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Post My 1971 Thesis on the SST
Created by John Eipper on 02/13/19 4:03 AM

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My 1971 Thesis on the SST (Michael Sullivan, USA, 02/13/19 4:03 am)

John E asked about my 1971 thesis on the SST. My thesis was accepted, as it was a one-of-a-kind paper on the SSTs built by the Russians (Tu-144), the British/French Concorde, and the on-paper version of the Boeing SST.

The Boeing SST was going to carry twice the passengers compared to the Tu-144 and Concorde and of course, was a much larger aircraft. Boeing thought that the increased passenger load would help with profitability and defray costs. There were huge risks in the future of SST profitability and the development costs, and the Boeing SST turned out to be unacceptable for Congress to help fund.

I was hoping the US would build it, as man has always wanted to go faster whether in an aircraft, car, boat or train! Cutting the flight times between Europe, the US, Asia, Africa and South America to less than half of the current flight times makes international travel more appealing, and the businessmen and women who travel internationally for a living very happy! With a global economy, air travel is increasing internationally every year, so if a new SST can be operated generating profits, why not?

As technology keeps developing more fuel-efficient engines, less fuel consumption to increase range, stronger metals to increase the airframe's capability to withstand the high temperatures, and it becomes economically feasible to develop an SST, somebody will attempt to build one again!

JE comments:  I wonder what the Congressional SST money ended up being spent on.  One thing's for certain, it wasn't as cool or as memorable as the supersonic plane.

Even the Seattle SuperSonics (basketball) are no more--they moved to Oklahoma City.

Michael, I share your hope that we'll see a viable SST someday.  Elon Musk, are you listening?

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  • Airbus to Discontinue Production of A380 Superjumbo (Edward Jajko, USA 02/17/19 5:01 AM)
    WAIS has discussed airplanes recently.

    Here's a story about an airplane that, like the commercial American SST, has fallen victim to changing economics.

    Airbus to Scrap A380 Superjumbo Production as Sales Slump


    JE comments:  This is sad, but the existing A380s will keep flying into the 2030s.  The largest customer is Emirates, which is outside my circle of travels.  Who in WAISworld has flown on the massive A380?

    Ah, economics!  You've dashed many a grand vision.

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    • Airbus A380: Victim of Bad Economics (Henry Levin, USA 02/17/19 3:19 PM)

      The A380 is a beautiful plane and as comfortable as any commercial jetliner. Yet the economics were bad from the beginning. Only a limited number of airports can accommodate its size and attendant needs. Moreover, when 500 people exit the flight of a single plane, the baggage areas become unbelievably crowded and the time that it takes to unload the baggage and find your equipage can be daunting.  Most airports cannot keep so much luggage on the belt, so it must be unloaded in the aisles alongside the carousels and requires searching up and down aisles for your luggage for many people rather than spying it on the belt.

      I can tell you more, but note that there can be awful diseconomies of scale, even for a beautiful airship. The European conglomerate put too much emphasis on the initially large orders and expected prestige from such a large ship (with showers and other accoutrements and big orders from the Gulf States) rather than checking to see if airports would make the modifications that could accommodate it.

      JE comments:  Among other lessons learned, the A380 may be the last big plane with four engines.  (Boeing's final 747 was delivered in 2009.)  Two engines can now do the trick, far more cheaply, and with acceptable levels of safety.

      Still, it would be nice to shower before getting off a long flight...

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      • Current Production of Boeing 747s (Michael Sullivan, USA 02/18/19 2:53 AM)
        John E wrote that Boeing's final 747 was delivered in 2009. Actually, in 2018 Boeing still had around 20 orders, but through an earlier decision it has has cut production to six per year. I just read that if more orders get cancelled they might stop the production line of the 747 in the 3rd quarter, 2019.

        Most of these 747 aircraft are the freight versions, with the last passenger version 747 being delivered 31 July 2017 to Korean Air.

        JE comments:  I stand corrected. According to Wikipedia, the 747s first flight was on February 9th, 1969.  That's exactly half a century for the same architecture--what a marvel of design and longevity.

        Michael, have you been following the latest developments on Japan's upcoming F-3 stealth fighter?  On paper it's extremely impressive, including a possible two-seat configuration that can act as a "mother ship" to a squadron of drones:


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        • Japan's F-3 Stealth Fighter (Michael Sullivan, USA 02/18/19 2:51 PM)
          I haven't been following the F-3 development closely. But Japan has supposedly ordered over a hundred F-35s, so I don't really see the need for the F-3, which is being designed to replace the F-2 which was based on the American F-16 design.

          If Japan goes ahead and produces the F-3 fighter it will probably be semi-stealthy, smaller and lighter than the F-35 with less capability but probably a much lower price tag.

          Japan needs to replace its fighter force of aging F-4s, F-15s and F-2s, so they're involved with big selection decisions currently. Do they go with F-35s only, as that's the most advanced state of fighter capabilities today, or do they go with a mix of F-35s and less capable F-3s but have more fighters for the same costs?

          JE comments: General Sullivan gave an excellent overview of the F-35 in his WAIS '13 talk in Adrian. Michael, what do those in the know have to say about its performance five years later?  Has the F-35 lived up to its massive price tag?

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          • F-35: A Marine Pilot's Appraisal (Michael Sullivan, USA 02/19/19 2:43 PM)
            Five years down the road from the talk I gave at WAIS/Adrian on the status of the F-35 program, it is now a fully developing program with nearly 500 F35 As, Bs, Cs delivered worldwide by the close of FY 2019.

            The US will have taken delivery of 379 with the USAF getting 222, the Marines 83 and the Navy 44. The remaining have gone to Britain, Israel, Australia, Norway, Netherlands, Italy and Japan. Denmark has committed to buy it, and India and Canada are still debating which new fighter they'll buy. The US buy is targeted at 2,443 F-35s and foreign military sales program forecasts 680 F-35s.

            The F-35 is still controversial today, as F-35 critics still say it's too expensive and more importantly it isn't performing as it was advertised it would. Initially the price tag was around $200 million for the Marine F-35B, as it was more expensive as it had a normal jet engine plus another lift fan engine to allow it to make short take-offs and vertical landings. The Air Force's F-35A is the basic design and the price has come down to under $90 million each for the next block of F-35As being delivered. The Marine version and the Navy's F35C are both still over a $100 million each, but the price will drop after the next few blocks that are delivered. The predictions are the total US buy of 2,443 is $400 billion and support for the aircraft out to 2070 will end up with the program costing at or over $1 trillion dollars.

            The biggest complaints from the F-35 critics is that the aircraft still has so many workarounds and deficiencies that haven't been fixed, that the range is too short, the airframe life was supposed to be 8,000 hours but some are predicting half that time as cracks and metal fatigue are already starting to show up. One of the biggest problems is the Automatic Logistics Information System being very unreliable, which affects the maintenance efforts fixing and ordering parts for the aircraft. The latest computer programs that will make the F-35 perform through its entire spectrum as advertised won't come along until 2023 or so. However, the Marines have been operating the aircraft since 2015, have flown it in combat in Syria which isn't saying much, and are operating at sea off the USS Wasp in the western Pacific.

            The Marine F-35 pilots that I've talked with love the aircraft and say it's infinitely superior to the F-18s and Harriers they flew before. The military is gaining confidence in the F-35 program as the price has come down considerably, the aircraft is performing better each time there is a new computer program issued and is has proven is does a lot of missions better than current legacy aircraft. However, the F-35 critics will be there for the life of the aircraft as that's the way it always works.  Fighter pilots and aero engineers have strong egos and are never satisfied!

            JE comments: It's hard to believe the F-35 will still be around in 2070, but the B-52 bomber is already 60+ years old.  Wikipedia says it will continue in service until 2050.  Try to wrap your mind around flying a 100-year-old plane...in combat!

            Thanks, as always, to Michael Sullivan for his insider's perspective.

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      • Stability of the Airbus A380 (Carmen Negrin, France 02/19/19 4:34 AM)

        The best part of the Airbus A380 is its stability. It is true that most airports are not equipped for it, landing and luggage reception, but they might have to come back to it or at least use the lessons learned by its new technology, given that turbulences are meant to increase with climate change.

        JE comments:  Might a lot of A380's stability be due to sheer size and weight?  Of course this is not my area of expertise.  (Give our discussions of recent days, we may need a new bacronym:  WAIS, World Aircraft Interest Society!)

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