About

On 5th Nov 1956 the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee (STAC) was established to look into developing a supersonic airline and by 1959 had a recommendation for 2 designs: one for a Mach 1 model and another for a Mach 2.

In 1961, France and Great Britain met to discuss the project, with a view to join forces since the cost of development was was so great. Great Britain and France signed a treaty to develop and construct these new aircraft and share the cost between the two aircraft industries: British Aircraft Corporation and Sud Aviation. Hence the new aircraft name, “Concorde”: a derivation of the word “Concord” – meaning: A treaty establishing peaceful relations.

In 1969, Concorde was beaten into the air by the Russian Tu-144, which looked suspiciously like Concorde in its design and was named “Konkordski”. Although the Tu-144 was technically broadly comparable to Concorde, the Tu-144 lacked a passenger market within the Soviet Union and service was halted after only about 100 scheduled flights. The Tu-144 first broke the speed of sound on 5 June 1969, and on 15 July 1969 it became the first commercial transport to exceed Mach two. The Tu-144 was introduced into passenger service on 1 November 1977, almost two years later than the Concorde, but was quickly withdrawn only after 55 scheduled passenger flights due to severe problems with aircraft safety and was not re-introduced to service.

The first prototype plane (Concorde 001) was rolled out of its hangar at Toulouse in France in 1967 and first flew on the 2nd March 1969. Followed by the first flight of Concorde 002 from Filton, near Bristol in the UK, on 9th April 1969 but it wasn’t for 7 years until Concorde made its first commercial flight in 1976.

The sonic boom that Concorde created when breaking the sound barrier was severe environmental and political issue and Concorde was eventually restricted to supersonic speed over the sea only. Due to Concorde’s limited range, this restricted routes of supersonic travel to crossing the Atlantic. The US, particularly, objected to Concorde’s noise and banned supersonic passenger flights. Consequently the first commercial flights were between Paris and Rio de Janeiro and London and Bahrain. The US lifted the ban later the same year, opening up, which was to be, the major route to New York.

Concorde held about 100 passengers, but flew short of it’s full compliment due to the weight of fuel that was required to make the distance. A fully seated Concorde with full fuel tanks could not get off the ground. The record time for crossing the Atlantic was a little under two hours and fifty three minutes but the average was about three and a half hours. Concorde’s cabin was pretty basic. The narrow fuselage meant a limitation of 4 seats across bisected by a narrow aisle. The seats were no bigger than current economy seats in other aircraft of the time. Even the cockpit took some effort to squeeze into. Pilots likened it to ” the sports car of the airline world”

The Concorde crash in France, killing all 109 people aboard, was the first fatal accident involving a Concorde, that was the beginning of the end for Concorde. The crash was caused by debris from a DC10 being thrown up through the wing, penetrating the fuel tank. Concorde was recalled and fitted with specially designed fuel tank liners to help reduce such a recurrence. This added to Concorde’s weight. Air France responded to the weight increase by booking 10 less passengers per flight. British Airways stripped out the original seats and commissioned new light weight Carbon Fibre models at a cost of £7000 each.

Concorde was brought back into service shortly before the 9/11 attacks. The American Air Travel market nose dived after 9/11, which left Concorde with few customers – since America was it’s chief market. Together with rising fuel costs hit the entire aircraft industry hard, and airlines were forced to cut back or go under. Concorde proved especially susceptible as its unique design and aging technology sent maintenance costs skyrocketing. In April of 2003, France and Britain simultaneously announced that Concorde would be withdrawn from service later that year.

Out of the 100 Concordes ordered only 14 were ever produced for commercial use: 7 for France and 7 for Britain. At £23 million each, in 1977, the price was too high for most companies. That is the equivalent to over £200 million in today’s money.

With only 20 aircraft built, the development phase represented a substantial economic loss. Additionally, Air France and British Airways were subsidised by their governments to buy the aircraft. Concorde brought a lot of prestige and technical reputation to Airbus. If it wasn’t for Concorde then Airbus would not have grown to the company it is today.Concorde 216, the youngest of the fleet, is currently on display at the Airbus factory, based in Filton.

As a result of the type’s only crash, (on 25 July 2000), economic effects arising from the September 11 attacks, and other factors, operations ceased on 24 October 2003. The last “retirement” flight occurred on 26 November 2003.

France has the only remaining airworthy Concorde, which is being maintained by enthusiasts. Concorde is a hugely high maintenance aircraft so it’s uncertain how long it’s airworthiness can be sustained. The British Concordes are on display at various locations around the country, drained of all their hydraulic fluids leaving the seals to decay. Concorde is ancient history as it would now be more economical to design something from new using today’s technology…

British Airways sold off all their surplus Concorde parts and souvenirs via an online auction held by “Dovebid” in 2004. You can find concorde collectibles for sale on this site although stocks are very limited.

Facts:

4 Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 engines provide more than 38,000lbs of thrust each. The afterburner gives an extra 25% thrust – the effect of adding a fifth engine.
Take off speed: 220 knots.
Length 62.1 metres long which expands by about 30cm in full flight, due to the heat
Fuel economy: 5,638 imperial gallons per hour.
Weight: 92 tonnes
Fuel Capacity: 96 tonnes
Maximum take-off weight: 185 tonnes.
Maximum Landing weight: 111 tonnes
Seating capacity: 100 passengers
Range: 4,300 miles (6,880 kms)
Speed: Mach Two (2,150kph)