The Bluffer’s Guide to Concorde with Paul Donnelley

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concorde

Concorde could carry from 92 to 128 passengers (Pic: Getty Images)

After the Second World War both the UK and France began working independently on supersonic aircraft.

British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) began working on a transatlantic wedge-shaped jet while France wanted a quick passage to its African colonies.

The British effort quickly went vastly over budget and the Government demanded it find external funding. The project cost £1.3billion.

The British turned to France hoping a deal might oil the wheels into the Common Market, despite French President Charles de Gaulle’s many objections.

In September 1962, Lucien Servanty of Sud Aviation and William Strang of BAC met in secret in a factory outside Paris to discuss and design Concorde. The building had once been owned by Louis Bleriot, the first man to fly solo across the Channel.

On November 29, 1962, the Anglo-French Supersonic Aircraft Agreement was signed.

De Gaulle and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan argued over the name of the plane. The Frenchman wanted “Concorde” while Supermac held out for “Concord”. The British won and “Concord” it was.

However, when the plane was unveiled in 1967 by Minister for Technology Tony Benn it was called “Concorde”. The e stood, he said, for “Excellence, Europe, Entente and England”.

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Fewer than two dozen Concordes were ever built (Pic: Daily Star)

A Scotsman wrote to point out the nosecone was manufactured in Scotland so Benn said the e also stood for Ecosse – the French for Scotland.

Two prototypes were manufactured and the French version beat its English rival to the skies by a month on March 2, 1969 at Toulouse. The flight lasted 42 minutes. The first UK-built Concorde flew from Filton to RAF Fairford on April 9, 1969. Neither flight exceeded the speed of sound.

Flying at supersonic speed, temperatures can fall to as low as -150ºC. This made the windows of the flight deck vulnerable so they were made of especially thick glass coated with gold. The gold wasn’t visible to the human eye – it was only two-millionths of an inch thick.

It had a maximum speed of more than twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354mph).

The British turned to France hoping a deal might oil the wheels into the Common Market, despite French President Charles de Gaulle’s many objections.

signed concorde

On November 29, 1962, the Anglo-French Supersonic Aircraft Agreement was signed (Pic: Getty Images)

The plane could land at 177mph and the wings would lower the plane gently but only if the pilot pointed the plane upwards thus depriving him of a view of the runway. This problem was solved by creating a nosecone that tilted down.

Concorde was 202ft 4in in length, with a height of 40ft and a wingspan of 84ft. It required a runway 11,800ft in length.

Concorde could carry from 92 to 128 passengers.

The plane, although beautiful to look at, was a commercial failure. This was due in part to the 1973 oil crisis – Concorde used two tons of fuel just to taxi to the runway to take off – but also because America banned the aircraft from creating a supersonic boom in its airspace.

However, when the plane was unveiled in 1967 by Minister for Technology Tony Benn it was called “Concorde”. The e stood, he said, for “Excellence, Europe, Entente and England”.

concorde crash

On July 25, 2000, a Concorde, Air France Flight 4590, registration F-BTSC, fatally crashed (Pic: Getty Images)

Fuel consumption at Mach 2 and at altitude of 60,000 feet was 4,800 gallons per hour.

Flight times to New York were halved aboard Concorde to just 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Scheduled flights of Concorde began on January 21, 1976 on the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio de Janeiro (via Dakar) routes.

Fewer than two dozen Concordes were ever built.

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The last commercial flight – with 100 celebrities aboard – from New York landed at Heathrow (Pic: Getty Images/ Daily Star)

On July 25, 2000, a Concorde, Air France Flight 4590, registration F-BTSC, fatally crashed (the only one to suffer that fate) as it took off from Charles de Gaulle Airport en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. It smashed into the Hôtelissimo Les Relais Bleus Hotel in Gonesse. All 100 passengers, 9 crew members and 4 people on the ground were killed.

On April 10, 2003, British Airways and Air France both announced that Concorde would be retired that year.

The last commercial flight – with 100 celebrities aboard – from New York landed at Heathrow at 4.05pm on October 24, 2003.

The last British Concorde flight was on November 26, 2003 landing at Filton, Bristol. Its passengers were 100 British Airways cabin crew members and pilots.

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