AIR FRANCE - BRITISH AIRWAYS - SUPERSONIC CONCORDE
The Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde aircraft is a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner, a supersonic transport (SST), which flew from 1969 to 2003.
It was a product of an Anglo-French government treaty, combining the manufacturing efforts of Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation. (The French word concorde translates to the English concord as agreement, harmony, or union.) Concorde entered service with Air France and British Airways in 1976.
Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow (British Airways) and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (Air France) to New York JFK and Washington Dulles, flying these routes at record speeds, in less than half the time of other airliners.
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. 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.
Regarded by many as an aviation icon, Concorde has acquired an unusual nomenclature for an aircraft. In common usage in the United Kingdom, the type is known as "Concorde" rather than "the Concorde" or "a Concorde".
The Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde supersonic transport (SST) was the more successful of the only two supersonic passenger airliners to have ever operated commercially (the Tupolev Tu-144 being the other).
The development programme was a product of an Anglo-French government treaty, with 20 aircraft built. The costly development phase thus represented a substantial economic loss. Air France and British Airways were subsidised to buy the aircraft by their governments, while other sales were blocked by the 1973 oil crisis and competition from the Boeing 747. Concorde made large operating profits for British Airways for much of its service life.
First flown in 1969, piloted by Andre Turcat, Concorde service commenced in 1976 and continued for 27 years. It flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow (British Airways) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (Air France) to New York JFK and Washington Dulles, flying these routes at record speeds, in under half the time of other airliners. Concorde also set many other records, including the official F.A.I. "Westbound Around The World" and "Eastbound Around the World" world air speed records.
As a result of the type's only crash on 25 July 2000, world economic effects arising from the 9/11 attacks, and other factors, operations ceased on 24 October 2003. The last "retirement" flight occurred on 26 November that year.
Concorde remains an icon of aviation history, and has acquired an unusual nomenclature for an aircraft. In common usage in the United Kingdom, the type is known as "Concorde" rather than "the Concorde" or "a Concorde".
In the late 1950s, the United Kingdom, France, United States and Soviet Union were considering developing supersonic transport.
Britain's Bristol Aeroplane Company and France's Sud Aviation were both working on designs, called the Type 233 and Super-Caravelle, respectively. Both were largely funded by their respective governments. The British design was for a thin-winged delta shape (which owed much to work by Dietrich Küchemann) for a transatlantic-ranged aircraft for about 100 people, while the French were intending to build a medium-range aircraft.
The designs were both ready to start prototype construction in the early 1960s, but the cost was so great that the British government made it a requirement that BAC look for international co-operation. Approaches were made to a number of countries, but only France showed real interest. The development project was negotiated as an international treaty between the two countries rather than a commercial agreement between companies and included a clause, originally asked for by Britain, imposing heavy penalties for cancellation. A draft treaty was signed on 28 November 1962. By this time, both companies had been merged into new ones; thus, the Concorde project was between the British Aircraft Corporation and Aerospatiale.
At first the new consortium intended to produce two versions of the aircraft, one long range and one short range. However, prospective customers showed no interest in the short-range version and it was dropped. The consortium secured orders for over 100 of the long-range version from the premier airlines of the day: Pan Am, BOAC and Air France were the launch customers, with six Concordes each. Other airlines in the order book included Panair do Brasil, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, American Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada, Braniff, Singapore Airlines, Iran Air, Qantas, CAAC, Middle East Airlines and TWA.
The aircraft was initially referred to in Britain as "Concorde," with the French spelling, but was officially changed to "Concord" by Harold Macmillan in response to a perceived slight by Charles de Gaulle. In 1967, at the French roll-out in Toulouse the British Government Minister for Technology, Tony Benn announced that he would change the spelling back to "Concorde." This created a nationalist uproar that died down when Benn stated that the suffixed "e" represented "Excellence, England, Europe and Entente (Cordiale)." In his memoirs, he recounts a tale of a letter from an irate Scotsman claiming: "you talk about 'E' for England, but part of it is made in Scotland." Given Scotland's contribution of providing the nose cone for the aircraft, Benn replied "it was also 'E' for 'Écosse' (the French name for Scotland) — and I might have added 'e' for extravagance and 'e' for escalation as well!"
Construction of two prototypes began in February 1965: 001, built by Aerospatiale at Toulouse, and 002, by BAC at Filton, Bristol. Concorde 001 made its first test flight from Toulouse on 2 March 1969 and first went supersonic on 1 October. As the flight programme progressed, it embarked on a sales and demonstration tour on 4 September 1971. Concorde 002 followed suit on 2 June 1972 with a tour of the Middle and Far East. Concorde 002 made the first visit to the United States in 1973, landing at the new Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport to mark that airport's opening.
These trips led to orders for over 70 aircraft, but a combination of factors led to a sudden number of order cancellations; the 1973 oil crisis, acute financial difficulties of many airlines, a spectacular Paris Le Bourget air show crash of the competing Soviet Tupolev Tu-144, and environmental concerns such as the sonic boom, takeoff-noise and pollution. Only Air France and British Airways (the successor to BOAC) took up their orders, with the two governments taking a cut of any profits made. In the case of BA, 80% of the profit was kept by the government until 1984, while the cost of buying the aircraft was covered by a state loan.
The United States had cancelled its supersonic transport (SST) programme in 1971. Two designs had been submitted; the Lockheed L-2000, looking like a scaled-up Concorde, lost out to the Boeing 2707, which was intended to be faster, to carry 300 passengers and feature a swing-wing design. Other countries, such as India and Malaysia, ruled out Concorde supersonic overflights due to noise concerns.
Both European airlines flew demonstration and test flights from 1974 onwards. The testing of Concorde set records that have not been surpassed; the prototype, pre-production and first production aircraft undertook 5,335 flight hours. A total of 2,000 test hours were at supersonic speeds. Unit costs were £23 million (US$46 million) in 1977. Development cost overrun was 600%.
Concorde was an ogival delta-winged ("OG delta wing") aircraft with four powerful Olympus engines based on those originally developed for the Avro Vulcan strategic bomber.
The engines were jointly built by Rolls-Royce and SNECMA. Concorde was the first civil airliner to have an analogue fly-by-wire flight control system. It also employed a trademark droop snoot lowering nose section for visibility on approach.
These and other features permitted Concorde to have an average cruise speed of Mach 2.02 (about 2,140 km/h or 1,330 mph) with a maximum cruise altitude of 18,300 metres (60,000 feet), more than twice the speed of conventional aircraft. The average landing speed was a relatively high 298 km/h (185 mph, 160 knots).
Concorde pioneered a number of technologies:
For high speed and optimisation of flight:
For weight-saving and enhanced performance:
The Concorde programme's primary legacy is in the experience gained in design and manufacture which later became the basis of the Airbus consortium. Snecma Moteurs' involvement with the Concorde programme prepared the company's entrance into civil engine design and manufacturing, opening the way for Snecma to establish CFM International with General Electric and produce the successful CFM International CFM56 series engines.
Although Concorde was a technological marvel when introduced into service in the 1970s, 30 years later its cockpit, cluttered with analogue dials and switches, looked dated. With no competition, there was no commercial pressure to upgrade Concorde with enhanced avionics or passenger comfort, as occurred in other airliners of the same vintage, for example the Boeing 747.
The key partners, BAC (later to become BAE Systems) and Aerospatiale (later to become EADS), were the joint owners of Concorde's type certificate. Responsibility for the Type Certificate transferred to Airbus with formation of Airbus SAS.
Scheduled flights began on 21 January 1976 on the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio (via Dakar) routes. The U.S. Congress had just banned Concorde landings in the US, mainly due to citizen protest over sonic booms, preventing launch on the coveted transatlantic routes. However, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, William Coleman, gave special permission for Concorde service to Washington Dulles International Airport, and British Airways and Air France simultaneously began service to Dulles on 24 May 1976.
When the US ban on JFK Concorde operations was lifted in February 1977, New York banned Concorde locally. The ban came to an end on 17 October 1977 when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to overturn a lower court's ruling rejecting the Port Authority's efforts to continue the ban (The noise report noted that Air Force One, at the time a Boeing 707, was louder than Concorde at subsonic speeds and during takeoff and landing.) Scheduled service from Paris and London to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport began on 22 November 1977. Flights operated by BA were generally numbered "BA001" (London to New York), "BA002" (New York to London), "BA003" (London to New York) and "BA004" (New York to London). Air France flight numbers were generally "AF001" (New York to Paris) and "AF002" (Paris to New York).
While commercial jets take seven hours to fly from New York to Paris, the average supersonic flight time on the transatlantic routes was just under 3.5 hours. In transatlantic flight, Concorde travelled more than twice as fast as other aircraft - other aircraft frequently appeared to be flying backwards. Up to 2003, Air France and British Airways continued to operate the New York services daily. Concorde also flew to Barbados's Grantley Adams International Airport during the winter holiday season. Until the AF Paris crash ended virtually all charter services by both AF and BA, several UK and French tour operators operated numerous charter flights to various European destinations on a regular basis.
In 1985, British Airways had a Concorde land at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for a special flight between Cleveland Hopkins and London Heathrow. When it made its Cleveland appearance it brought Cleveland international attention and it also paved the way for Hopkins Airport to become an international airport. In 2000, Concorde was scheduled to return to Cleveland for a special flight, but due to the crash of Concorde Flight 4590 in Paris, this flight was postponed. The 1985 flight was three hours and ten minutes from Cleveland to London. It had to fly subsonic from New York to Cleveland and this route added some time. There was talk of adding a Concorde flight to Cleveland, but due to Cleveland's airport being near a residential area, this plan was not carried out.
On 12-13 October 1992, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first New World landing, Concorde Spirit Tours (USA) chartered Air France Concorde F-BTSD and circumnavigated the world in 32 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds, from Lisbon, Portugal, including six refuelling stops at Santo Domingo, Acapulco, Honolulu, Guam, Bangkok and Bahrain.
The Eastbound record was set by the same Air France Concorde F-BTSD under charter to Concorde Spirit Tours (USA), on 15-16 August 1995. This special promotional flight circumnavigated the world from New York/JFK International Airport in a time of 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds, including six refuelling stops at Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Andersen AFB (Guam), Honolulu and Acapulco. Concorde continues to hold both records.
In 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines shared a Concorde for flights between Bahrain and Singapore International Airport. The aircraft, BA Concorde G-BOAD, was painted in Singapore Airlines livery on the port side and British Airways livery on the starboard side. The service was discontinued after three months because of noise complaints from the Malaysian government; it could only be reinstated on a new route bypassing Malaysian airspace in 1979. A dispute with India prevented Concorde from reaching supersonic speeds in Indian airspace, so the route was eventually declared not viable and discontinued in 1981. During the Mexican oil boom, Air France flew Concorde twice-weekly to Mexico City's Benito Juárez International Airport via Washington, DC or New York, from September 1978 to November 1982. The worldwide economic crisis during that period resulted in this route's cancellation; the last flights were almost empty. The routing between Washington or New York and Mexico City included a deceleration, from Mach 2.02 to Mach 0.95, to cross Florida subsonically and avoid unlawfully sonic-booming it; then a reacceleration to cross the Gulf of Mexico at Mach 2.02. Air France evidently never realized that this procedure could be avoided by flying midway between Miami and Bimini, Bahamas, then turning west around Key West, Florida, to avoid all sonic-boom effects on Florida. It took British Airways to implement this new routing, which was accomplished on April 1, 1989, with G-BOAF, on an Around-The-World luxury tour charter. From time to time, Concorde came back to the region on similar chartered flights to Mexico City and Acapulco.
Between 1984 and 1991, British Airways flew a thrice-weekly Concorde service between London and Miami, stopping at Washington's Dulles International Airport. The routing from Dulles to Miami was flown subsonically as far as Carolina Beach VOR; then there was a very rapid climb to 60,000 feet (estimated at 6,000 feet per minute) and Mach 2.02 that was possible due to the aircraft's very light weight: an average of only about 25-30 passengers and fuel only for the short Dulles-Miami sector. After about 6-8 minutes at Mach 2.02, deceleration and descent was begun into Miami. On several occasions, bad weather at Dulles and a relatively light passenger payload out of Miami enabled nonstop Miami-London sectors to be flown. The fastest such flight took just 3 hours 47 minutes to fly over 4,000 nautical miles from Miami to London, with 70 passengers. On such trips, the flight plan was filed to Shannon, Ireland, with en route reclearance on to London secured later in the flight after the minimum required fuel for London was clearly present. This flight was farther than a sector often claimed as the farthest ever flown nonstop by Concorde: a special charter for Middle Eastern VIPs from Washington to Nice, France.
From 1978 to 1980, Braniff International Airways leased ten Concordes, five each from British Airways and Air France. These were used on subsonic flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington Dulles International Airport, flown by Braniff flight crews, Air France and British Airways crews then taking over for the continuing supersonic flights to London and Paris. The aircraft were registered in both the United States and their home countries: a sticker covered up the European registration while it was being operated by Braniff. The flights were not profitable and were usually less than 50% booked, which forced Braniff to end its tenure as the only U.S. Concorde operator in May 1980.
Passenger Experience On The Concorde
Passenger experience on Concorde differed in many ways from that on subsonic commercial airliners. British Airways and Air France configured the passenger cabin as a single class with 100 seats — four seats across with a central aisle. Headroom in the central aisle was barely six feet (1.8 m) and the leather seats were unusually narrow, with legroom at a 38-inch pitch only about 4 inches more than Economy Class on a Boeing 747. With almost no room for overhead storage, carry-on luggage was severely restricted.
In the 1990s, features which were common in the first class and business class cabins of a long-haul Boeing 747 flight, such as video entertainment, rotating or reclining seats and walking areas were absent from Concorde. However, the flight time from London to New York of approximately 3.5 hrs compensated for the lack of those features. There was usually a plasma display at the front of the cabin showing the altitude, the air temperature and the current speed in both miles per hour and Mach number. (Air France had a single display showing the Mach number-only.)
To make up for these missing "comfort" features, a high level of passenger service was maintained. Meals were served using specially designed compact Wedgwood crockery with short silver cutlery.
The experience of passing through the sound barrier was accompanied by a slight surge in acceleration, and was announced by one of the pilots.
At twice a conventional airliner's cruising altitude, the view from the windows clearly showed the curvature of the Earth, and turbulence was rare. During the supersonic cruise, although the outside air temperature was typically -60 °C (-75 °F), air compression would heat the external skin at the front of the aircraft to approximately +120 °C (250 °F), making the windows warm to the touch and producing a noticeable temperature gradient along the length of the cabin.
The delta-shaped wings allowed Concorde to attain a higher angle of attack than conventional aircraft, as it allowed the formation of large low pressure vortices over the entire upper wing surface, maintaining lift. This low pressure caused Concorde to disappear into a bank of fog on humid days. These vortices formed only at low air speeds, meaning that during the initial climb and throughout the approach Concorde experienced light turbulence and buffeting. Interestingly, the vortex lift created by Concorde's wing just prior to touchdown supplied its own mild turbulence.
Concorde flew fast enough that the weight of everyone onboard was temporarily reduced by about 1% when flying east. This was due to centrifugal effects since the airspeed added to the rotation speed of the Earth. Flying west, the weight increased by about 0.3%, because it cancelled out the normal rotation and, with it, the normal centrifugal force and replaced it with a smaller rotation in the opposite direction. Concorde flew high enough that the weight of everyone onboard was reduced by an additional 0.6% due to the increased distance from the centre of the Earth.
Concorde's cruising speed exceeded the top speed of the solar terminator. Concorde was able to overtake or outrun the spin of the earth. On westbound flights it was possible to arrive at a local time earlier than the flight's departure time. On certain early evening transatlantic flights departing from Heathrow or Paris, it was possible to take off just after sunset and catch up with the sun, landing in daylight. This was much publicised by British Airways, who used the slogan "Arrive before you leave."
Removed From Service
On 10 April 2003, British Airways and Air France simultaneously announced that they would retire Concorde later that year. They cited low passenger numbers following the 25 July 2000 crash, the slump in air travel following 9/11 and rising maintenance costs.
That same day, Sir Richard Branson offered to buy British Airways' Concordes at their "original price of £1" for service with his Virgin Atlantic Airways. Branson claimed this to be the same token price that British Airways had paid the British Government, but BA denied this and refused the offer. The real cost of buying the aircraft was £26 million each but the money for buying the aircraft was loaned by the government - and this loan was written off when British Airways was privatized in 1987.
After posting large losses on their Concorde flights in the early 1980s, British Airways paid a flat sum of £16.5 million in 1984 to the UK government to buy their Concordes outright. After doing a market survey and discovering that their target customers thought that Concorde was more expensive than it actually was, BA progressively raised prices to match these perceptions. It is reported that BA then ran Concorde at a profit, unlike their French counterparts. Although BA refused to open the accounts, it has been reported to be up to £50 million per year in the most profitable year and a total revenue of £1.75 billion on costs of £1 billion.
Branson wrote in The Economist (23 October 2003) that his final offer was "over £5 million" and that he had intended to operate the fleet "for many years to come." Any hope of Concorde remaining in service was further thwarted by Airbus' unwillingness to provide maintenance support for the ageing airframes.
It has been suggested that Concorde was not withdrawn for the reasons usually given, but that during the grounding of the Concordes it became apparent to the airlines that they could actually make more revenue carrying their first class passengers subsonically.
It has also been suggested that the precipitous Air France retirement of its own Concorde fleet was the direct result of a secret conspiracy between Air France Chairman/CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta and then-AIRBUS CEO Noel Forgeard, and stemmed as much from a fear of being found criminally liable under French law for future AF Concorde accidents as it did from simple economics. Further, on the British Airways side, a lack of engineering (maintenance) commitment to Concorde by then-Director of Engineering Alan MacDonald was cited as undermining BA's resolve to continue operating Concorde from within.Air France
Air France made its final commercial Concorde landing in the United States in New York City from Paris on 30 May 2003. Fire trucks sprayed the traditional arcs of water above F-BTSD on the tarmac of John F. Kennedy airport. The final passenger flight for the airline's SSTs was a charter around the Bay of Biscay. During the following week, on 2 June and 3 June 2003, F-BTSD flew a final round-trip from Paris to New York and back for airline staff and long-time employees in the airline's Concorde operations. Air France's final Concorde flight took place on 27 June 2003 when F-BVFC retired to Toulouse.
An auction of Concorde parts and memorabilia for Air France was held at Christie's in Paris on 15 November 2003. Thirteen hundred people attended, with several lots exceeding their predicted values by an order of magnitude.
Two French Concordes at Le Bourget and Toulouse have been run occasionally, and it is possible that they could be prepared for future flights for special occasions.British Airways
BA's last Concorde departure from Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados was on 30 August 2003. BA conducted a mini North American farewell tour in October 2003. G-BOAG visited Toronto Pearson International Airport on 1 October 2003, G-BOAD visited Boston's Logan International Airport on 8 October 2003, and G-BOAG visited Washington Dulles International Airport on 14 October 2003. G-BOAD's flight to Boston set a record for the fastest transatlantic flight from east to west, making the trip from London Heathrow in 3 hours, 5 minutes, 34 seconds.
In a final week of farewell flights around the United Kingdom, Concorde visited Birmingham on 20 October, Belfast on 21 October, Manchester on 22 October, Cardiff on 23 October, and Edinburgh on 24 October. Each day the aircraft made a return flight out and back into Heathrow to the cities concerned, often overflying those cities at low altitude. Over 650 competition winners and 350 special guests were carried.
On 22 October, Heathrow ATC arranged for the inbound flight BA9021C, a special from Manchester, and BA002 from New York to land simultaneously on the left and right runways respectively.
On the evening of 23 October 2003, the Queen consented to the illumination of Windsor Castle as Concorde's last west-bound commercial flight departed London and flew overhead. This is an honour normally reserved for major state events and visiting dignitaries.
British Airways retired its aircraft the next day, 24 October. G-BOAG left New York to a fanfare similar to Air France's Concordes, while two more made round trips, G-BOAF over the Bay of Biscay, carrying VIP guests including many former Concorde pilots, and G-BOAE to Edinburgh. The three aircraft then circled over London, having received special permission to fly at low altitude, before landing in sequence at Heathrow. The two round-trip Concordes landed at 4:01 and 4:03 p.m. BST, followed at 4:05 by the one from New York. All three aircraft then spent 45 minutes taxiing around the airport before finally disembarking the last supersonic fare-paying passengers. The pilot of the New York to London flight was Mike Bannister.
All of BA's Concordes have been grounded, have lost their airworthiness certificates and have been drained of hydraulic fluid. Ex-chief Concorde pilot and manager of the fleet Jock Lowe, estimated in 2004 it would cost £10-15 million to make G-BOAF (at Filton) airworthy again.. BA maintains ownership of their Concordes, and has stated that they will not fly again, as Airbus will not support the aircraft.
On 1 December 2003, Bonhams held an auction of British Airways' Concorde artifacts at Kensington Olympia, in London. Items sold included a Machmeter, nose cone, pilot and passenger seats, cutlery, ashtrays and blankets used on board. Proceeds of about £750,000 resulted, with the first half-million going to Get Kids Going!, a charity which gives disabled children and young people the opportunity to participate in sport.
BA announced in March 2007 that they would not be renewing their contract for the prime advertising spot at entrance to London's Heathrow Airport, where, since 1990, a 40% scale model of Concorde was located. The owners of the site, BAA wanted to charge £1.6 million per year to let it. It will now be occupied by an Emirates Airbus 380. The Concorde model, which bears the "registration" G-CONC, was removed and transported for display in Surrey, under the care of the local Brooklands Museum.
Concorde SpecificationsGeneral characteristics
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