Concorde, The Subersonic Airliner, and why it Stopped Flying

Believe it or not, the world witnessed a flight between London and New York that took about three hours only! (Nowadays it takes about 8 hours to fly this flight) So how was that possible and what kind of airplane that was able to fly about 5,600 km (3,500 miles) in only 3 hours?! It was simply the “Concorde”!

The British–French turbojet-powered, supersonic passenger airliner; Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde was operated until 2003.

It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound, at Mach 2.04! And with seating for 92 to 128 passengers.

From London’s Heathrow Airport and Orly Airport outside Paris, the first Concordes with commercial passengers simultaneously take flight on January 21, 1976. The London flight was headed to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, and the Paris to Rio de Janeiro via Senegal in West Africa.

The beginning of the Concorde

The story began when the test pilot “Chuck Yeager” broke the sound barrier in an experimental Bell X-1 aircraft at an altitude in excess of 40,000 feet, and by this, that test pilot made history by becoming the fastest man in a plane.

By that time nobody knew about this, since the U.S. government’s top-secret project stayed under wraps until 1948. And later when the nations of the world knew supersonic air travel was possible. An airliner that could carry passengers faster than the speed of sound was the UK’S project on that time, effectively shrinking the globe.

Britain’s aviation experts soon discovered that the cost of building such a plane would be huge. So Britain sought help. “The British government wanted to split the costs with another country,” says Jonathan Glancey, author of Concorde.

And after an unsuccessful seek to American assistance, Britain found an ally in France. In 1962, the two nations signed the Anglo-French Concorde agreement, ensuring cooperation on a new plane, one they hoped would finally level the aeronautical playing field in Europe’s favor.

And after a hard work the Concorde made its maiden flight, in 1969 and soon thereafter it finally appeared on the runway in 1976, bearing the liveries of British Airways and Air France.

The Concorde was equipped with four Rolls-Royce afterburner engines, the same kind used on fighter jets, each of which generated 38,000 pounds of thrust. The bird used a slanted droop-nose that lowered upon takeoff and landing, enabling pilots to see the runway.

Revamped brake systems allowed the plane to touch down on a tarmac unscathed even if it landed at far higher speeds than its subsonic counterparts. Because the plane’s nose temperature could climb to 278 degrees while it flew, it was coated in a highly-reflective white paint that radiated heat.

The aircraft’s noise and the development costs of the Concorde were so great that they could never be recovered from operations, and the aircraft was never financially profitable. Financial losses led both airlines to cut routes, eventually leaving New York City as their only regular destination, Concorde operations were finally ceased by Air France in May 2003 and by British Airways in October 2003. Only 14 of the aircraft actually went into service.

And on July 25, 2000, a Concorde en route from Paris to New York City suffered engine failure shortly after takeoff when debris from a burst tire caused a fuel tank to rupture and burst into flames.

The aircraft crashed into a small hotel and restaurant. All 109 persons on board, including 100 passengers and 9 crew members, died; 4 people on the ground were also killed.