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History of Concorde

Updated on April 19, 2014

When Concorde began making commercial flights in the late 1970s, many saw it as the beginning of supersonic travel. For those rich enough, a transatlantic flight in a plane flying faster than the speed of sound was the greatest way to travel.

Although now no longer in service, the iconic plane continues to be remembered by anyone with an interest in aviation.

How was Concorde Developed?

In the late 1950s, the British, French, Americans, and Soviets were all keen to develop a supersonic plane. The Bristol Aeroplane Company was working on a design called the Type 233. France's Sud Aviation was busy with a design known as Super-Caravelle. Both companies received government funding and were keen to make their mark in an aviation industry which was, at the time, very much dominated by the USA.

Both the British and French was set to begin prototype construction in the early 1960s. However, the cost was so high that the two companies decided to join forces. Rather than just being an agreement between companies, governments got involved. An international treaty was negotiated between Britain and France.

Both companies merged into new ones and the Concorde project became a part of the British Aircraft Corporation and Aerospatiale. The consortium secured orders from the leading airlines of the time, including Pan Am, BOAC, and Air France.

What made Concorde special?

Concorde's four engines used ‘reheat’ technology, which added fuel to the final stage of the engine. This produced the extra power needed for take-off and the transition to supersonic flight.

Former Concorde Captain David Leney and flight Engineer David Macdonald provide a detailed account of the workings of this astonishing plane in their book Concorde Manual.


When Was Concorde's First Flight?

The first flight of Concorde was on March 2, 1969. The Anglo-French plane took off from Toulouse and was in the air for just 27 minutes before the pilot made the decision to land. Concorde completed its first supersonic flight on 1 October 1969.

The first commercial flights took place on 21 January 1976 when British Airways flew from London Heathrow to Bahrain and Air France from Paris to Rio.

How Fast Was Concorde?

The fastest recorded flight was with Concorde G-Boad (210) which crossed the Atlantic from New York to London in 1996 at a record-breaking speed of two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

When did Concorde Crash in Paris?

Concorde's image was seriously damaged when the plane crashed near Paris on 25 July 2000. 113 people died in the terrible accident. As the plane was on its take-off run, a metal piece punctured the tires which then burst, puncturing the fuel tanks and leading to the loss of the aircraft. £17m was spent on safety improvements and the aircraft went back into commercial service in November 2001.

When Did Concorde Stop Flying?

In April 2003 British Airways and Air France announced that the world’s only supersonic passenger would be retired due to falling passenger revenue and rising maintenance costs. Concorde's final commercial flight was on 23 October 2003.

Concorde was launched at the height of the fuel crisis and a combination of its heavy fuel consumption and small tanks made it uneconomic. Other issues included environmental concerns, the threat of terrorism and, of course, the terrible air crash in Paris.

There are still people who would like to see Concorde flying again though. The Save Concorde Group (SCG) wants some of the plans to be put back in use.


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    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

      Wonderful post as i have flown supersonics. Concorde was a fine plane. Pity the Russian TU144 was not a commercial success.

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 4 years ago from Olney

      Great hub...voted up.