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WWI items sought, learn about supersonic speed

There has been a committee formed to create a museum to honor the memory of Col. Bill Lambert, our local WWI fighter ace, along with other WWI veterans.

The committee is looking toward having a physical place to accumulate mementos and artifacts concerning Bill and others. If you happen to have something like this, please drop it off at Unger Shoe Store in downtown Ironton. Joe Unger has agreed to store them until a building or display area becomes available.

Supersonic civilian travel has disappeared since the Concorde was retired in 2003.

It was flown for 27 years. It was a really an incredible plane.

I had two encounters with it, once at Duxford Aircraft Museum in England and at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) convention.

At Duxford, they had on display a prototype Concorde that was never in commercial service. The Concorde, a plane developed in cooperation between the British and the French, was never a commercial success. It could never recoup the development expense. It was a wealthy person’s plane. In 1997, the round-trip ticket was $7,995, in 2019 dollars, that would be $12,500. That was 30 times the cost of the cheapest round trip.

Of course, it took about half the time of an ordinary flight. It flew at 1,354 miles per hour at cruise altitude, which is about 60,000 feet.

My encounter with the prototype Concorde at Duxford Aircraft Museum included a tour by a guide inside the plane. I learned that it is made from a special type of aluminum alloy to resist the high temperature it encounters at cruise speeds. At cruise speed, due to the expansion of the aluminum, the length of the plane grows by several inches. The guide told us that at cruise altitude the passengers could see the curvature of the earth. The passenger load was varied from 92 to 128, depending on the configuration.

I was up close to the Concorde when it visited the EAA convention in the 1990s.

The Concorde took off with paying passengers for a brief subsonic flight over southern Canada at $600 apiece. I did not go, but I was on the flight line, just a couple hundred feet from the runway, when it took off.

They announced that we should cover our kids’ ears because of the jet noise. We tried to cover my granddaughter’s ears, but it really bothered her and caused her to tear up. The takeoff noise was so great that I could feel it in my chest. This amazing plane lands at 182 miles per hour.

There is a great deal of interest in hypersonic flight among the aircraft manufacturers. Hypersonic flight is that above Mach 5. The best that the Concorde did was 2.25 Mach.

The big problem with hypersonic flight is the dissipation of heat from air friction. The jet engines need air to function and yet the air friction at those high speeds is the biggest problem. The only feasible jet engine at hypersonic speeds is the scramjet, which is still being developed.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at eelnod22@gmail.com