Concorde was certainly one of the most memorable aircrafts in the history of flight. Fruit of British and French collaboration, Concorde was an amazing technological success, and she still is unique (not say legendary) as the only supersonic aircraft for passenger-carrying commercial use.
I’ve been thinking for quite a while how I wanted to write this article about Concorde. I decided to follow the ‘5 things’ series of this blog, considering that it’s pretty easy today to check for Concorde specific online; moreover, my goal here is to sparkle people’s interest on topics that can be deepened in a second moment.
Although this is something I share mostly online only (nine times out of ten, my friends are likely to have different interests, unfortunately), I am very interested in the aviation/aerospace industry.
So, it was natural, after I transferred in the UK, to search for and go see a Concorde. The closest place I found was the Runway Visitor Park at Manchester Airport, exhibiting Concorde G-BOAC (#204). Down below you find a ‘Where to see Concorde’ worldwide list.
1. Concorde flew faster than the Earth rotates
Considering the movement of the Earth’s surface at the equator, the Earth is rotating at a speed of about 1,000 mph (or about 1,600 km/h), while Concorde’s top speed was about 1,350 mph (or 2,150 km/h) Mach 2 at 60,000 ft, cruising at more than twice the speed of sound. At that altitude and on a clean day, it was possible to see the curvature of the Earth.
With a five hour time difference at the opposite sides of the Atlantic, a Concorde flying from London to New York was said to ‘arrive before it had taken off’, in local time, meaning that morning passengers were able to do business in New York and be back in the evening the same day; a notable example was musician Phil Collins, who took Concorde to appear on two different stages of the Live Aid in 1985.
2. Concorde wasn’t the first supersonic commercial aircraft to fly
After Britain and France agreed on working together on the project of a supersonic airliner in 1962, both the USA and USSR decided to launch their own similar projects. While the Boeing 2707 development was halted by the US Senate fearing costs and uncertainty, the Soviet counterpart of Concorde, the Tupolev Tu-144, made its maiden flight on December 31, 1968. Concorde’s maiden flight in Toulouse took place two months later, on March 2, 1969.
Unfortunately, after a number of failures during test flights and other problems, the Soviet government decided to cancel the Tu-144 in 1983.
3. Concorde with odd numbering were built in France, with even numbering in Britain
Of the expected initial 100 Concordes, only 20 were built. The two prototypes #001 and #002 were used for demonstration tours for politicians, interested airlines and the media; two pre-production #101 and #102 were used mainly in test activities and only sixteen effectively entered operations (#201 to #216).
Despite many airlines were initially interested in ordering Concorde, the cost of purchasing and operating the aircraft were too high; although agreements between BOAC/British Airways, Air France and other airlines, like Singapore Airlines or Braniff Airlines, allowed for further routes, no other airlines purchased the remaining Concorde, leaving Air France and BOAC/British Airways operating six and seven aircrafts, respectively.
4. Concorde was the most tested aircraft in aviation history
The hours of testing for Concorde amount to 5,000 only to prove the shape of the delta wing. The development of the engines accounted for another huge part of testing activity, and the result were the most powerful jet engines fitted on an airliner. The journey to obtain full certification for the engines and a special certificate of airworthiness for the whole aircraft took six years of testing; these, for the British alone, corresponded to ten Concordes flying 5,500 hours in about 2,500 flights.
5. Concorde was also the name of the only class available on board
There was no class distinction about Concorde and it was pretty expensive (compared to most flights today) to purchase a seat. There were many famous passengers: Princess Diana talking fashion with stewardesses, Paul McCartney having everyone singing Beatles hits… and many others, from pop stars to politician, celebrities favoured Concorde in those times. Yet Concorde was dearest mostly to the people involved in the development and operation days, the pilots and all the staff working around and for it.
Where to see Concorde
Grantly Adams Airport, Barbados (#212/G-BOAE)
Musée de l’Air, Le Bourget, Paris (#001/F-WTSS; #213/F-BTSD)
Orly Airport, Paris (#102/F-WTSA)
Airbus Toulouse-Blagnac (#201/F-WTSB; #209/F-BVFC)
Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris (#215/F-BVFF)
Auto & Technik Museum, Sinsheim (#207/F-BVFB)
Fleet Air Arm Museum, RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset (#002/G-BSST)
Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambs (#101/G-AXDN)
Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey (#202/G-BBDG)
Manchester Airport Visitor Centre (#204/G-BOAC)
Scottish Museum of Flight, East Fortune (#206/G-BOAA)
London Heathrow Airport (#208/G-BOAB)
Airbus/Bristol Aero Collection, Filton (#216/G-BOAF)
Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center, Dulles Airport, Washington, DC (#205/F-BVFA)
Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York (#210/G-BOAD; #214/G-BOAG)
References include Peter March’s The Concorde Story (reprinted 2008 by The History Press).