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I got this idea from TV series Man in the High Castle that show supersonic airliners ("SST") that looked like the Tu-144 and Concorde flying US-Germany. But they never explain how SST got regularized.

What are cheapest fastest smallest changes that can regularize SSTs? Here are constraints, but numbers aren't strict – you can give or take a few integers.

  1. Assume Concorde's specifications like for range and passenger capacity. Or brainstorm how they can be improved!

  2. Flights must be long-haul enough for supersonic speeds. For reference, one of Concorde's routes, New York-London, in 2019 takes 8 hours or 5635 km.

  3. All flights on these routes must be flown on SST. That's how "default" SST must be in this world.

  4. Demand for these routes can't be less than current demand.

  5. SST must be as safe as first-rate subsonic airliners in 2019 like A350 or B787.

  6. Airfare can't outstrip what they are now on these routes.

  7. Nobody is poorer than they are now. If your world building requires everybody to get richer, explain how everybody got rich.

  8. Reason must be realistic...no Deus ex machina. I read Aviation SE – Why are there no commercial supersonic flights at present?, What are the barriers to feasibility of stratospheric cruising for commercial air travel?.

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    $\begingroup$ We already had them, it was called Concord (your wording suggests you don't know Concord was?), fuel cost was uneconomic so they were too expensive accept for the wealthy, In the current 'green' political environment we're more likely to embrace airships again than go supersonic again. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Oct 27 '19 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ I think your conditions 4 and 6 are an obstacle to a good solution. Assume that mostly very wealthy people fly, people who can afford higher ticket prices and who value their spare time, A day trip from London to Chicago? That makes little sense for a tourist, but how about a CEO or lawyer about to strike a big deal? $\endgroup$ – o.m. Oct 27 '19 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore: It was called Concorde with an e. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 27 '19 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ NASA had a decade long program to study civilian supersonic aircraft, with goals quite similar to this question. Boeing's inception report is available on-line at Archive.org. The program ended in 1999 without ever finding a viable solution. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 27 '19 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP It 'was' called both, actually :) scroll down to Naming, the spelling you think of it as may depend on your age or when you first knew of it (how it was spelled at the time, the English or the French spelling), well, if you're UK, if you're French it's fairly certain the French spelling was used throughout. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Oct 27 '19 at 17:39
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I could imagine combination of factors that would help:

  • already mentioned cheaper oil - keep Arabs happy or at least too internally divided to create OPEC; ignore or even embrace global warming, (there can be made good arguments that a mild one would actually boost our crop yields)

  • embrace some less redistributing economic system - you would have on average richer society, but in practice most of the gains would go to the upper levels of society

  • do NOT deregulate industry - allowing it led to spread of cheap airlines and race to bottom, concerning leg room and food quality, you need exactly opposite - flying would be expensive from structural reasons, however there would be some limited competition, which would offer superior quality, also in relation to speed

  • keep more national champions in the industry - when aircraft selection is more about country prestige and less about petty and mundane stuff like profit, then supersonic is the way to go

  • more spin-offs from military-industrial complex - there is always some crosspolination of ideas and possibility to reuse a technology from other areas. In recent years the main fetish for military aviation was stealth so it did not help for commercial aviation ... Make radars better thus force military towards supersonic speed)

  • size do matter - make them bigger - one of reason why Concorde was a flop, was being small and cramped, while competing with slower but bigger jets (yes, lower cost per seat). Just making making its successor bigger would help a bit on its own.

  • consumer tastes - I've seen multiple comments that even though rational on short routes, turboprops cause bad consumer reaction, as being treated cheap. Make the same perception about subsonic jets

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Economics is rather simple - but for the Concorde there was one major fatal flaw

All put aside - the Concorde was a wonderful plane. It could have been our 'default' way of travelling. It was easily conceivable that its success could have brought more planes in production and more routes everywhere.

However Supersonic transport had one fatal flaw: Sonic Booms.

The unfortunate thing about Sonic Booms is they are very unpopular with anyone living on the ground. Windows smash, people get scared. For this reason Concorde was banned travelling over cities and urban/suburban areas, and was restricted therefore to trans-Atlantic routes only.

This restriction was the deathnell of Supersonic transport. See, for any given product brought to market to be brought down in cost, you need:

  • Mass production of it to enable thousands of it to be made. This allows for development costs to be 'spread' out over thousands of plans, instead of just a dozen.
  • With widespread use, you need to be able to gradually improve your product to become more efficient, more safe, more comfortable over time. Cars have had such steady improvement, and Airbus / Boeing passenger jets the same.
  • Multiple airline customers to promote a flexible market. Airbus and Boeing came out on top with their mass produced consumer jets, which are bought by airlines, but also for which 'old' planes were snapped up by low-cost carriers. You need this type of market.

For Concorde, the issue was none-of-the-above were enabled because there was no money in only servicing a small market of transatlantic flights. Therefore, no mass production. No low-cost development, no markets able to trade it. Concorde remained in the 'high cost' 'low-efficiency' 'limited route' area, and with only over a dozen made it disappeared.

Want it to be default? Solve the issue of Sonic Booms. Perhaps:

  • A development that allowed Supersonic travel without the Boom
  • A way for it to fly at such high altitude a Boom is not louder than current jets at ground level
  • A widespread acceptance of Booms, or architectural materials that enabled booms to not penetrate buildings easily with little additional cost to construction, and windows that are unaffected by Booms

The only way to make Concorde incrementally safer and fund fuel-efficient development like current Boeing and Airbus manufacturers is to mass produce it, and have it in production for decades (if not a century). The only way is if it can deliver the same as current-day jets in terms of unrestricted flight paths, but with a benefit of being faster (without the booms). Safety and fuel efficiency would then follow.

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The premise really works when political externalities and incentives are different. Had it been possible to build a Concorde in 1950, then it likely would have been since there would be no opposition due to environmentalism. Had the American aviation industry embraced supersonic transportation first, then there would not have been the political opposition against flying Concorde's across the continental United States, cutting flight times between New York and Los Angeles by several hours (yes, the sonic booms of US SST's would be different...).

In the "Man in the High Castle", the National Socialists would look at an SST as a symbol of German engineering genius, as well as a means of allowing high ranking officials and military officers to cross the Atlantic or fly across Russia with ease and reach their assignments quickly. German troops and low level officials and functionaries would be using the train, troopships or (for high priority troops and Fallschirmjäger there would be subsonic transport aircraft). The Japanese Empire would likely have similar incentives for their Imperial officials and officers.

This more or less negates most of the constraints that you have placed on the answer, but physics also intervenes; a supersonic transport will always be more energy intensive and expensive than a subsonic airliner or aircraft, so be reserved for a "premium" class of passengers. This will mean a smaller market, higher seat costs and fewer SST flights. I suspect that there will still be "cattle cars" for the lowest classes of passengers, where everyone is packed inside like sardines and fed a bag of crackers or peanuts; the halcyon days of air traffic where you could get a roomy seat in a 707 or DC-8 and be served a nice, hot meal are long past. Even with cheap fuel, there is still a strong incentive to reduce the cost per seat mile as far as possible. Obviously, anyone who can afford a Concorde flight isn't going to tolerate that sort of treatment, but if you cannot afford the flight, well....

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The main reason why the Concorde never really took off was that it was designed during the time of cheap oil and had to operate right after the oil crisis, when prices went high up. Burning 17 liters per passenger per 100 km, it was not exactly cheap to fly.

Add to that the noise produced during its supersonic operation, and you have a clear picture.

If you can manage to keep the oil price low as it was before the Egypt-Israel war, you can make it affordable.

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    $\begingroup$ I feel like your phrase "Concorde never really took off" is the opening line of a conspiracy even more bizarre than moon landing denialism... $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 27 '19 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Have seen worse - Youtube decided to debunk historical video about planned WW2 German strategic bomber that was intended to have range allowed to reach US East Coast, by linking article that actually attack of 9/11 was done by some Muslims. ;) $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Oct 27 '19 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ On the one hand, cheap oil would make Concorde tickets cheaper, but on the other hand, it would make regular airliner tickets cheaper too. You're still paying 10, 20, 30 times as much for at best a few hours' benefit. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Oct 27 '19 at 8:40
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There's a way to beat Concord -- by a big margin, on both speed and range.

Get rid of the wings.

There have been proposals since the Apollo era for suborbital transport. Launch a rocket, go anywhere on Earth in under an hour, and land vertically (now we'd say "like a Falcon 9" but such things didn't exist when SASSTO was proposed). This is one of the proposed applications for the SpaceX Starship, BTW -- sonic booms stay high enough that they're only audible within a few miles of the port, and the speed of transport completely outclasses anything that relies on lift for flight.

Cost? From what I've read, it's actually not much worse than Concord for similar flight distances -- but for a few percent more fuel, a ship that can go from New York to Paris can go to Cairo, or New Delhi, or Tokyo, and with only a few minutes difference in flight time. The technology isn't quite ready now, but look for this to become a service around 2030. Initially, only for those who used to pay for Concord tickets, but later, for anyone who wants their vacation to last two days longer (by spending two days less in an airplane).

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