Friday, 11 September 2015

A Stainless Steel Flaming Pencil

In the 1950s the 'Bristol Aeroplane Company' built a supersonic research aircraft (the The Bristol 188) which was nicknamed the "Flaming Pencil".

The advanced nature of the aircraft meant that new construction methods had to be developed. Several materials were considered for construction and two specialist grades of steel were selected: a titanium-stabilized 18-8 austenitic steel and a 12%-Cr steel used in gas turbines. The 12% chromium stainless steel with a honeycomb centre was used for the construction of the outer skin, to which no paint was applied.

The project suffered a number of problems, the main being that the fuel consumption. Combined with fuel leaks, the inability to reach its design speed of Mach 2 and a takeoff speed at nearly 300 mph (480 km/h), the programme was eventually abandoned.

However, the knowledge and technical information gained wasn't wasted and was put to some use in the future Concorde program. The inconclusive nature of the research into the use of stainless steel led to Concordes being constructed from conventional aluminium alloys with a Mach limit of 2.2.

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