Category Archives: supersonic jet

“The Real Thing” For The Real Fling

In the mid-1950s,  the US aeronautical engineers and designers were struggling with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.  That is, no matter how hard they tried, they could not get their latest fighter aircraft, the F-102 Delta Dagger, to break the sound barrier.

The shock waves encountered in the transonic realm proved too formidable…..until someone re-visited the theory of The Area Rule.  That simply meant that the cross-section area of the aircraft had to progress smoothly from tip to tail, without abrupt changes.

In practice, it meant that the fuselage had to be “pinched” in to takr on a Coke-bottle shape – in order to compensate for the cross-section area of the wings. 

Once they had “The Real Thing” designed in, everything went smoothly – the re-shaped F102 easily slipped past Mach 1,2 and they had a real fling from thence on. 

Imitation Was The Swiftest Form Of Flattery

Quite unexpectedly, on 31 December 1968, the Soviet-made TU-144 made its maiden flight.   It beat the much-publicized Anglo-French Concorde as the world’s first supersonic passenger jetliner to fly, by slightly more than 2 months.

The western press nicknamed it “Concordski” as it closely resembled the Concorde. Powered by 4 gigantic turbojets, it could fly faster than its rival.  Two retractable front canards were added later for improving low speed handling.

It was rumored that the Soviets were snooping on the Concorde’s design in the earlier years, and Anglo-French counter-espionage agents deliberately let loose a lot of bad design data for the Soviets to pick up and put into the TU-144.  Perhaps some of that might be true, possibly contributing to the infamous crash at the 1973 Paris Air Show.