Between 1976 and 2003, the Concorde was a passenger jet that ferried jet-setters around the world, very quickly, usually across the Atlantic. The plane, which could go twice the speed of sound, was one of the world’s only supersonic transports for passengers.
But during that time, for some reason, no photos were ever taken of the Concorde flying at its top speed of Mach 2. Why was that?
The Aviation Geek Club looked at that question this week.
“Concorde seems cute and familiar because it was used for transportation and designed in the 60s, but it was an absolute beast,” Andrei Kucharavy, an aviation expert said, on Quora. “Supercruising at Mach 2.0 for hours to traverse the Atlantic, it could effectively outrun a nuclear blast and catch up with the sun.”
The main reason that no picture was taken of the Concorde at Mach 2 was that it would have likely required another jet, also going at Mach 2, and that was apparently never considered worth the trouble.
It has been asked, however, whether the famed SR-71 Blackbird skyline could have successfully photographed the Concorde while flying at Mach 2.
“Realistically, Mach 2.0 at 60 000 feet is well within the operational envelope of an SR-71, but it’s more the logistics of a double refueling that would have been a problem. SR-71 take-off logistics were quite something,” Kucharavy, the aviation expert, said in the Quora post.
“Right after the take-off it had a couple of minutes to get to 25 000 ft and find a tanker and then had at most 2.400 NM to do the round trip. Significantly shorter if it performed an excursion into the supersonic range and used its afterburners. I believe for a NY-London traverse an SR-71 had to refuel once in the middle, but for the rest it sustained close to Mach 3.2. So a parallel flight with Concorde was not out of question, but definitely would have been quite a mission to organize.”
However, a photo was once taken of the Concorde going at around Mach 1.5-1.6, also according to Aviation Geek Club. That photo was taken in 1985 by Adrian Meredith, who was flying a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado jet as part of a planned rendezvous over the Irish Sea.
The Concorde was retired following both the crash of Air France Flight 4590 in 2000 and the 9/11 attacks the following year, amid the general downturn in air travel at the time. Caleb Larson recently described the Concorde as “a supersonic experiment doomed from the start.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.