Posted August 13th, 2009
An early design by Boeing, the company the government selected to build the prototype for America’s first supersonic passenger plane.
Polytechnic Institute of NYU Professor of Technology Management makes his documentary debut in “The People vs. the SST,” an in-depth look at America’s failed-attempt to build a supersonic aircraft for commercial travel in the 1960s.
Professor Horwitch’s insights are based on his book, Clipped Wings (MIT Press, 1982), which chronicles the history of the American supersonic transport project, dubbed "SST."
Among other things, Professor Horwitch emphasizes in the film how the project’s saga mirrored significant changing values in the U.S. during the 1960s with regard to technology.
He concludes that the outcome (the government withdrew SST's funding in 1971), messy though the process was, probably saved the U.S. considerable grief and money down the road.
Professor Horwitch observes that the whole notion of flying ever-faster in the commercial skies proved untenable, as the demise of the Anglo-French Concorde demonstrated. The cost was too expensive. The environmental impact was too great. Also, seen only in retrospect, modern telecommunications technology, such as advanced video-conferencing, the Internet, and collaborative software, emerged as an adequate substitute for supersonic business travel.
“It is very gratifying,” Professor Horwitch commented, “that the implications of one’s research can resonate with a larger audience. But I do not think that this marks the beginning of a career in the movies.”
You can watch the documentary online.