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Current State of Air France Concordes
Introduction to Air France's Concorde
The idea of civilian supersonic transport was born in the late 1950s. The British Bristol Aeroplane Company (BOAC) and the French Sud Aviation were both working on their own designs called the Type 223 and Super-Caravelle, and these were largely funded by their respective governments. The British design was for a thin-winged delta shape for a transatlantic-ranged aircraft for about 100 people, while the French were intending to build a medium-range aircraft.
The two countries joined forces by way of an international treaty on 28 November 1962. As a result, 2 new companies called British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) and Aerospatiale had been formed and this lead them to secure 100 non-binding orders from the major airlines of the day including BOAC (which eventually became British Airways) and Air France.
Construction of 2 prototypes began in February 1965: airframe 001, built by Aerospatiale at Toulouse, and 002, by BAC at Filton, Bristol. The French model made its first test flight from Toulouse on 2 March 1969, piloted by Andre Turcat. It flew supersonically for the first time on the 1st of October of the same year. As flight testing progressed, 001 embarked on a sales and demonstration tour in 1971, which included its first transatlantic crossing.
A further 70 orders for aircraft were received as a result of the marketing flights, but a combination of factors led to order cancellations: the 1973 oil crisis, financial difficulties of airlines and a crash at the Paris Le Bourget air show involving the competing Soviet Tupolev Tu-144. Environmental concerns such as the sonic boom, take-off noise and pollution were also to blame.
By 1976 only 4 nations remained as prospective buyers: Britain, France, China, and Iran. But in the end only Air France and British Airways took up their orders.
F-BTSC Crashed near Le Bourget
Complete loss of aircraft, passengers and crew
F-BTSC was an early model of Concorde and was originally due to be upgraded and sold to Pan-Am, though the american airline later scrapped the deal. She was temporarily leased to Air France in 1976 while the airline waited for the permanent fleet to be built.
She featured in the movie Airport 1979 then placed into storage until she was bought by Air France for 1 French Franc in 1980.
She was re-stored from 1982 to 1986 due to low demand on the Paris - New York route. She returned to service in 1986 and carried Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth II on separate trips in 1989. This aircraft was grounded once more in 1998 for extensive (and expensive) safety checks and eventually returned to the air on 1st November 1999.
On July 25th 2000, as flight AF4590, she crashed soon after taking off from Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. The investigation focused on some debris that was found on the runway: it has been hypothesised that a piece of metal was picked up by the Concorde during the take-off run, and that this started a chain of events which caused a rupture of a fuel tank and subsequent engine fire. The aircraft lost thrust and crashed into a hotel near the town of Gonesse, in the vicinity of Le Bourget Airport. All 109 passengers and crew and a further 4 people on the ground lost their lives. A memorial has been erected near the scene of the crash at Gonesse.
The aircraft was destroyed in the accident and her remains are thought to be stored at Le Bourget Airport.
Without doubt, Concorde died yesterday at the age of 31. All that will remain is the myth of a beautiful white bird.— Le Figaro, 26 July 2000
F-BTSC taking off from Nice 2 months before fatal crash
F-BTSD Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace
Le Bourget, France
Retired to the "Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace" at Le Bourget (near Paris) and, unlike the other museum Concordes, a few of the systems are being kept functional, so that for instance the famous "droop nose" can still be lowered and raised.
A group of French volunteer engineers is keeping one of the youngest Concordes (F-BTSD) in near-airworthy condition at the Le Bourget Air and Space Museum in Paris. In February 2010, it has been announced that it is intended to restore F-BTSD's engines so it could taxi.
F-BTSD Arriving at Le Bourget for the last time
F-BVFA Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
This Concorde flew Air France's launch service to Dakar, Rio, Washington and New York in 1976 and 1977. In 1998 it made a round-the-world trip 41 hours, 27 minutes.
In 1990 she was stripped bare and rebuilt as part of extensive safety checks. Her final passenger flight took place in 2003 as AF001 from New York JFK to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
The aircraft is now on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
F-BVFB Auto & Technik Museum
This airframe took to the air for the fist time in 1976 and eventually took the registration F-BVFB when she was registered to Air France in 1980. She was put in storage in 1990 due to low demand, run through extensive maintenance and put back into service in 1997.
In 2001 she is flown to Istres, to undergo tests by the team investigating the Paris Concorde crash of July 2000.
F-BVFB is the first Air France Concorde to fly again after being subjected to the post Paris crash modifications. Her final passenger flight in 2003 as AF4332 was a special charter flying from, and returning to Paris Charles de Gaulle.
On 24th June 2003 she landed for the last time in Baden Baden in Germany. She was then transported to the Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim at Sinsheim via barge and road. The museum also has a Tu-144 on display - this is the only place where both supersonic airliners can be seen together (as shown in picture).
F-BVFC Airbus Headquarters
Air France Concorde F-BVFC first flew on 3rd August 1976 and, after around 27 years of service, returned for the last time to her birthplace on 27th June 2003. Her final voyage saw her taking off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, flying over the Bay of Biscay and retiring to Toulouse in France.
In total the aircraft flew for 14,322 hours and 4,358 flights, including two round-the-world trips. Her last flight carried many VIPs, including the crew who flew the very first flight in 1969 as Concorde 001 (F-WTSS).
This aircraft is located at the Airbus factory, where she will form the centre piece of a museum celebrating the region's aviation heritage.
F-BVFD - Scrapped
Broken up in Paris
This aircraft was involved in a heavy landing in 1977 at Dakar airport and subsequently repaired, but then deemed as surplus requirement once the Paris-Dakar-Rio route had been abandoned by Air France.
The airframe was broken up in 1994 at Charles de Gaulle Airport, after being out of service for 12 years. Her idleness had caused serious and irreversible corrosion to the metal framework.
The nose assembly was sold to an American in 1995 and the fuselage was moved to Le Bourget Airport where where it was eventually completely scrapped. This aircraft retains the dubious honour of being the only Concorde ever scrapped (on purpose).
F-BVFF Charles de Gaulle Airport
1978 saw this aircraft's maiden flight from Toulouse. She was delivered to Air France in 1980 as and registered as F-BVFF. In 1986 she was the first Air France Concorde to complete a round the world charter flight. She achieved that feat 12 more times before he eventual retirement.
The aircraft was withdrawn from service in the early 2000s for planned maintenance work, during which time the Paris crash occurred. This event contributed to the decision to scrap of all Concorde services, so she never flew again.
The aircraft is now on display at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
French Development Aircraft
F-WTSS (001) - Air and Space Museum, Le Bourget, France
F-WTSA (102) – Musee Delta, Orly, France
F-WTSB (201) – Airbus, Toulouse, France