Alle Beiträge mit dem Tag ‘Edge of Space’

Thunder City Supersonic Flights stopped

What happened to Thunder City?

Thunder City offered the possibility to fly in supersonic jets – Next to the Russian Zhukovsky Airbase until June 2006 and Sokol Airbase from 2006 the only place in the world to offer tourist flights in supersonic aircraft. In places like Europe or the US it is not possible to experience a supersonic flight, it is allowed only for special purposes like documentary filming, for research etc.

Also, Thunder City had probably the most impressive fleet of jet fighters, with Zhukovsky airbase where the MAKS airshow takes place. The fleet is even more impressive when you consider the cost of maintaining these jets. But this was also a reason why Thunder City flights where hard to finance.

English Electric Lightning, Buccaneer, Hawker Hunter

Thunder City currently owns 3 English Electric Lightning supersonic Jet Fighters which have been in service with the Royal Air Force before. The Lightnings have been used for Edge of Space Flights and reached altitudes more than 15km with tourists. Until November 14th Thunder City had 4 English Elctric Lightnings, that day one of the two T5 two-seaters was lost in a deadly Airshow accident at Overberg Airshow. Thunder City was the only operator of the English Electric Lightning, one of the first supersonic aircraft, reaching Top Speeds of Mach 2 and Mach 1.6 with tourist flights.

Also, Thunder City owns three Blackburn Buccaneers, also the only airworthy examples worldwide. The Buccaneer is a giant, a low-level strike fighter with nuclear weapon capability. The South African Air Force operated 16 Buccaneers. The Apartheid-Regime had nuclear weapons, even did a nuclear test.

The third large military fighter aircraft owned by Thunder City is the Hawker Hunter, of which it operated seven. The Hawker Hunter Flight was the cheapest among the Thunder City aircraft. It is still available for flights today in the Swiss Alps.

Why did Jet Fighter Operations at Thunder City stop?

One of the main reasons the flight operations stopped was the Airshow crash that left only one two-seater Lightning left. Of course that Lightning crash hit the reputation very badly, and the death of Dave Stock was a shock not only to Thunder City. But Thunder City continued to offer passenger flights until September 2010. The bad economy led Thunder City customer numbers sink by around 50%, which made it even harder to finance the very costly maintenance and flight operations. Also, the South African Civil Aviation Authority suspended the operation certificate.

Thunder City now wants to sell all its aircraft, in August 2011 they have been available for sale. A potential buyer of such aircraft must not only have huge financial power, but also the knowledge to operate this high-performance aircraft. It can be assumed that they will end as displays.

This is really sad, it leaves the MiG-29 Flight on Sokol airbase in Russia as the last and only possibility to fly in a supersonic aircraft.

English Electric Lightning Video

English Electric Lightning Edge of Space passenger flight at Thunder City

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Edge of Space – Overview

Stratosphere Flights marketed as Edge of Space-flights have been available in Russia after the Russian Financial crisis. Also, Thunder City offered Edge of Space Flights in Cape Town, South Africa. In Russia MiG-25 flights reached up to 25km or 82,000ft. This was the highest altitude tourists could achieve, apart from the Space Adventures trips to the international Space Staion (ISS). Thunder City used English Electric Lightning supersonic aircraft to reach an altitude of 50,000ft.

Definition Edge of Space

The boundary between the Athmosphere and outer Space is known as the Kármán line. The Kármán line lies at 62 miles or 100km, which is much higher than the 25km or so the most powerful Edge of Space-jet fighters achieve during their stratosphere flight. The expression “Edge of Space” commonly used for balloon and aircraft includes a much lower altitude. Some use it for flights at altitudes reaching the Stratosphere (10km – 50km), but flying substantially higher than commercial airliners who usually fly at 10-12km to optimize their fuel burn. Thunder City used the Expression Edge of Space already for 50,000ft (15.25km) flights, that is not substantially higher than the altitudes reached by airliners. The Russian MiG supersonic fighters reached at least double the altitude.

Fastest Aircraft reached 25km with tourists

Fastest Jet Fighter in the World

The MiG-25 Foxbat, the fastest fighter aircraft has a top speed of Mach 2,82 or 3200 km/h or 1,920 mph respectively. At high altitude the Mikoyan MiG-25 Foxbat reaches Mach 3.2 or 3600 km/h, but this top speed damages the engine. The strangely looking MiG-25 two seater was used for passenger Edge of Space flights on Zhukovsky airbase or Ramenskoye airbase (also Ramenskoe and Ramensky) until June 2006. Zhukovsky Airbase hosts the famous MAKS airshow, apart from the MiG-25 Edge of Space Flights it offered MiG-23 Flogger Flights, MiG-29 Flights and Su-27 Flanker Flights. The MiG-25 Foxbat reached an altitude of up to 25km, the view from there is comparable to what is known from satellite prictures: The curvature of the earth can be seen very clearly, the atmosphere is like a blue fog far far below and the sky above is black with millions of stars.

MiG-29 Edge of Space Flights on Sokol Airbase today

MiG-25 Foxbat - Zhukovsky Airbase

After Edge of Space Flights in the fastest jet fighter MiG-25 stopped when tourist flights operation stopped, MiGFlug and it’s US subidiary FlyFighterJet hat to watch for another opportunity to offer supersonic and Edge of Space flights. In the same year, in 2006, MiGFlug sent the first customer to fly MiG-29 to Sokol Airbase in Nizhniy Novgorod, about an hour from Moscow. The first 3 years of MiG operations at Sokol, the MiG-29 flights focused on acrobatics and the MiG-31 Foxhound, the successor of the MiG-25, flew to the Edge of Space with customers. After 2008 the MiG-31 was used for tests with the Russian Air Force. The MiG-29 was from now on used for both, MiG-29 Aerobatics program and the new MiG-29 Edge of Space program. The MiG-29 reaches about 22-23km, so substantially more than the English Electric Lightning in Thunder City. After Thunder City stopped operations in 2010, the MiG-29 Flight is not only the last Edge of Space Flight worldwide, but also the last possibility for a supersonic flight.

MiG-29 Flight video

This video shows one of the first customers flying the MiG-29 Fulcrum on Sokol airbase, Nizhiny Novgorod

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