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TRAGEDY: The tiny F-104 was hurled across the XB-70's wing, smashing one tailfin and then exploding. The Valkyrie flew on for several seconds before tumbling out of control and crashing into the Mojave desert miles below.

North American XB-70 valkyrie

Vortex death trap

No one knows why F-104 chase pilot Joe Walker collided with the XB-70, but it is thought the crash was caused by the F-104 getting caught in the huge tip vortices generated by the large delta wings.

Canard nose

A combination of the large canard foreplanes and trailing-edge elevons controlled pitch. The four-man crew sat in a special ejection capsule, which was the only way to survive an ejection at the heights the Valkyrie flew.

Giant delta

Like the YF-12A and the MiG-25, the XB-70 needed a very thin delta wing with large twin tailfins for stability in Mach 3 flight.

Jet blast

Stealth was the last thing the XB-70's designers had in mind. Both its radar and infrared signatures were immense.

On display

The surviving Valkyrie made its last flight in February 1969 to the USAF museum, where it remains on display to this day.

FACTS AND FIGURES

▶ The Valkyrie was used for "sonic boom" trials flights in support of the aborted U.S. Supersonic Transport (SST) project.

▶ During one test flight the XB-70 covered almost 1,000 miles in 33 minutes.

▶ Ethyl borane was planned to fuel the XB-70, but was found to be too expensive.

▶ Colonel Joe Cotton described flying the XB-70 as "like driving a Greyhound bus around the racetrack at Indianapolis."

▶ The project had cost $500 million by the time the XB-70 crashed.

▶ The folding wingtips were designed to use aerodynamic "shock wave" effects.

AIRLINERS

Concorde

▶ World's fastest airliner

▶ Mach 2 performance

▶ Supreme luxury

It is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, still capable of turning heads after a quarter of a century. But the Anglo-French Concorde is much more than a work of aeronautic art. A record-breaker from the start, it remains a supremely efficient supersonic aircraft that has proved to be highly profitable on the prestigious air routes between Europe and the United States.

Although it is a product of 1960s technology without the benefit of multi-screen cockpits and fly-by-wire controls, the Concorde is still the most futuristic airliner to be seen anywhere in the world.

Mach 2 across the Atlantic

Over the last two decades a handful of Concordes have carried more people beyond the speed of sound than all the other supersonic aircraft ever built.

Since its commercial debut in 1976, Concorde has proved deservedly popular. It is the only way a business executive can cross the Atlantic for a meeting and return the same day. A subsonic competitor faces at the very least two six-hour flights and serious jet lag. As a result, Concorde flights are nearly always filled with high-paying passengers.

Yet there is a flip side to Concorde's success. When it entered service the oil crisis had made the viability of a gas- guzzling supersonic jet questionable, and influential American environmentalists were loud in their protests over the noise its powerful engines generated. As a result, options on 70 aircraft by more than a dozen airlines were cancelled.

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