Conceived in the 50s, built in the 60s but not brought into service until the mid-70s Concorde was the most beautiful commercial aircraft ever designed. She was the result of an Anglo-French government treaty. The Russian Tupolev Tu-144 was nicknamed ‘Concordski’ because of its marked similarity to Concorde. The Tu-144 was only in service for two and a half years.
Concorde’s average cruising speed was Mach 2.02, around 1330 miles per hour, and her maximum cruising altitude, 60000 feet. It was the high speed Atlantic crossing, where there was no-one to complain about the sonic boom caused by such speeds, that was the mainstay of her service. Business people could travel from London to New York in three and a half hours. On westbound flights you could arrive at your destination ‘before you had left’. The famous ‘Droop snoot’ was a necessary compromise in the aerodynamic design to enable the pilot to see where he was going during taxiing, take off and landing. Once airborne it would be moved back to its sleek, high speed shape.
Although the maiden flight was on 2 March 1969, she was not introduced into service until 21 January 1976 when she flew from London to Bahrain with British Airways, and Paris to Rio de Janeiro with Air France. Protests in the US prevented flights on the transatlantic routes until 24 May, when both services sent flights to Washington Dulles International Airport. Flights to John F Kennedy Airport in New York didn’t start until 22 November 1977 when it was shown that Concorde was quieter during subsonic flight than the Boeing 707 being used as Air Force One, the President’s aeroplane.
The only time I saw Concorde in flight was when the crew made a dummy landing approach to Southampton Eastleigh Airport. I was living in a house on the flight path and normally didn’t take much notice of the air traffic. It was after making a fly-by appearance at an air race event in the Solent, that she flew in as a token of appreciation to the local air traffic controllers. I was surprised that she was so small, and also by the incredible noise when the pilot applied full power to pull away from the airport.
Twenty Concordes were built and the type continued in service for 27 years. A number of reasons were cited in her withdrawal from service in 2003, including the only fatal crash suffered by the type at Paris on 25 July 2000. No replacement is planned.