Jul 07, 2020 / Travel
What’s it like to travel supersonically? Chief Concorde Pilot, Mike Bannister, answers.
For travelers and crew alike, the experience aboard Concorde was more than convenient — it was magical.
When Concorde retired from the skies in 2003, many were left to wonder if we’d ever experience the splendor of supersonic flight again. Fast forward to today and supersonic travel is no longer an uncertainty. It’s an inevitability.
But what should future passengers expect aboard a supersonic airliner? To find out, we enlisted the help of former Chief Concorde pilot, Mike Bannister.
As the Chief Pilot of British Airways’ Concorde fleet, Bannister accumulated more than 9,600 Concorde flight hours, with nearly 7,000 of which at supersonic speed. For 22 years, he transported passengers at speeds faster than the speed of a rifle bullet.
“Concorde was an absolute delight to fly,” began Bannister. “For a pilot, she handled like a thoroughbred racehorse; so responsive that you could fly it with your fingertips from takeoff, climb, and acceleration, through supersonic flight, deceleration, descent, and landing.”
For passengers, this equated to a smooth and seamless flight experience. Yet Concorde offered so much more than this. “Some passengers chose to fly Concorde simply for the excitement,” said Bannister. “They wanted the acceleration on takeoff, the ability to fly faster than the sun traveled across the sky, the exquisite cuisine, wonderful wine, and fantastic cabin service. These passengers saved their money for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of splendor at the speed of 23 miles a minute.”
Along with the thrill, many repeat customers flew aboard Concorde solely for the ease and convenience. “Many of our customers flew aboard Concorde more than five times a year. For these repeat customers, Concorde delivered efficiency, effectiveness, comfort, and the ability to do in two days what would otherwise take four. They could travel from London to New York and back in a single day and still have time to do business upon final landing.”
Moreover, supersonic travel offered its own health benefits when compared to subsonic flight. “As you travel faster than the earth rotates, the sun appears to go backwards in the sky. The scientists tell us that the event resets the body clock. In crossing the Atlantic from London to New York in three hours and twenty minutes, we endured no jet lag, arrived on time, earlier than we left and with very happy customers.”
As the world’s first and only supersonic airliner, Concorde amassed a significant fan base of business professionals, celebrities, and once-in-a-lifetime aviation fans alike.
There was only one thing Concorde could not regularly provide to the world — accessibility. Many consider Concorde’s premium fare price, low passenger numbers, and rising maintenance costs to be the key factors that led to the airliner’s retirement.
“Concorde was a technological marvel of its time, but also a premium first-class product,” said Bannister. “With the advancements of today, the next generation of supersonic travelers should expect to fly at the price of a current business class ticket. Moreover, future supersonic passengers should expect high quality service and efficiency. They should expect to feel rested upon arrival, having bought back time by flying at supersonic speed.”
Taking a tip from the past, Boom prioritizes accessibility, efficiency, and a premiere passenger experience.
Boom’s ultimate vision is to deliver an airliner that is cost competitive with today’s long-haul, business-class travel. Boom is in the process of designing an end-to-end tranquil passenger experience, where flight features could include large personal windows, direct aisle access, dedicated underseat storage, and a first-class, lie-flat experience.
“I always knew we would see supersonic return to the world,” said Bannister. “I’m very optimistic that Boom will be successful in bringing Overture into service soon. People will again be able to cross the Atlantic, and this time the Pacific, at over twice the speed of sound and have all the benefits that I experienced during my 22 years on Concorde.”