A couple of things lately have set me wondering. My friends Piper and Holmes over at Piper Bayard have recently been discussing the Russian aircraft dubbed Konkordski, actually the Tupolev Tu-144. Its an fascinating story.
I never saw the Konkordski, but I did see Concorde. I grew up (as far as it can ever be said that I grew up) in a small town in Oxfordshire, beside RAF Brize Norton. Brize was one of the few places Concorde could to land during it’s development. On one of its visits a school trip was organized and I got to see Concorde up close. I was 11, male, and this was a supersonic jet that looked cosmic, life just didn’t get any better.
Concorde was massive. The engines were gargantuan. The tail fin was the size of a building. The droop snoot was unbelievable. And the insides? Wow. The cabin was enormous, the ceiling way above my head. We were trooped through, single file, under constant threat not to touch. There was no way we could touch most of the instruments, they were too far away from this 11 year old. There were dials and levers and knobs everywhere, the walls, ceiling, and floor were covered.
The floor? Yes. About half way down the fuselage, somewhere in between the engines, there was a submarine style pressure hatch with levers and wheels to secure it. I remember it clearly. It had two labels. One said “Only to be used in an emergency” (the safety people’s idea of a joke, presumably) and the other said “Do not open when supersonic.” I didn’t know this at the time, but supersonic! Can you believe that? I’ve seen carbon fiber things exposed to wind blast of only half that speed and the results usually come back in a plastic bag. What would happen to a squishy organism would only result in a smear along the fuselage. More humor, I suppose.
A couple of years ago I was able to tour around one of the flight test aircraft again. The engines were still gargantuan, the droop snoot still amazing, but the interior? When I walked through the cabin the dials and levers and knobs were all still there. The pressure hatch with its ridiculous labeling was still there. I still had a sense of wow … but this time it was because I hit my head on the equipment, the cabin was so small it almost blocked the way through. I had to maneuver carefully around the levers, avoid the knobs, and step over the pressure hatch. It was so cramped, how could anyone have worked in such conditions?
So, what was I wondering back at the start of this post? Well, clearly the interior of Concorde is much smaller that it was 30 years ago; so, what’s happening?
I think the answer is obvious. The solar system’s wandering through space has brought us closer to a black hole (or a clump of dark matter) and the gravitational field is distorting the dimensions of fast moving objects.
I mean, what else could it be?
(images courtesy of Wikipedia and sonicboom.com)