's engines got was a vastly improved combustion stage compared to earlier (military) Olympus engines which pretty much eliminated the black smoke from the engine exhaust.

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Re: Engines

As a teenager in the '70s, I lived in western Fairfax County, Virginia, less than 15 minutes' drive from Dulles International, where the British Airways (then BOAC) and Air France flew their Concorde service in our area. Depending on the outbound flight path, the accelerating Concorde -- though subsonic -- was louder than pretty much anything else flying in and out of Dulles back then, even the L1011's.

If takeoffs were routed westward, over what was then entirely farmland west of the airport, it wasn't that bad, but eastward-routed takeoffs heading pretty much straight over US Rte 50 had a high-midrange kind of shriek, almost like the sound of somebody ripping cloth, only much louder, right in that most annoying range of hearing.

Oddly enough, 747's were among the quietest planes to fly over our neighborhood, either approaching or taking off.

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Oh, yeah, it WAS gorgeous, wasn't it?

See my comment above on Concorde takeoffs from IAD over our neighborhood.

You literally couldn't talk to someone next to you when one of them was taking off from IAD, but yeah, man, they really looked sweet, didn't they?

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Re: Engines

The problem is you can't build a high bypass furbofan for supersonic speed, it wouldn't work. Economies of scale have worked well for subsonic air travel, but it would take much time and effort to get the same development effort for quiet and efficient supersonic engines to, erm, get off the ground.

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Re: Engines

Exactly, there are two completely separate factors at play here: the supersonic bang (which on the NY-London route AFAIK always took place well out to sea) and engine noise. The article is written as if these were one and the same.

A major reason why most modern aircraft are cheaper to fly and quieter is the use of the wide "high bypass" engines

In other words Turbofans as opposed to turbojets I believe? Something like that, I read once a hundred years ago that there about 7 distinctly different "jet" engine designs but I couldn't be bothered looking them up now. Anyhow this can be seen in the shorter, fatter engine nacelles of modern airliners compared to the more pencil-like engines of the 70's aircraft. The problem with Concorde was you couldn't bolt bigger engine housings on the wings - they were enclosed in a box under the body where I guess there just wasn't any room for big fat engines and modifying that housing would have changed the a/c design too radically to keep its type certificate.

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Gold badge

" it will be tough to fit high bypass with large frontal intake into a slippery supersonic shape"

True.

Concorde's noise issues were partly about history. I don't think they expected it would take as long to enter service as it did or that the noise regs would shift as far as they did.

BTW the 17th Concorde onward was planned to be a "block upgrade" using information collected from flight data. Improvements to details aerodynamics (things like wing tips and leading edges, rather than wholesale changes to the planform or wing profile). The goal was to eliminate reheat entirely during both climb and push through transonic IE about M0.9-M1.1. People often forget that Concorde was a "super cruise" aircraft long before the F22, F35 or Typhoon.

That was possible with the technology of the mid 1970's including the 13 "computers," both analogue and digital, running each engine, along with its associate inlet and exhaust).

You're right that AFAIK there are no large pure turbojet engines left. All are in fact low bypass ratio turbo fans (c 1.1 to 1.2x the core turbojet flow).

The joker in the pack is that the operating temperature of the front fan can be extended by cooling the intake airflow with a precooler. Unfortunately that would mean switching to a cold fuel, like Methane or in extreme cases LH2. This is exactly the technology Reaction Engines have been developing and were partly funded by the EU for the LAPCAT I and II programmes, except operating up to M5.

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A luddite writes...

Technology is neat, and it looks like some clever people have been working on this, but do we, as a species, actually need this? Or could the brainpower and money be invested in some technology that helps more people live a better and happier life?

Who will use a supersonic airliner? I suspect the same people as used Concorde - a small number of very rich people, and business people spending someone else's money. Who really, really needs to travel at 1500 mph, half way round the world? Some people get a job building the things (good) - but they could equally well be building offshore wind turbines or similar. A lot of people will have the noise pollution of yet more flights, even if it's less noisy than Concorde - how do the rich flyers compensate them? Heaven knows what it'll do to the ozone layer.

We need to learn to slow down a bit, and use our technology to improve the lives of everyone, not just the few. Want to lie on a beach in the sun? Go somewhere close to home - you get the same sunshine. Want to have a meeting with someone 10000 miles away? Try Skype - no jetlag. Want to fly to New York for lunch or a party? Don't.

I seem to be particularly grumpy today!

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Boffin

Re: A luddite writes...

The thing with technology is that there are very often unexpected benefits realised.

Who wants to stare at a screen and type messages to people? In the 70s, very few people did... now it's pretty much everyone.

Who wants to drive around in a milk float? But a tesla on the other hand... electric vehicle tech has improved.

Why would you ever want to split carbon structures down to 1 atom thick? But graphene is now seen as a wonder material!

What I'm saying really is: if they can get the techniques right on this aircraft, they will be able to apply them to other things. Quieter helicopter rotors probably (more stealth and less annoyance). A better understanding of complex aerodynamics could lead to more efficient rockets, cars, trains, etc. Maybe they'll work out a great way of reinforcing the wings, and that could have implications for civil engineering (eg bridges).

Advancement of technology is generally a good thing.

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Re: A luddite writes...

Whilst you are correct that you can meet with people via Skype etc (no need to jet across the Atlantic), there's a number of things you've missed.

1) Visiting a country to actually sight-see (rather than just lay on the beach).

2) Visiting friends/relatives

3) Business trips that actually require physical input. I regularly fly on business, and not just "for a meeting", we use telepresence/conferencing for those.

If you regularly take 7-11 hour flights, you quickly realise how much of a tedious drag they are. Furthermore, all technology starts at prices which are "for the privileged few". It's increasing adoption, more mass production and improvements in technology that allow these things to filter down to ordinary folk. And if in the future I could fly supersonic at a respectable price, I would do so.

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Re: A luddite writes...

Gotta say the argument about how regular flying is so terribly exhausting and tiresome for poor, downtrodden execs that they really can't live without supersonic flight / a new, more convenient airport / an extra runway etc etc *really* grates.

The externalities of aviation (whether that be accelerated climate change, disrupted sleep for millions, air pollution or surface congestion around airports amongst many others) are enormous and I couldn't give a flying fuck if executives find aviation inconvenient. Flying all over the world on a regular basis is why you get paid much more than average so you can just deal with it. After all, the rest of us have to deal with the impacts of your flights and we don't get any compensation for the disrupted sleep and destabilised climate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A luddite writes...

"Who will use a supersonic airliner?"

... if they introduce laptop bans for hand baggage then cutting a few hours off a transatlantic journey may become attarctive to business travellers again. I remember visting the Concorde exhibit in Bristol where the guide (someone who'd worked on Concorde) explaining that he thought Concorde had lost its place in the business market due to laptops as business travellers were able to do some work on the flight and for the same price first class in a 747 was more attractive than Concorde apart from the flight time.

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Re: A luddite writes... @scatter

You think executives are the only people that fly, and there's no economic benefit to air travel? I think you'll find that most of the rest of the world disagrees with you.

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Trollface

Re: A luddite writes...

"Who will use a supersonic airliner? I suspect the same people as used Concorde - a small number of very rich people, and business people spending someone else's money. Who really, really needs to travel at 1500 mph, half way round the world?"

Wouldn't it be cheaper to give'em a free F-35 in place of their annual tax deduction? A bonus if they can land it on a moving deck. I'd put my money on Elon winning but at a cost of a good few very damp billionaires. Win-win?

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Re: A luddite writes...

I would, just to be aloft in such a lovely thing. I would feel like I was flying a needle in the sky.

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Paris Hilton

Re: A luddite writes...

Up-voted for the common sense of the suggestions, but I just had an enjoyable short break in the USA (from Europe) and would fly to New York for a party any time anyone invited me (assuming they really know how to party). We are all doomed.

Anyway, the shape of that plane makes me think that NASA is telling porkers.

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Re: A luddite writes...

Who will use a supersonic airliner?

They probably want the tech for military roles and just see this as an easier funding path.

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Re: A luddite writes... @scatter

Cutting the flight time between the US and India from ~16 hours to ~7 would make a huge difference for me, and I'm just a line grunt in my company. That's a whole day saved on the round trip - definitely not insignificant to me.

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Re: A luddite writes...

>Who will use a supersonic airliner?

Nobody, this isn't about making an airliner

Nasa has to beg for money each year. This year it has to beg for money from republicans who think Nasa is full of godless commies who do science and global warming.

this shows Nasa is really about making America Great Again and therefore deserves funding

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Re: A luddite writes...

Now hold on this chap's got a point, I mean the automobile is still just a toy of the ultra rich, who needs to travel at faster than a horse's pace, and trains are just a fancy contraption for the wealthy, do we really need to go from Edinburgh to London in less than three days? I'm quite alright crossing the Atlantic on a boat, it's only a week or two, and I certainly don't need a ferry or tunnel to cross the channel when I could just swim!

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Re: A luddite writes... @scatter

"That's a whole day saved on the round trip - definitely not insignificant to me."

Only if the extra cost of the flight is less than the costs of the extra time.

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Facepalm

Re: A luddite writes...

Karl Pilkington, is that you? According to him mankind had invented everything in the 1990's. "We have everything we need and now we're just phaffin' around." KP quote

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Re: A luddite writes...

"The externalities of aviation (whether that be accelerated climate change, disrupted sleep for millions, air pollution or surface congestion around airports amongst many others) are enormous and I couldn't give a flying fuck if executives find aviation inconvenient. Flying all over the world on a regular basis is why you get paid much more than average so you can just deal with it. After all, the rest of us have to deal with the impacts of your flights and we don't get any compensation for the disrupted sleep and destabilised climate."
Only local person I know who flies internationally more than once a year is a catastrophic climate change advocate. Until recently when he retired he was always flying to climate change conferences or the Antarctic. Go figure...

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Re: A luddite writes... @scatter

>"That's a whole day saved on the round trip - definitely not insignificant to me."

Unless the added security takes longer than the flight

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A luddite writes...

"trains are just a fancy contraption for the wealthy"

<ahem> A nit-picker writes.

Passenger railways started operation with three classes of accomodation: passenger trains were intended to be mass transport for all, right from the start (Liverpool to Manchester railway, being the first railway built with passenger traffic in mind). Fancy folk with money got fancy carriages and fancy service, the moderately well off got a decent seat and a roof, and the poor poor buggers got, erm, hard wooden benches and exposure to the smoke and other engine emissions, and the famously fine weather one can experience even these days between Liverpool and Manchester.

Before that, the first steam locomotive powered public railway was built to connect collieries with Stockton on Tees and Darlington in its original form, mostly with coal carriage in mind. It also carried people because after all, it was fast and going to and from places people wanted to travel. I've just read that its passenger carriages were originally hauled by horses - from 1825 until 1833. I never knew that.

Steam railways might well have been about making money for rich people from one point of view (sometimes they did get richer, sometimes they didn't), but the original idea was that they should carry pretty much everything and everyone - after all, you make more money the more you carry.

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Re: Only local person I know who flies internationally more than once a year...

@ Pompous Git

I hope that you know a lot of local people. I'm relying on people like them to offset my air-miles and save us all from a global catastrophe.

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Re: A luddite writes...

To add to the long list, just a few more from a field maybe closer to you: anti-lock brakes (or ABS) and airbags (or SRS) were first introduced as a extras in the wheeltoys for the rich few. I'd argue even a Luddite wouldn't argue against them today.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A luddite writes...

republicans who think Nasa is full of godless commies

Surely that just matches the Trump government, no?

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Re: A luddite writes...

>> Gotta say the argument about how regular flying is so terribly exhausting and tiresome for poor, downtrodden execs that they really can't live without supersonic flight / a new, more convenient airport / an extra runway etc etc *really* grates.

I fly regularly on business, and I'm not an exec. Nor even a senior manager. I'm a lead tech. I fly a lot on business because I'm good at my job, and my company uses my expertise as a technical lead for major projects, and also to provide support/training in various areas. As such, I am restricted to bog-standard economy flights and budget hotels.

However, in the early days of flying, there was no such thing as an economy flight. It's only because technology improved and more and more people flew that planes became cheaper and more efficient, and prices dropped as a whole. Early cars were also expensive, so were early computers. Should we therefore ignore future technological improvements just because initially they're priced out-of-reach of normal folk? Or should we pursue them and accept that with continued development, the price will drop in due course?

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Re: A luddite writes...

>> Business trips that actually require physical input. I regularly fly on business, and not just "for a meeting", we use telepresence/conferencing for those.

Yeah but I bet when you're going through immigration you're only there "for a meeting". I made the mistake of admitting I was there to do a little bit of work (to fix a test rig in Nortel) when entering Canada once, after thoroughly enjoying the "ahem" hospitality in business class on the way over the pond. I almost got barred entry, and had to spend C$125 on a work visa for 7 days. Whoops!

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Re: A luddite writes...

"Early cars were also expensive, so were early computers."

Yes, but the experience with those has improved as prices fell with mass market acceptance. The opposite has happened with flying.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A luddite writes...

"To add to the long list, just a few more from a field maybe closer to you: anti-lock brakes (or ABS) and airbags (or SRS) were first introduced as a extras in the wheeltoys for the rich few. I'd argue even a Luddite wouldn't argue against them today."

Nope, they would argue back that it reverses Darwin. Head-on-a-swivel alertness is a survival trait, and being babied by things like ABS and SRS is making us soft. Make people LEARN how to steer a one-ton lump of metal properly using nothing but their hands and feet. And airbags? Who needs them? Put a spike in the center of the steering wheel instead; see how THAT changes driving behavior!

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The Tu-144 wasn't 'unreliable', it suffered two crashes (Paris Air Show, perhaps caused by a spotter aircraft, rumours abound) and another during a test flight. Commercial flights ceased quickly, but it was still used by the Russian space program, and NASA still own one I think.

Onto a 'quiet boom' lovely idea, but the artists' impression looks a little bit short of passenger compartment space, so can it scale? Richard Branson is supposedly collaborating on a supersonic passenger craft as well, are we really seeing a resurgence in supersonic flight? his demonstrator aircraft is just a two seater, so again, can that scale?

Perhaps as already said, instead of competing, we need some collaboration, take the best of everything (Reaction engines, boom free design,... whatever Mr Branson might have to offer (marketing?)) and and make one product, it might be easier to gain international acceptance and approval for supersonic over land.

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'The Tu-144 wasn't 'unreliable', it suffered two crashes'

I'd call that fairly unreliable considering the low number of flights it managed to achieve.

Space programmes tend to have a higher tolerance for fatal crashes* so their use by the Russian space programme and NASA don't indicate any degree of reliability.

*The Space Shuttle suffered an appalling fatality/flight ratio.

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It was however

unable to cope with moderately tight turns (hence the Paris Airshow breakup) and was vastly thirsty (not having stolen Concorde's secret to optimising fuel flow across the operating speed range, but they did "borrow" most of the rest of the design).

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MJI
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Re: It was however

I thought the crashes were due to poisoned design information.

That the Concorde builders had deliberately faulty planes just in case.

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The impression shows an "X-plane" proposal to demonstrate the technology.

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Boffin

"The Space Shuttle suffered an appalling fatality/flight ratio."

The Shuttle flew 135 times, with two failures (Challenger and Columbia).

Soyuz flew it's 135th flight last October, and has had three failures (Soyuz 1 and 11 were both lost Soyuz 10TA had a fire at launch, but the escape system worked and both passengers survived).

Shuttle carried 833 people to orbit and back, and 14 died.

Soyuz has carried about 325-400* people and four have died.

So, I put it to you that the Shuttle has about an average safety record for a spacecraft.

* (I can't find a number, and i can't be bothered to count them all up, also, Soyuz has had some 'almost failures', such as Soyuz 18A)

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Re: Unreliable

The Tu-144 completed barely 500 hours of commercial service, and had two major crashes, both caused by deficiencies in the airframe design.

Concorde flew over 500,000 hours in commercial service and suffered one accident due to external factors.

I think I know which one I'd define as "reliable"...

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Re: Unreliable

A lot of people are right, a lot of people are wrong, in regards to the reliability of the Tu-144.

Yes it had 2 crashes. One on a test flight, and one caused by a spotter aircraft flown by the French and subsquently covered up. However, the aircraft experienced several inflight failures of various systems. One such incident resulted in the loss of 22 out of 24 onboard systems. The plane still flew, amazingly, but that's just one incident. The aircraft suffered from several structural "cracks", although this is fairly common to aircraft in general.

However, reliability wasn't really the cause of it being pulled from commercial service. One factor was the God awful noise within the cabin when the engines were on. You could sit side by side to someone and you would have to shout to each other, such was the din in the cabin. It was also restricted to just one route from Moscow to another city (think it was Alma-mata?).

The further problem with the Tu-144 was that the Soviets simply didn't have the technology to make it work. They put in some sort of request with NATO for help with the technology, but the British Government vetoed such requests as they felt that the technology could easily be used in military applications. Think this was down to the Soviets wanting access to Lucas engine controls and the British were like "Nah mate you're not having that".

But while it's easy to scoff at it, I find the air craft fascinating. Probably more so than Concorde. The fact it could fly, and nearly match Concorde (but obviously failing) when the technology was no where near on a par with the Anglo-French aircraft, well it's quite a feat.

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"I'd call that fairly unreliable considering the low number of flights it managed to achieve."

Well, the Paris Air Show crash is rumoured to have been caused by a spotter plane (spying on the forward canard design) getting too close to the Tu-144, causing the Tu-144 to suddenly manoeuvre. The other crash was a test flight of a new variant.

It's low number of commercial flights were more due to it being a vanity project which served little purpose in a communist country, than it's reliability. Concorde struggled as a project in a capitalist economy, after all.

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Anonymous Coward

@GruntyMcPugh

I'll believe Branson is doing anything when it actually happens. I've seen far too many boasts of his that have turned out to be hot air like buying the A380 and putting a casino and a gym in there https://www.theguardian.com/business/2005/jan/19/theairlineindustry.travelnews

Michael O'Leary seems to have more of a Casino with scratchcards than you get on a Virgin plane.

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Tu-144

The supersonic Tupolev was build from stolen Concorde blueprints but the Soviets did not have right engines for it. So they changed the airframe to accommodate much heavier ones although with less thrust.

The rest is history...

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Anonymous Coward

Tu-144 reliability

The Haynes Concorde manual says of the Tu-144 that "After 55 flights, reliability issues forced a withdrawal from service."

It also states:

"So much had been achieved; it may only have been the final few aerodynamic and control refinements that eluded the Tupolev dynasty."

Which might well be true, aside from an airframe construction method which turned out to result in a horribly dangerous structure.

The Tu-144 Wikipedia page states:

"A serious problem was discovered when two Tu-144S airframes suffered structural failures during laboratory testing just prior to the Tu-144 entering passenger service."

"it turned out that large whole-moulded and machined parts contained defects in the alloy's structure that caused cracking at stress levels below that which the part was supposed to withstand. Once a crack started to develop, it spread quickly for many metres, with no crack-arresting design feature to stop it. In 1976, during repeat-load and static testing at TsAGI (Russia's Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute), a Tu-144S airframe cracked at 70% of expected flight stress with cracks running many metres in both directions from their origin."

"While fatigue cracks of an acceptable length are normal in aircraft, they are usually found during routine inspections or stopped at a crack-arresting feature. Aircraft fly with acceptable cracks until they are repaired. The Tu-144 design was the opposite of standard practice, allowing a higher incidence of defects in the alloy structure, leading to crack formation and propagation to many metres."

And then there were the day-to-day reliability issues, again from Wikipedia:

"Early flights in scheduled service indicated the Tu-144S was extremely unreliable. During 102 flights and 181 hours of freight and passenger flight time, the Tu-144S suffered more than 226 failures, 80 of them in flight. (The list was included in the Tu-144 service record provided by the USSR to British Aircraft Corporation-Aérospatiale in late 1978, when requesting Western technological aid with the Tu-144, and probably incomplete.) A total of 80 of these failures were serious enough to cancel or delay the flight."

"Failures included decompression of the cabin in flight on 27 December 1977, and engine-exhaust duct overheating causing the flight to be aborted and returned to the takeoff airport on 14 March 1978"

"On 31 August 1980, Tu-144D (77113) suffered an uncontained compressor disc failure in supersonic flight which damaged part of the airframe structure and systems. The crew was able to perform an emergency landing at Engels-2 strategic bomber base. On 12 November 1981, a Tu-144D's RD-36-51 engine was destroyed during bench tests, leading to a temporary suspension of all Tu-144D flights. One of the Tu-144Ds (77114, aka aircraft 101) suffered a crack across the bottom panel of its wing"

"Tu-144 pilot Aleksandr Larin remembers a troublesome flight around 25 January 1978. The flight with passengers suffered the failure of 22 to 24 onboard systems. Seven to eight systems failed before takeoff, but given the large number of foreign TV and radio journalists and also other foreign notables aboard the flight, it was decided to proceed with the flight to avoid the embarrassment of cancellation."

"The final passenger flight of Tu-144 on around 30 May 1978 involved valve failure on one of the fuel tanks."

"Soviet decision-makers had little confidence in the Tu-144 when passenger service began in 1977. Considering the high rate of technical failures their reasoning was sound. Bookings were limited to 70–80 passengers or fewer a flight, falling well below both the Tu-144's seating capacity and the demand for seats.[22] On its 55 scheduled flights, Tu-144s transported 3,194 passengers, an average of 58 passengers per flight. With officials acutely aware of the aircraft's poor reliability and fearful of possible crashes, Soviet decision-makers deliberately limited flight frequency to as few as would allow them to claim to be offering a regular service, and they also limited passenger load to minimize the impact and political fallout of a possible crash."

"A problem for passengers was the very high level of noise inside the cabin. The noise came from the engines and the air conditioning. In addition the unique active heat insulation system, which used a flow of spent cabin air, was described as excessively noisy. Passengers seated next to each other could have a conversation only with difficulty, and those seated two seats apart could not hear each other even when screaming and had to pass hand-written notes instead. Noise in the back of the aircraft was unbearable."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It was however

There's good reason to think that the Tu-144 ended up looking similar to Concorde simply due to parallel evolution. In detail, it was hugely different in all sorts of ways - airframe construction was totally Soviet, the engines were totally Soviet (albeit ultimately developed from British engines supplied openly after WWII), the wing development was protracted, totally Soviet, and very different to Concorde in detail, etc., etc.

Why did the 1973 Paris air show crash happen? No one is sure. But the Wikipedia page on the crash has this curious and unverified claim:

"In 2005, during the production of the Russian documentary The Fight for Supersonic Flight: The Truth About the Tu-144, E. Krupyanskiy said: "There were certain experimental control units present on the plane (Tu-144), that were installed on the plane for the first time."[this quote needs a citation] On the in-cockpit footage released before the test flight, the control console is clearly seen fully exposed on the back of the captain's seat. The control units were supposed to be disabled, with the console covered up and sealed for the test flight, but in the wreckage the console was found without seals or cover. Krupyanskiy said "They enabled a system, which was used to improve the manoeuverability characteristics of the aircraft ... improving the effectiveness of the rudders."[this quote needs a citation]

E. Gorynov (another Tu-144 test pilot) stated that he is completely sure that usage of these experimental technologies was not decided by the crew. He also stated that he was 30 meters away from the aircraft before the test flight and overheard a discussion by the crew, where the captain said loudly: "If we are going to die, then at least we will die all together.""

The Wikipedia page on the Tu-144, Paris Air Show crash section, states this:

"Gordon et al state that the flight crew had departed from the approved flight profile for the display, a serious offense in itself. They were under instructions to excel the Concorde display by all means. During the unapproved, and therefore unrehearsed manoeuvres, the stability and control augmentation system was not operating normally. If it had been it would have prevented the loads that caused the port wing to fail."

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Re: It was however

"unable to cope with moderately tight turns (hence the Paris Airshow breakup) and was vastly thirsty (not having stolen Concorde's secret to optimising fuel flow across the operating speed range, but they did "borrow" most of the rest of the design)."

The rumour at the time was that the Paris Airshow breakup was along the line where they had folded the Concorde plans when they stole them.

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Re: @GruntyMcPugh

"I'll believe Branson is doing anything when it actually happens."

ROFL, me too, I only included him for shits 'n giggles. Take Virgin Galactic, many years over due, horribly over budget, and still far from it's goals. Oh, and it's development has killed four people (I'm counting the three deaths from the static engine test). So instead of delivering that, he's backing another related venture. I say related, because Skylon could fit both roles, high altitude supersonic flight, or space vehicle, so why Branson is inventing two (sorry, three, there's a launch vehicle version of White Knight) different things seems short sighted.

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"The Tu-144 wasn't 'unreliable'.. Commercial flights ceased quickly, "

While Concorde operated for close to 30 years with a perfect safety record, until it had one crash on takeoff.

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