The History and Legacy of the Concorde

The Concorde, a European innovation that became a global sensation, flew its last flight on October 24, 2003 from New York’s JFK Airport to London Heathrow under the British Airways banner.

Since the dawn of aviation, mankind has been obsessed with the challenge of conquering the skies. From the Wright Brothers to NASA, we have never been content with just flying – we aim to fly higher, faster, and more efficiently than ever before.

The Concorde is one such example of this pursuit for excellence. In this article, we will explore the life and legacy of this remarkable aircraft.

November 4, 1956

The Supersonic Transport Advisory Committee was established on this day to investigate the feasibility of supersonic air travel for commercial airplanes. The committee consisted of public and private aerospace experts from across the globe who produced numerous reports proving that such a craft was possible.

January 1, 1963

1963 marked a major milestone in the life of the Concorde. A senior figure at the British Aircraft Corporation flipped through a thesaurus and came up with the name ‘Concorde’.

May 1, 1963

The unassuming areas of Filton and Toulouse soon became the epicenter of the Concorde’s construction. The airplane confirmed that 40% of its airframe and 60% of the engine were to be built in the UK.

December 11, 1967

The first prototype of the Concorde, the 001, was housed in the Aerospatiale plant in Toulouse.

March 2, 1969

The 001 prototype took its first flight from Toulouse, reaching a speed of 250 knots and an altitude of 10,000 feet. Just a month later, Britain’s prototype also took its first flight. The Concorde made history by achieving supersonic flight for the first time.

November 4, 1970

The Concorde 002 was born, breaking the Mach 2 barrier. In 1970, the Concorde made its way to Heathrow, one of Britain’s biggest airports.

June 1, 1972

The Concorde embarked on a tour of Australia, the UAE, and other countries, covering a distance of 45,000 miles to complete a global sales tour.

September 26, 1973

The 002 Concorde crossed the Atlantic for the first time, flying from Washington to Paris in just over three and a half hours.

December 6, 1973

The first-ever production Concorde, the 201 made in Toulouse, took its maiden flight and reached a speed of Mach 1.57 or 1,205 miles per hour.

January 21, 1976

The first-ever Concorde flight under the British Airways banner took off from Filton, Bristol, and flew to Bahrain. This historic flight was broadcast live on television.

January 21, 1981

Celebrating its fifth birthday, the Concorde had flown over 15,800 flights, carried over 700,000 passengers, and logged more than 50,000 flying hours. It was widely considered to be one of the best planes of all time.

On March 31, 1984, the British Government decided to scale back their involvement in Concorde, as they felt they had been too hands-on and had left most of the funding and decision-making to BA.

On July 13, 1985, Phil Collins demonstrated the power and reliability of the Concorde by using the service to fly from a concert in the U.S. to the Live Aid Charity concert in the U.K. on the same day.

November 1, 1986, marked the completion of Concorde’s first round-the-world charter flight, which took an impressive 1 day, 7 hours, and 51 minutes to complete, after celebrating its first decade of commercial flights in January.

March 25, 1993, saw the appointment of the first female Concorde pilot, Barbara Harmer, who flew from the U.K. to JFK in the U.S. later that year.

On February 7, 1996, the Concorde set a new trans-Atlantic flight record, completing the journey in just 172 minutes and 59 seconds.

August 11, 1999, was a visually stunning day for Concorde as two of the planes chased the sun’s total eclipse in supersonic formation.

July 25, 2000, marked a tragic day in Concorde’s history as Air France’s Concorde crashed in Paris, killing 113 people.

On August 15, 2000, British Airways announced that it would stop flying Concorde planes following the crash; the decision was made so quickly that one craft was even stopped mid-take-off after its Airworthiness certificate was revoked.

January 21, 2001, marked Concorde’s 25th anniversary of commercial flight, a bittersweet day for fans of the aircraft after it was grounded only a short time before.

On November 7, 2001, Concorde returned to the skies as a commercial jet after a lengthy and costly safety improvement drive.

January 12, 2002, saw the French Accident Investigation Bureau announce that the cause of the Paris crash was a chunk of rubber that had shot up into the fuel tank after a stray strip of metal punctured a tire.

On April 10, 2003, British Airways and Air France agreed to retire the Concorde planes after commercial flight numbers dropped in the wake of the Paris crash.

On May 31, 2003, Air France had its last Concorde flight from JFK to Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport, and all French Concordes are now on display around the world. The last commercial Concorde flight took place on October 24, 2003, between New York and London Heathrow.

March 10, 2005, saw Continental Airlines come under investigation for the Paris crash, but they denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the fire wasn’t caused by the strip itself, stating that they made no errors.

Finally, on November 29, 2012, Continental Airlines was found to have no criminal responsibility for the Paris crash by the Versailles appeals court, as there was no link between the strip and the fire.

February 7, 2017

Concorde 216 has been given a special place of honor at the Aerospace Bristol’s hangar near Filton Airfield. The aircraft was moved up the ramp by a team of engineers from both British Airways and Airbus, and is now able to bask in its own glory and rich history.

Despite being one of the most awe-inspiring aircraft of the late 20th century, the Concorde 216 faced a troubled end due to a single strip of metal and a catastrophic crash. Nevertheless, we should remember this technological marvel for its sheer ingenuity and also for the lives lost on that fateful day in Paris.

Whatever the circumstances of its downfall, there is no denying that the Concorde remains an unbelievable feat of engineering. A visit to one of Air France’s Concorde planes is certainly on the agenda for many aviation enthusiasts.

FAQ

1. What was the Concorde?

The Concorde was a supersonic jet developed in the 1960s by British and French aviation companies. It was capable of flying at twice the speed of sound and could travel from New York to London in just over three hours.

2. When did the Concorde make its first flight?

The Concorde made its first flight on March 2, 1969. It was piloted by Andre Turcat, a French test pilot, and flew for 29 minutes.

3. How many Concordes were built?

A total of 20 Concordes were built, six of which were used for testing and development. The remaining 14 were used for commercial flights by British Airways and Air France.

4. When did the Concorde start commercial flights?

The Concorde started commercial flights in 1976, with British Airways and Air France launching services from London and Paris to New York.

5. What caused the crash of the Concorde in 2000?

The crash of the Concorde in 2000 was caused by a piece of debris on the runway at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The debris punctured one of the Concorde’s tires, causing it to burst. This led to a chain reaction that resulted in the plane crashing into a hotel, killing all 109 people on board and four people on the ground.

6. When did the Concorde retire from service?

The Concorde retired from service in 2003, following a decline in passenger numbers and increasing maintenance costs. The crash in 2000 also had a significant impact on public confidence in the plane.

7. What was the legacy of the Concorde?

The Concorde was a pioneering aircraft that pushed the boundaries of aviation technology. It demonstrated that supersonic flight was possible and paved the way for future developments in this field. However, its legacy is also marred by the crash in 2000, which raised questions about the safety of supersonic flight.

8. Will there ever be another supersonic passenger plane like the Concorde?

There are currently no supersonic passenger planes in operation, but there are several companies working on developing new aircraft that could fill this niche. These include Boom Supersonic, which is working on a new supersonic plane called the Overture, and Aerion, which is developing a supersonic business jet. However, it remains to be seen whether these planes will be successful and whether they will be able to overcome the technical and economic challenges that led to the retirement of the Concorde.

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