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A Fascinating Question on the Concorde

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Tampa.  Tom has been waiting for a while.  I wanted to get to him.  It's a good question here.  Hello, sir.

CALLER:  How you doing, Rush? 

RUSH:  Well, thank you very much.

CALLER:  Mega dittos, and congratulations on that Author of the Year award.

RUSH:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Well, readers voted it.  That's what's great about it.

CALLER:  It means you still got it, right?  You're still the man.

RUSH:  Do you know what the AP says in their story?  Readers "purportedly" voted.

CALLER:  Really?

RUSH:  The organization.  The readers vote.  The AP, or maybe it was US News, I forget, but "purportedly" determined by -- anyway, yeah, but thank you.  Thank you, Tom, I appreciate your saying so.

CAER:  I'm sitting here looking at a picture of you and I together.  You know where it was from?

RUSH:  Were you at the book awards last night?

CALLER:  No.

RUSH:  Where were you?  Where was the picture?

CALLER:  It was the time the Tampa Bay Bucs won the Super Bowl, and you were playing golf.

RUSH:  Oh, yeah, it was one of the Super Bowl charity golf tournaments.

CALLER:  Yeah, it was a general driving you around.  I'm looking at the picture here.  You had a black sleeveless vest on.

RUSH:  Yes, yes, yes.  I remember that.  That was a fun day.  I remember that.

CALLER:  Yeah.  Hey, the question I wanted to ask you, they got all these Concordes in mothballs, right?  And somebody could probably buy one for a little bit of nothing.  And why couldn't you convert that to a private jet?  It would be the coolest damn private jet around, wouldn't it?

RUSH:  Well, I guess with as many gazillionaires as there are this wouldn't matter, but those things were falling apart, for one thing. That's why they grounded them. They were literally falling apart.

CALLER:  I didn't know that.

RUSH:  And they didn't have any spare parts.  They stopped making them. And they ate fuel faster than any -- talk about Saturn 5 rockets --

CALLER:  Really?

RUSH:  -- in terms of the fuel efficiency, but there's probably other reasons. It's still a fascinating question, though.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Now, the Concorde.  They were falling apart.  You remember toward the end of their run, I think one of them was taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport, might have been Orly, I'm not sure which one, but it either ran over something on the runway which popped up and popped the fuel line.  It was on fire on takeoff and it lifted off and crashed. It was a disaster.  Whole tail sections were just falling off, portions of the tail.

It was so expensive. I think first class one way New York to London at the end was $14,000.  That might have been round trip, I'm not sure.  And they were very small.  The fuselage is tiny.  The whole thing is fuel and the cost was just out of sight.  There were only two seats on each side, in each row. Well, four, middle aisle.  But they were not first class size seats. They were a little bit bigger than coach seats, but it was still tiny. If you had claustrophobia it was a very, very narrow tube.  The saving grace was you get from New York to London in three hours. 

But here's another thing.  You can't fly the Concorde at supersonic speeds over land.  Sonic booms, governments won't permit it.  So let's say you take off from New York from JFK and you're gonna go to London or Paris, you have to get well out in the Atlantic before you kick in the afterburners, which is what takes you to supersonic.  And then when you are ready to pull in to London or Paris, you are right at limits on fuel.  They can't put you in a holding pattern.  You don't have enough fuel.  So they were never really practical.  It requires so much fuel.

Flight is a series of compromises.  To get something that weighs as much as your average jet airliner off the ground requires more power than you ever stop to consider.  You hear all about lift or aerodynamic air pressure that makes an airplane fly, but you have to get a certain speed going before that air pressure differential is created. And the heavier the airplane, the faster it has to go.  I was on an El Al 747, they let me sit up in the cockpit, a long time ago.  It took nearly every foot of the 10,000-foot runway at JFK to get the thing off the ground.  You've got to get up to speed, it takes a long time, just the weight of these things. 

It's all about what you'll pay for.  If you want to travel supersonic you are gonna be paying out the nose for it, at current technology.  And then you can't do it over populated areas 'cause of the sonic booms.  It break people's windows or your animals would go nuts and go crazy.  So you can't even do it unless it's over the ocean.  But the whole thing was fuel.  The wings, parts of fuselage, in order to have enough to even fly supersonic. 

And here's the thing about flight.  The faster you go -- people don't think about this -- the faster you try to go through the air the more fuel it takes because the resistance that you face builds up. If you're going through the air faster, the air coming against you is faster, that's more resistance.  That's why you want to fly as high as you can, where the air is thinner and there's less resistance, so it takes less fuel.  That's why, if you can fly at 51, you'll do it.  If you can fly at 43, you'll do it.  If you can only fly at 35, 37, it's gonna cost.

There really is no way that we can fly at current prices any faster than we do. (interruption) Well, apparently not, not that are affordable in a consumer aircraft.  Now, there are some prototypes, corporate jet, supersonic, smaller aircraft and so forth.  I don't know how far along they are; I'm really not that up to speed on 'em.  I just know they're always looking at it.  But there's only so much you can do if you want to fly right up to the speed of sound. 

I think the fastest corporate jet is the Cessna Citation X, and it is Mach .9, something or other, but only on precise conditions.  And it costs. It's just the faster you go the more fuel it takes to get you through the air that fast, because the resistance builds up.  You start going supersonic at 2,000 miles an hour as opposed to 550, which is what the Concorde did, Concorde 1500, how do you get to London in three hours?  It takes a lot of fuel.  So you gotta buy the fuel. Then you gotta maintain the airplanes. You gotta cater them. You gotta pay the people that maintain and staff them and so forth.  It just became cost prohibitive.  And the only two destinations were to London and Paris. 

I remember Bill Buckley once chartered one for an around-the-world trip with National Review donors and so forth. They went to Australia.  That's the one where they had to fly in a replacement because a portion of the rear rudder came loose, fell off during flight, on their way in to Australia or something.  I remember seeing a picture of it on the ground.  Commercial aviation.

I was once on a flight around Christmastime to California, and a pilot was deadheading, and he was sitting next to me, and he was explaining this theory. He was the one talking about flight being a series of compromises. "Look, you want to get something this heavy off ground this fast? Here's what it's gonna cost you.  Are people gonna pay that?  That's what the airlines have to determine, and there are demands that people have.

"They expect speed to be this and that but it costs X, and it's all contingent on the price of oil."  By time you start talking about going supersonic, that's an entirely different aerodynamic design and fuel consumption.  They fly at 60,000 feet.  In order to get there... You know, it takes awhile to get up that high because you've gonna burn off burn off a certain amount of fuel to get rid of the weight. 

The windows on the Concorde were three-inches.  I mean, you couldn't see out of them.  They needed that space.  They couldn't trust the windows not to blow out.  The structural integrity has to be really precise when you do that, and then you start talking about space travel and escaping the atmosphere? The power needed to do that is huge. This is one of the reasons why when I listen to these yokels talk about wind and solar, it's an absolute joke. 

I mean, powering an airplane that way is impossible right now. We are a hundred thousand years away from being able to do that.  With automobiles we're now limited to, what, 150 miles on a battery charge if we go electric?  But you start talking about windmills and solar panels to power a car?

It's ridiculous.  And this is how we save the planet?  Not possible.  It simply isn't possible.  A transport truck, or oceangoing cargo vessels? None of it's possible without using oil and its refined products. None of it is.  That's why all this is a joke, getting rid of fossil fuels.  It's never gonna happen.  The economy of the world would collapse.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  You know, the principle of the airfoil and how it all works? Some people get into one of these puritan conversations. "There's no such thing as lift.  It's air pressure differential.  What do you mean, lift?  There's no lift." If you look at an airplane wing, the bottom is flat, for the most part.  The top is curved, and it's a bulbous curve at the front and tapers toward the back. 

That means that it takes air long to go over the top of the wing, more time. It's minuscule, but it's enough. It takes air longer to go over the top of the wing than it does over the bottom 'cause the bottom's flat, there's nothing stopping it, and bam! But you've got a little bit of an obstruction, and that creates -- for the lack of a better term -- sort of an air-pressure differential. 

The air weighs more underneath the airplane than above it, and lifts it up if you have the right speed.  And if you notice on a propeller airplane, even the props have that airfoil. The fuselage and the nose is also an airfoil.  Everything is oriented toward getting that airplane off the ground and then flying at the right speed.  The whole thing, it's always fascinated me.  I still to this day am fascinated watching something that big get off the ground. Still.

Even though I know how it's happening, it still amazes me.  Then I imagine, "Okay, we're gonna put enough windmills on one of these things to make this happen or solar panels?" It's a joke!  That's why I said there's no substitute for oil.  There's nothing even close. Well, nuclear, but you can't put a reactor on an airplane to power an engine.  Not yet.  You can a submarine. 

END TRANSCRIPT

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