June 3, 2019  (Web Review)

Flying Supersonic

(2018) 60 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video (www.teacher.shop.pbs.org). SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0791-0.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

From 1976 through 2003, transatlantic travel achieved significant new speeds via the Concorde, an Anglo-French endeavor that brought supersonic flight into commercial aviation. Filmmaker Thomas Risch’s documentary, co-produced by the BBC and broadcast on PBS’s NOVA series, details the complicated history of the creation of the Concorde and the controversies that surrounded its arrival in U.S. airports. While the concept of supersonic transport (SST) dated back to the 1950s, it was only decades later that the British and French governments partnered on a project that would transfer military-level airpower into the commercial air space. Cooperation between the two nations’ engineering teams was always a bit shaky and work was hampered by cost overruns, missed deadlines, and reluctance from U.S. airlines to become involved. By the time that Air France and British Airways readied their respective versions of the SST aircraft—dubbed Concorde—its droop-nose and delta wing design stood out from conventional commercial airlines. But concerns over sonic-boom-inspired noise pollution resulted in Congress seeking to ban the Concorde’s entry into the U.S. market (the ban was eventually lifted, but the airplane only used Dulles International Airport and John F. Kennedy Airport for its transatlantic travels). Airline industry problems and a drop in foreign travel after 9/11 ultimately doomed the Concorde, and SST commercial flights have ceased to date. Breaking down complex engineering technology into user-friendly terms, Flying Supersonic serves up a compelling profile of one of aviation’s most well-intended failures. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)