Supersonic Transport History From an Old LIFE Magazine

I was cleaning out some old magazines recently when I discovered an interesting article about the first flight of Concorde, the British-French Supersonic Transport (usually shortened to SST when first referred to in the 1960s). It was in an old LIFE magazine article from March 14, 1969. The cover story for that issue was about the Grumman Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) which was used to deliver astronauts to and from the lunar surface during the Apollo space program. That’s probably why I had that issue laying around. However, as I was paging through the magazine, I stumbled upon the article “The Race for the SST” (pictures below of the title page, and also of a side box article titled “Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Wash…” ). The article talked about the race for the first commercially viable supersonic transport, and mentioned how the Anglo-French Concorde and the Russian TU-144 had already flown, while all the U.S. had to show was a fiberglass mockup. The article went on to mention that the U.S. design by Boeing was at least three years behind the other two SSTs. But it would offer superior speed (more than 300 mph faster) and passenger capacity (229 versus just over a hundred for the other two designs) when it did fly. I remember seeing pictures of the Boeing mockup when I was a kid, but I always thought it was about the same size as Concorde or the TU-144. Having seen the Concorde and TU-144 in person, I can tell you they are not very big aircraft – similar in size to a DC-9. Discovering this article I learned that the U.S. SST, if it would ever have been built, would have been a much larger aircraft. Even more surprising to me was to read that Boeing already had orders for 122 aircraft from 26 different airlines, even though they had only built  a partial mockup. Alas, the U.S. SST never took off, grounded by budget and sonic boom issues. Russia only flew their SST commercially for a few years, and then relegated them to hangar queens. However, I happened to see one of them parked at Zhukovsky airfield outside Moscow during a trip to Russia in 1993. Grounded at the time of my visit, it eventually flew again as a supersonic test bed partially funded by Boeing and Rockwell.  Of course the famous Concorde was flown successfully by British Airways and Air France for almost 3 decades before finally being removed from service in 2003. Seems they were so costly to operate, though, that they were more status symbols than money makers for the two carriers.