Meet Concorde: The World’s Fastest-Ever Commercial Plane

I present to you Concorde : The World’s Fastest-Ever Commercial PlaneConcorde was a British-French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet airliner that was operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h at cruise altitude), with seating for 92 to 128 passengers. Concorde still holds the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a civil aircraft.

It was First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years. It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially; the other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144, which was operated for a much shorter period.

The Amazing Facts of Concorde

The plane had a fuel capacity of 26,286 Imperial gallons (119,500 litres). It consumed 5,638 Imperial gallons (25,629 litres) per hour.Concorde was painted in a specially developed white paint to accommodate these changes in temperature. It also helped to dissipate the heat generated by supersonic flight.

The quickest Concorde flight from New York to London, on February 7 1996, took just two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.Concorde had a take-off speed of 220 knots (250mph) and a cruising speed of 1350mph – more than twice the speed of sound. Its landing speed was 187mph.

Concorde fares between London and New York cost over £1,000 by the 1980s.The first round-the-world flight by a BA Concorde took place on November 8, 1986. The aircraft covered 28,238 miles in 29 hours 59 minutes.

The Concorde Project

The origins of the Concorde project date to the early 1950s, when Arnold Hall, director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) asked Morien Morgan to form a committee to study the supersonic transport (SST) concept. The group met for the first time in February 1954 and delivered their first report in April 1955.

At the time it was known that the drag at supersonic speeds was strongly related to the span of the wing.This led to the use of very short-span, very thin rectangular wings such as those seen on the control surfaces of many missiles, or in aircraft like the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter or the Avro 730 that the team studied. The team outlined a baseline configuration that looked like an enlarged Avro 730.

Why the Name Concorde?

 

Reflecting the treaty between the British and French governments that led to Concorde’s construction, the name Concorde is from the French word concorde, which has an English equivalent, concord. Both words mean agreement, harmony or union.

The name was officially changed to Concord by Harold Macmillan in response to a perceived slight by Charles de Gaulle. At the French roll-out in Toulouse in late 1967, the British Government Minister for Technology, Tony Benn, announced that he would change the spelling back to Concorde.

When was Concorde retired?

On April 10 2003 Air France and British Airways announced they would be retiring their fleet of Concorde aircraft.Air France made its final flight on June 27 2003 while British Airways retired its fleet on October 24 2003, after a farewell tour.Concorde had been in service for 27 years, having made its first commercial flight on January 21, 1976.

Why was Concorde retired?

Air France and British Airways blamed low passenger numbers and rising maintenance costs for the fleet’s retirement.Passenger numbers fell after a Concorde aircraft crashed just minutes after taking off from a Paris airport, in July 2000.

All 109 people on board and four on the ground were killed after the plane ran over a piece of titanium during take off, which burst the tyre and caused the fuel tank to ignite.Passenger numbers fell again following the 9/11 atrocities in 2001, which had an immediate impact on the number of people choosing to fly.

The operators also blamed rising maintenance costs. Although advanced when it was launched, 30 years on the planes were outdated.By the time Concorde was retired it was the only aircraft in the British Airways aircraft that required a flight engineer.

Was Concorde Tested?

The aircraft was subjected to 5,000 hours of testing before it was first certified for passenger flight. That made it the most tested aircraft ever.The design work was supported by a preceding research programme studying the flight characteristics of low ratio delta wings.

A supersonic Fairey Delta 2 was modified to carry the ogee planform, and, renamed as the BAC 221, used for flight tests of the high speed flight envelope, the Handley Page HP.115 also provided valuable information on low speed performance.

Will Concorde Come Back?

In September 2015, Club Concorde announced it had secured over £160 million to return an aircraft to service.Club Concorde president Paul James said:

The main obstacle to any Concorde project to date has been “Where’s the money?”—a question we heard ad nauseam, until we found an investor. Now that money is no longer the problem it’s over to those who can help us make it happen.

The organisation aims to buy the Concorde currently on display at Le Bourget airport. A tentative date of 2019 has been put forward for the return to flight—50 years after its maiden journey. However, due to regulatory and technical hurdles, some of the aviation community are highly skeptical of the plan, including former Concorde captain and Club Concorde co-founder William “Jock” Lowe, who was quoted in June 2016 saying:

Let’s assume you could rip the whole thing apart and ultrasound the fuselage. There are thousands, many thousands of hydraulic seals on the airplane. … Every one of them would have to be remanufactured and replaced. [But] the manufacturing facilities are just not there. … And if you got them all together, what sort of testing regimen would be there? … It took seven years of flight testing to get it into service in the first place.

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