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I work on time-space cartography in a historical perspective and need to establish a commercial speed of Concorde aircraft flights based on timetable data. This issue differs from the issue of the maximum speed of planes, because in a time geography perspective I want to consider speed from the point of view of the user, the traveller, i.e timetable commercial speed, and not maximum aircraft speed.

I found some indicative timetables of London-New York in 3,5 hours for 5 850 km which turns into an approximate value of 1 600 km/h. Could anyone confirm these data and this figure?

A related problem is that time-tables are not symmetric, because of trade winds, so that transatlantic routes take longer from Europe to USA that the contrary. I want to use the longest value since it provides a consistent value for minimum time-distance.

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    $\begingroup$ As an example, here's a query about timetables: airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/… note some more research will be needed to establish if these are airborne times, or include taxi etc. $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Jan 11, 2016 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Another example of timetable info: forums.flightsimlabs.com/index.php?/topic/… $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Jan 11, 2016 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot Andy this solves my question. I have been calculating commercial flight time from these data and it is a surprise that they do not differ so much 3h45 eastward and 3h45 (AF) or 3h55 (BA) westward. So I have my figure: 5850 km / 3h45 = 1 560 km/h $\endgroup$ Jan 11, 2016 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Note that those are usually the timetabled examples. In reality most flights don't arrive on time... $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Jan 11, 2016 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ My problem is not commenting on the difference between cruise speed and commercial speed (Manu H), or if commercial speed is accurate or respected (Jon Story), it is just converting timetables into commercial speed, a speed perceived and lived by travellers regardless of the top speed of the transport mean. $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2016 at 8:52

4 Answers 4

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The Concorde cruised at 1350mph (~Mach 2.05 at 55,000Ft.)

Concorde’s fastest transatlantic crossing was on 7 February 1996 when it completed the New York to London flight in 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

When it flew the average flight time (was) around 3 hours 30 minutes, but can be slightly longer if the aircraft (needed) to hold before landing at the local airports.

Wind is a huge factor in flying. A headwind or tail wind can mean a big difference in flight time. The Concorde cruised at a significantly higher altitude than most airplanes ~55,000Ft. which means it was subject to very different wind than its sub sonic lower flying counterparts. At that altitude winds in excess of 100Kt are common place. So you could see a 200Kt difference in speed depending on direction.

Also of note the speed was often called out using Mach's Number (the Concorde flew a bit over Mach 2). However since Mach's number accounts for air density, Mach 1 at 55,000Ft. is 660MPH which is significantly lower than the often quoted Mach 1 = 760MPH (which is the speed of sound at sea level).

One of the best sources of info on flying the Concorde is this podcast interviewing one of the pilots.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are these flight times measured jet way-to-jet way, wheels off the ground to wheels on the ground or what? $\endgroup$
    – DJohnM
    Jan 11, 2016 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ The sources don't specify but the FAA defines time-in-services as wheels up to touch down but I'm not sure how they recorded the times here. From a passenger standpoint gate to gate is usually what people care about. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Jan 11, 2016 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ <code>Mach's number accounts for air density</code> just to be pedantic, it's outside air temperature that needs to be accounted for, not pressure. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jan 12, 2016 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ +1 as the podcast Dave linked to is very relevant - it includes comments on the wind speeds at high altitude (surprisingly low to me) and the very short time spent circling at the end of the journey (due to fuel efficiency). $\endgroup$
    – Andy
    Jan 12, 2016 at 9:56
  • $\begingroup$ Timetables tend to confirm the lack of trade winds for Concorde most probably because of its flying altitude $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2016 at 8:45
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Well, this is very dependent on the windspeeds for a local area which changes day by day. The official "Cruise speed" for Concorde is 2140 kph. Other than that, your question is way too broad because the "relative airspeed" varies by day and time of day as well as location.

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When I flew on it in 2000, the Mach meter at the front of the passenger cabin varied from 1.99 to 2.01

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    $\begingroup$ Mach is a function of temperature, so I would not take it as indicative, for the purpose of this question. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Jan 11, 2016 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ As someone who flies has flown transcontinentally on various aircraft a number of times a year for 15 years, I can tell you that the actual flight time varies greatly. It can take as little as 4.5 hours eastbound in the winter, and over 6 hours westbound. The only constant is that the planes regularly fly at .80-.84 mach. $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Jan 13, 2016 at 13:34
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I want to measure a commercial speed for Concorde flights. The answer was given by Andy in his comments providing links to websites that recorded past timetables for Concorde: forums.flightsimlabs.com and www.airliners.net

Timetable schedule must take into account time difference between cities so that a British Airways Concorde flight JFK 12h15 to LHR 21h00 with -5 hours difference will give a 3h45 of commercial flight duration. Surprisingly, to me at least, trade winds did not seem to play a significant role in this measurement because timetable on the reverse route exhibit similar duration. Air France flights follow the same rationale. The measurement indicate a general figure of 3h45 for transatlantic Concorde flights.

Next step is determining the kilometre distance. As I want a geographical time-distance I care only about great circle distance and do not care about the exact path followed by the flight which would tell about aircraft/pilot/airline performance. I used the flightaware.com website. My only issue is measuring the performance (speed) of the transport system in getting from point A to point B.

So I finally have my figure: 5 850 km / 3h45 = 1 560 km/h was the commercial speed of Concorde (or 969 mph in non international units).

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