Monday 21 December 2009


Early studies

Boeing had worked on a number of small-scale SST studies since 1952. In 1958, it established a permanent research committee, which grew to a $1 million effort by 1960. The committee proposed a variety of alternative designs, all under the name Model 733. Most of the designs featured a large delta wing, but in 1959 another design was offered as an offshoot of Boeing's efforts in the swing-wing TFX project (which led to the purchase of the General Dynamics F-111 instead of the Boeing offering). In 1960, an internal "competition" was run on a baseline 150-seat aircraft for trans-Atlantic routes, and the swing-wing version won.[1]

By mid-1962, it was becoming clear that tentative talks earlier that year between the Bristol Aeroplane Company and Sud Aviation on a merger of their SST projects were more serious than originally thought. It appeared there was a very real chance the combined companies would be offering a design. In November, the two companies announced that a design called "Concorde" would be built by a consortium effort. This set off something of a wave of panic in other countries, as it was widely believed that almost all future commercial aircraft would be supersonic, and it looked like the Europeans would start off with a huge lead.

Government funding cut

In March 1971, despite the project's strong support by the administration of President Richard Nixon, the U.S. Senate rejected further funding. Afterward, letters of support from aviation buffs, containing nearly $1 million worth of contributions, poured in. The SST project was canceled on May 20, 1971. At the time, there were 115 unfilled orders by 25 airlines; at the time, Concorde had 74 orders from 16 customers.[2] The two prototypes were never completed. The SST became known as "the airplane that almost ate Seattle." Due to the loss of several government contracts and a downturn in the civilian aviation market, Boeing reduced its number of employees by more than 60,000. A billboard was erected in 1971 that read, "Will the last person leaving Seattle - turn out the lights"[3]


North American Rockwell's B-1[4] used a similar layout to the 733-197's. The B-1 is the only swing-wing aircraft still in service with US forces.

Seattle's NBA basketball team formed in 1968 was dubbed the Seattle SuperSonics or just "Sonics", a name inspired by the newly won SST contract.[5] The team kept that name until its 2008 move to Oklahoma City, and Seattle holds the right to apply the name to any future NBA franchise there.

The Museum of Flight in Seattle parks its Concorde a few blocks from the building where the original mockup was housed in Seattle.[6] While the Soviet Tu-144 had a short service life,[7] Concorde was successful enough to fly as a small luxury fleet from 1976 until 2003. As the most advanced supersonic transports became some of the oldest airframes in the fleet, they also fell to the economics of new efficient subsonic jets and upgrade costs.[8]

Though many designs have been studied since, it is unlikely similar aircraft will be economically feasible in the foreseeable future. Concorde's model of cooperation paved the way for Airbus, Boeing's most formidable competitor.[9] Seattle's economy is now more diverse, and 2007 made Boeing a leader in sales again. Boeing's Future of Flight museum has the story and models of all of its production jetliners and Concorde, but not the SST project.

One of the wooden mockups was displayed at the SST Aviation Exhibit Center in Kissimmee, Florida from 1973 to 1981. It is now on display at the Hiller Aviation Museum of San Carlos, California.[10]

Airline commitments

[edit] Specifications

Model Boeing 2707-200 SST
Wingspan 180 feet 4 inches (54.97 m) spread, 105 feet 9 inches (32.23 m) swept.
Length 306 feet 0 inches (93.27 m)
Height 46 feet 3 inches (14.10 m)
Takeoff length 5,700 feet (1,700 m)
Landing length 6,500 feet (2,000 m)
Fuselage max. external dimensions Width 16 feet 8 inches (5.08 m), depth 15 feet 7 inches (4.75 m)
Engines (4x) General Electric GE4/J5P turbojets, 63,200 lbf (281 kN) each, with augmentation.
Empty operating weight International model: 287,500 pounds (130,400 kg)
Max. ramp weight 675,000 pounds (306,000 kg)
Max. landing weight 430,000 pounds (200,000 kg)
Max. payload: 75,000 pounds (34,000 kg)
Normal cruising speed Mach 2.7: 1,800 miles per hour (2,900 km/h) at 64,000 feet (20,000 m)
Range 4,250 miles (6,840 km) with 277 passengers

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