Concorde, the famous supersonic
aircraft, is both a work of art and a triumph of
Concorde’s unique style incorporating its
marriage of aesthetics and sophisticated engineering, its
reputation for comfort and unfaltering efficiency, have assured
its landmark status. Indeed its unprecedented ability to sustain a
cruising speed of mach 2 for up to three hours remains
Concorde is the world’s most successful supersonic passenger aircraft,
cruising at more than twice the speed of sound at around 1350 mph,
and at an altitude of up to 60,000 ft (over 11 miles high). A
typical New York crossing takes a little less than three and a
half hours. Travelling westwards, the five-hour time difference
means Concorde arrives before she has taken off, in local time at
Great Britain and France started working separately towards a
supersonic aircraft in 1956. They were working along such similar
lines that in 1962 they decided to develop one jointly.
This partnership, between the British Aircraft Corporation (now
British Aerospace) and Aerospatiale, led to 20 Concorde's being
built. Each country manufactured one prototype, one pre-production
and eight production aircraft.
The first flight of the British prototype aircraft took place from
Filton, Bristol on April 9 1969. Concorde was subjected to 5,000 hours of testing by the time it
was certificated for passenger flight, making it the most tested
aircraft in aviation history.
The commercial supersonic era was inaugurated on January 21, 1976,
with British Airways flying from London Heathrow to Bahrain and
Air France from Paris to Rio. Concorde's fastest yet transatlantic
crossing was on February 7, 1996, when it completed the New York
to London flight in 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
Of the 16 production aircraft, 14 were made available for sale.
British Airways (in the form of its longhaul predecessor BOAC) was
the world's first supersonic airline, ordering five Concorde's in
July 1972, Air France ordered 4. Due to no other airlines
purchasing the Concorde, the remaining unsold planes were given to
Air France and British Airways by their respective governments for
a nominal figure. Ironically improvements were planed to be made
to the design of all new Concorde's that would of seen the
Concorde become quieter and more fuel efficient with increased
range, three problems that were cited by other airlines for not
purchasing the Concorde.
Prior to the Air France crash
shortly after takeoff from a Paris airport on July 25th 2000 Air
France operated 5 craft while BA operated all 7 of their
Concorde's. Air France had retired one plane and sold it to
British Airways for spares, previously most of the spares came
from the 2 pre production craft. British Airways stoped using one
plane at one stage to use as spares, this was put back into
service when they acquired their new spare from Air France.
After the crash, all Concord's were pulled out of service to redesign
several parts that played a part in the damage suffered to the jet prior
to the crash. Not all of Concorde fleet was put back into service, Two BA
planes were put into storage and were not upgraded. Air France were using
4 planes after the accident, a fifth plane was undergoing a major service
when it was decided to stop the Concorde service thus all work was stopped
on Air France's last Concorde.
Concorde measures 204 ft in length - but that stretches between
six and ten inches in-flight, due to heating of the airframe which
also ensures the airframe is effectively corrosion-free.
The characteristic droop nose is lowered to improve pilots'
visibility for take-off and landing.
The four engines - specially modified Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus
593s give more than 38,000 lbs of thrust each, with "reheat".
This adds fuel to the final stage of the engine to produce the
extra power required for take-off and the transition to supersonic
flight. They are the most powerful pure jet engines flying
Despite the advantages of supersonic travel, plans for other
supersonic aircraft have never been successful. Projects by NASA,
Cruiser and the Russian TU-144 have come and gone and
now it seems Concorde
can only be seen in museums as both Air France and British airways
put the Concorde in to
retirement as of October 2003. It seems the Concorde is too
expensive to maintain and run in the current airline economic
downturn. The expense of operating the Concorde is a problem that has been with it
since the first orders for hundreds of planes dwindled down to the
14 that were purchased by the French and British government owned
airlines, it may also mean that there may be a long wait before
anyone builds a passenger plane as fast as the Concorde.