Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Airplanes of Future Will Travel 1,000 MPH (1939)

The January 29, 1939 Hammond Times (Hammond, IN) ran this piece about the super-fast airplanes of the future. The article quickly devolves into a debate about how trustworthy air speed indicators are.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 -- Airplanes capable of flying nearly 1,000 miles an hour - 300 miles an hour faster than the speed of sound - will be developed "within a generation," federal aviation engineers confidently predicted today.

This prediction, carrying with it tremendous military and commercial implications, was made while the same engineers were expressing "some doubt" that the plane flown in a test dive last Monday at Buffalo, N.Y., actually reached the reported speed of 575 miles an hour.

A spokesman for the national advisory committee for aeronautics, which conducts government aviation research at its vast Langley Field, Va., laboratories, said that while NACA tests thus far have not developed speeds on assembled models of above 500 miles an hour, there is no incontrovertible reason to believe that a modern airplane can not attain a 575-mile-an-hour clip.

"The basis on which we entertain doubt regarding the 575-mile-an-hour speed at Buffalo is simply this: The air speed indicator in the planes showed 575 miles an hour, but it has been established that air speed indicators cannot be trusted too far," he explained. "In order to have been accurate, the indicator in the plane flown at Buffalo should have been adjusted at different levels on the way down during the dive. That, of course, was impossible."

Read more:
600 Miles An Hour (1901)
The Family Plane of 2030 A.D. (1930)
Cyclonic Rocket (circa 1930)
Aerial Navigation Will Never Be Popular (1906)


Anonymous said...

My dad has regularly complained that when he was a kid in the 50s and 60s American society promised him flying cars and easy space transportation by the time he was an adult.

Thanks for this blog. It's great.

M. said...

Yes, onboard air speed indicators of the time had to be adjusted for different altitudes - most air speed records of that period were measured in level flight using ground-based equipment.

Will Doohan said...

Amazing how fast this came true. By the mid-60's the A-12/SR-71 was flying at least 2000 mph and even faster(according to some.)

As for flying cars, as a friend of mine once pointed out, "People have enough trouble driving around in 2-dimensions. Imagine the mayhem if cars were flying around in 3 ? :-D

Anonymous said...

The SST from the United States was not put into commercial service. There were environmental and noise concerns.

Interesting, that there were a few cases of considering the environmental impact of a technology before putting it in service.

Ultimately, the business model caused supersonic travel not to work. Now, we have Virgin Galactic and space flight tourism.

The future is coming, it just takes a few 'kooky enterpreneurs' to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Was the Concorde ever profitable, overall? It still gets my mental willy up. It's just so... science fiction.

Anonymous said...

No, Concorde was too expensive for its capacity to be practical. The proposed second-generation SSTs would have been larger for scale efficiency. But they are no more.

Back in the Seventies, I remember a book on Medieval Technology whose last chapter was a thesis on the end of a period of technological advances and subsequent stagnation. The author used the Cancellation of the SST as the point at which we started to stagnate and decline.

When I mentioned this to a local Superior Intellect in SF fandom, he ripped me a new rectum on how We Were Advancing Faster and Faster and Faster All The Time! There Would Never Be another Tech Plateau, only Ever-Faster Advancement! Computers! Computers! Computers! Computers! Computers! Computers! Computers!

It wasn't until later that I realized every one of his examples of Our Advancement were Computers, Toys, and Weapons. The latter two being exactly what the author said would initially surge when the stagnation and decline begins...