• Croatian Aviation

Concorde - an aircraft faster than the sound that no longer exists

The Concorde was a turbojet supersonic passenger aircraft, the result of an Anglo-French agreement at the government level, and a joint product of Aérospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation. After the first flight in 1969, it was put into service in 1976, and was withdrawn from service in 2003, after 27 years of service.

Concorde regularly flew on long-haul flights from London’s Heathrow Airport (British Airways) and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Air France) to New York’s JFK and Washington’s Dulles, cost-effective at record speeds, in less than half the time required by standard passenger aircraft.


With only 20 aircraft produced and a very long and expensive development program, Concorde was not a commercially successful project, and only British Airways and Air France decided, with government subsidies, to purchase this type of aircraft. As a result of the crash of Air France flight 4590 in Paris on July 25, 2000, the world economic situation after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and other factors, the aircraft was withdrawn from operations in October 2003., while the last flight was performed in November that year.

Concorde's lifespan

Regular flights began on 21 January 1976 on the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio de Janeiro routes (via Dakar). The United States Congress has banned the Concorde from landing in the U.S., largely out of citizen protests over a supersonic boom, which has prevented the launch of the desired transatlantic route. However, the US Federal Secretary of Transportation granted Concorde a special permit to land at Washington's Dulles International Airport, and Air France and British Airways simultaneously began service to Dulles on May 24, 1976.


When the U.S. ban was lifted at New York’s JFK Airport in February 1977, New York City banned Concorde locally. The ban came to an end on October 17, 1977. Regular flights from Paris and London to New York's JFK began on November 22, 1977.

In 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines shared Concorde for flights between London and Singapore (Singapore International Airport), via Bahrain. The aircraft, BA G-BOAD, was painted in Singapore Airlines colors on the left and British Airways on the right side.


Around 1981 in the UK, the future of the Concorde looked quite bad. The British government lost money every year by using the Concorde, and measures have already been taken to abolish it. The draft cost foresaw a significantly reduced cost of metallurgical testing, as the wing test bench gathered enough data for the next 30 years and could be stopped, but still, after years of losses, the government was reluctant to continue the project. In 1983, the CEO of British Airways managed to secure the sale of aircraft rights (then state-owned, later privatized) to British Airways for £ 16.5 million, plus first-year profits.


The record for the flight to the east was set by the same Air France Concorde F-BTSD chartered from Concorde Spirit Tours (USA) on August 15th and 16th, 1995. This special promotional flight flew around the world from New York / JFK in 31 hours, 27 minutes and 49 seconds, including six refueling landings in the cities of Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Guam, Honolulu and Acapulco.


Passenger experience

The passenger experience differed in many ways from flights on subsonic commercial flights. Air France and British Airways have configured the passenger cabin as a single class with 100 seats - four in a row with a central aisle. The height of the cabin above the aisle was 1.8 meters, and the leather seats were unusually narrow. The row spacing in the passenger compartment was 970 mm, which is only about 180 mm more legroom than in the standard international economy class. With little space on the cabin ceiling, hand luggage was strictly limited.


In the 1990s, features common in first-class and business-class cabins of long-range aircraft, such as video entertainment, swivel or reclining seats, or walking zones, were lacking in the Concorde. However, a significantly shorter flight time of approximately 3.5 hours compensated for these shortcomings. The plasma screen in the front of the cabin displayed altitude, outside temperature and flight speed in km / h and Mach.

To compensate the lack of comfort, a high level of service was maintained. Passengers were offered free champagne and meals were served in small dishes with silverware. The experience of passing through the sound wall was accompanied by a slight press in acceleration, which was announced by one of the pilots. Due to twice the altitude of a conventional aircraft, the view through the windows clearly showed the roundness of the Earth, and turbulence was rare. During the supersonic cruise, although the outside temperature was around -60°C, air compression would heat the outside formwork to approximately +120°C, making the windows hot to the touch and creating a noticeable temperature rise along the cabin.


Concorde's cruising speed exceeded the maximum speed of the twilight, and it was able to overtake the Earth's rotation. On flights to the west, it was possible to arrive local time earlier than the flight departure time. On some early evening transatlantic flights from Paris or London, it was possible to take off immediately after dusk and then catch up the sunset in the USA again the same day. British Airways used this for promotional purposes with the moto "Arrive before you leave".


Flight characteristics

While conventional aircraft take eight hours to fly from New York to Paris, the average supersonic flight time on the transatlantic route was 3.5 hours, more than twice as fast as subsonic aircraft.


With no other civil aircraft at a cruising altitude of about 17,000 m, the Concorde used special transatlantic lines. Such SST ("Super-Sonic Transport"). The Concorde flew fast enough that during the eastern flight, the body weight of all persons present on the aircraft was temporarily reduced by about 1%, creating a centrifuge effect that added to the flight speed the speed of the earth’s rotation. It also flew high enough to further reduce everyone’s weight by 0.6% due to the greater distance from the center of the Earth.


Coming back in the service

After the accident in Paris, all aircraft of this type were withdrawn from service and certain adjustments were made. The first test flight after the modifications took off from London's Heathrow on July 17, 2001. The test flight, which simulated the London - New York route, was declared successful and was followed live on television with the audience at take-off and landing sites.


The first flight with passengers took place on September 11, 2001, and was in the air during the terrorist attacks in the United States. It was not a commercial flight, but all the passengers were employees of British Airways. Regular commercial flights were re-established on November 7, 2001 with British Airways and Air France for New York.


The end of an era

On April 10, 2003, Air France and British Airways simultaneously announced the withdrawal of the Concorde from service later that year. The reasons cited were the small number of passengers following the July 25th, 2000. crash, the air travel crisis following the September 11, 2001. attacks on the United States, and rising maintenance costs.


There was speculation that the Concorde was not withdrawn for the above reasons, but during the forced landing of the airline noticed that higher earnings were made by subsonic transportation of its first class passengers.


Air France and Concorde

Air France made its last commercial landing in the U.S. on a Paris - New York flight on May 30, 2003. Fire trucks made traditional water salute for the F-BTSD at the JFK airport taxiway. The last passenger flight was a charter flight over the Bay of Biscay.

Air France in New York, photo: AP

During the following week, June 2 and 3, 2003, the F-BTSD flew the last flights from Paris to New York and back to transport company staff and longtime employees of Concorde's Air France facility there, and the last flight was operated on June 27, 2003, returning F-BVFC in Toulouse. After the end of the service, one aircraft was maintained for some time (including engines) in case of a 2000. accident investigation. The aircraft is now fully retired, no longer operational and open to the public.


British Airways and Concorde

British Airways' last departure from Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados was on 30 August 2003. BA conducted a small North American farewell tour in October 2003. G-BOAG visited Toronto on 1 October 2003, after which it flew to New York's JFK, and 14 October for Washington. G-BOAD visited Boston on October 8, 2003, and that flight set a record for the fastest transatlantic flight to the west of 3 hours, 5 minutes and 34 seconds.


The last week of farewell flights across the UK, Concorde visited Birmingham on 20 October, Belfast on 21 October, Manchester on 22 October, Cardiff on 23 October, and Edinburgh on 24 October. Every day the planes returned to London's Heathrow, often after low overflights of the cities which it visited earlier that day. More than 650 award-winning passengers and 350 dignitaries were transported on these flights.


British Airways withdrew its aircraft from service on October 24, 2003. G-BOAG left New York with similar honors as those awarded to Air France's F-BTSD, while two more made cruises: G-BOAF over the Bay of Biscay with dignitaries among whom were many former Concorde pilots, and G-BOAE for Edinburgh. The three planes then circled over London, after receiving a special low-flying permit, before landing successively at Heathrow. The two planes on cruise flights landed at 16.01 and 16.04 British summer time, followed by a flight from New York that landed at 16.05. All three planes spent 45 minutes by taxing before disembarking the last supersonic passengers who paid for their ticket.

After landing, all British Airways Concorde lost their operating certificate and their hydraulic fluid was drained. BA retains ownership of the fleet, but said it would never fly again because Airbus suspended support in 2003.


Public perception

The Concorde was regularly perceived as a privilege of the rich and famous, but special one-way circular charters (with return by train or bus) were organized with the intention of making the aircraft accessible to middle-income enthusiasts as well.


The Concorde remains a strong symbol, as a combination of technical perfection, unsurpassed aesthetics that give it both an elegant and aggressive look, and the fact that even after retreating in speed there is no competition. It has a rare feature among technical achievements - it is inspiring, and it is known that take-offs and landings at major international airports have never gone unnoticed. It was a source of great national pride for both - the British and the French.


The British Airways Concorde often flew over selected royal ceremonies, large air rallies and other special occasions. On the last day of the commercial service, public interest was so great that audience stands were built at Heathrow Airport, when, with considerable media coverage, masses of people filled the surrounding roads to attend the event.


In Britain, the aircraft was simply called "Concorde", while in France it was known as "le Concorde". In French, the noun Concorde means "agreement, harmony or peace" and the name was most likely chosen as an allusion to the cooperation of the British and French governments.


General characteristics

  • Crew: 3 members (pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer)

  • Capacity: 92 - 120 passengers, British Airways and Air France had 100 seats

  • Length: 61.66 m

  • Wingspan: 25.6 m

  • Height: 12.2 m

  • Maximum load: 111,130 kg

  • Drive: 4 × Rolls-Royce / SNECMA Olympus 593 Mk 610 turbojet engines with additional combustion

  • Top speed: Mach 2.2 (2330 km/h)

  • Cruising speed: Mach 2.02

  • Range: 7250 km

  • Maximum flight altitude: 18,300 m

Concorde is an icon in aviation history, with a large number of fans around the world even today! Given the extensive text available on the Croatian version of Wikipedia where most of the content of this article comes from, we recommend anyone interested to read more there, as well as on numerous other portals that have dedicated time and researched the whole story around this aircraft in detail.


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