Maiden flight of the Concorde

Concorde Prototype, Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Without doubt the British Aircraft Corporation’s (BAC) most memorable contribution to British aviation was the Aérospatiale BAC Concorde, the world’s only supersonic passenger airliner.

The Concorde 001 made its maiden flight on 2 March 1969, when pilot French Major André Edouard Turcat took-off from Toulouse Airport for the first time. The aircraft made its first supersonic flight on 1 October 1969. The British prototype, Concorde 002, made its maiden flight on 9 April 1969, when pilot Brian Trubshaw flew the aircraft from Filton to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

In all 20 Concordes were built. The aircraft had a flight crew of three and could carry up to 100 passengers, but with changes to the internal configuration this could have been increased to 128. The production Concorde was 203 feet 9 inches long, had a wingspan of 83 feet 10 inches and stood 37 feet 5 inches tall. It was fitted with four Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 MK 610 afterburning turbojets, which produced 32,000 lbf each, increased to 38,050 lbf with 17 per cent afterburning. The Concorde could reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.04, 1,354 mph, at 51,300 feet. The aircraft had a range of 4,090 miles and an operational ceiling of 60,000 feet.

Air France Concorde in 1977

Concorde entered service with Air France and British Airways on 21 January 1976 on the London to Bahrain and the Paris to Rio routes. Problems with the sonic booms created by the Concorde limited the routes that it was allowed to fly and put off a number of international airline operators from buying the aircraft. A ban on the Concorde flying into New York’s JFK Airport was finally lifted on 17 October 1977 and on 22 November scheduled services from London and Paris to New York started for the first time. The New York routes proved very popular and profitable for both airlines.

The Concorde story was brought to an abrupt end when Air France flight 4590 crashed on 25 July 2000 in Paris.  After a long enquiry and some modification work the Concordes were brought back into service. However, Air France and British Airways jointly announced in April 2003 that the aircraft would be retired. The last Air France flight took place in May 2003 and British Airways made their last Concorde flight in October 2003.