Feeling supersonic

0108wb3.jpgI’m back in the UK this week.  New year, new job and all that.  As per usual, I flew out of La Rochelle on Ryanair’s flight to Stansted (sadly, without having indulged in the planet’s best cheese sandwich).

Lots of people moan about Ryanair – I hear them all the time – but I have to say that, in four years flying between France and the UK and probably 100-odd flights, I’ve only ever not managed to make it to the UK on the day I intended to once (which was weather related) and only ever been seriously delayed a couple of times.  It’s proper basic, sure. But it’s proper cheap, relatively speaking.

On today’s flight I finished off Duncan Hamilton’s brilliant, brilliant book about his time spent in the company of Brian Clough, the greatest football manager ever to walk on God’s earth (oceans and all).  I also had the current Economist with me and one little story stood out, if only due to the stark contrast it presented to the environment in which I was reading it.

As you might expect, the demand for private jets is greater than it’s ever been.  The pain of navigating tightened security at large airports and flight congestion has made the argument for a private jet even more compelling, especially for business.  No point having half a dozen execs standing in line with the great unwashed when they could already be poring over spreadsheets (or more likely pouring cognac) at 30,000 feet.  But, as the Economist points out, though they might be in the air a bit quicker in their soft leather armchairs, the same bigwigs are only going to be travelling at the same speed as the plebs in the Jumbo.

But maybe not for long.  A company in the States has plans to produce a supersonic private jet!  How cool is that?  12 passengers, 1,000 mph.  It’ll also be able to fly subsonic (so up to about 750mph – faster than almost any other passenger planes) more efficiently than existing private jets.  And it’s only going to cost you $80m.  Something to save up for.

I can see plenty of corporations picking one up.  London to New York in three hours?  Leave at 9.00am and arrive before breakfast…get away at 4.00pm and be back around midnight.  Wonderful.

It really is.  Allow me to crow for a minute, and reminisce about one of the best experiences of my life (so far).  I was lucky enough (and I do totally feel completely, like, honoured) to have flown supersonic on Concorde.  Better than that, we didn’t go to dull old NYC.  Oh no, we went to Barbados!  It’s a slightly surreal experience, I have to tell you, to climb on a plane on a drizzly January morning at Heathrow and a mere four hours later be hopping down the steps at a sunny Grantley Adams airport.

I’m chuffed to bits that supersonic flight is back on the agenda.  I wonder if it’s too late to train as a pilot?

2 thoughts on “Feeling supersonic

  1. That is awsome – I wonder how smooth supersonic flight is. I guess it had to be smooth for the concorde – right?

  2. Mark says:

    Oh, it’s very smooth indeed Kevin. In fact, smoother than normal flight as you tend to fly higher (Concorde’s cruising altitude was about 60,000ft) and are therefore above most turbulence.

    My absolute favourite bit of flying on Concorde was about half an hour after takeoff. You see it had to fly at subsonic speeds over land, but once over the ocean could move to supersonic.

    So, as you see the coast pass beneath, the pilot comes onto the tannoy to tell you that he’s about to put the afterburners on and “you might experience a slight push in the back as we accelerate…”

    “Yeah, yeah”, you think, “we’re doing 650 mph already, so how fast can this thing really speed up?”

    Just then, you get an almighty wallop in your arse, like the guy’s dropped down a gear and floored the mashed the accelerator pedal into the carpet. Before you know it, you’re doing 1,500mph and life’s a breeze…

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