Supersonic passenger aircraft. 1970-1980.

Kraków 2015-09-23

An outline of the history of air navigation 1970-1980.

Supersonic passenger airplanes.

Part 2.

Programs in the USA.

NASA / Ling Temco Vought.

Project Supersonic by NASA's Ling Temco Vought is a theoretical and research program on a supersonic communications aircraft that was conducted in the 1950s / 1960s. He did not end up building a specific prototype, but pointed to the difficulties that stand in the way of such a concept and how to solve them. Initially, the work was carried out by NACA / NASA, which at one point invited the Vought aviation company to cooperate with it, which was known mainly for the F-8 supersonic combat aircraft. On this plane, among others, wings with a supercritical profile were tested.

One of the possible NASA projects - LTV. The work by Karol Placha Hetman
One of the possible NASA projects - LTV. The work by Karol Placha Hetman


Work on a commercial supersonic plane (SST) at Boeing, at its own risk, was carried out since 1952. In 1958, a commission was established to carry out further work. The program was designated Model 733. Several projects were created within the framework of this program. Most of them had a delta wing layout, although there were designs with variable wing geometry. Initially, the fuselage capacity for 150 passengers was opted for.

One of the Boeing 733-790 projects. The work by Karol Placha Hetman
One of the Boeing 733-790 projects. The work by Karol Placha Hetman

Following President John F. Kennedy's assumption of office, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was commissioned to prepare a report on the state of civil aviation. The audit resulted in the development of, inter alia, two programs; The Beacon project for new navigation and air traffic control systems and the Horizon project for advanced changes in civil aviation. Among other proposals, the report was used as a platform to promote the SST program. Additionally, the administration of President John F. Kennedy has pledged to finance 75% of the program costs. All this to win the competition with Western Europe. The Americans' ambitions were greater than the tier of the Concord. The plane was to take 250 passengers on board, fly at Mach 2.7-3.0 and have a range of 4,000 NM (7,400 km). The program officially started on June 5, 1963.

A great discussion arose. The main idea behind the SST was that its fast flight would allow it to carry more people. Although at the expense of increased fuel consumption. Fuel costs have become extremely important. If the fuel is too expensive, the SST will not be competitive. These problems were well understood in the industry; IATA (International Air Transport Association) issued a set of "design imperatives" on the SST that were essentially impossible to fulfill. This situation cooled the aspirations of the SST promoters, even before the issue of concept was resolved; delta wings, or variable geometry. As we remember, the military chose the North American XB-70 in the first configuration, and the General Dynamics F-111 in the second configuration.

Nevertheless, inquiries were sent to the aircraft manufacturers; Boeing, Lockheed, North American and engine manufacturers; Curtiss-Wright, General Electric, and Pratt & Whitney. Not only that, the first orders started flowing from the airlines. On 1/15/1964, the FAA opened the envelopes with the drafts.

Boeing introduced the well-known 1960 design, but a revised Model 733-197 (Model 1966 and Model 2707). Capacity from 150 to 227 passengers.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman