The BAC Aerospatiale Concorde is the worlds only successful supersonic transport aircraft. Jointly developed in the UK & France, the first Concorde prototype 001, first flew on 2nd March 1969 from Toulouse, France with the second prototype flew from Bristol in the UK on 9th April 1969.
The aircraft was operated by only two airlines, British Airways and Air France, although it was sub leased for a short time by Braniff International & Singapore Airlines. The aircraft were all retired in 2003 and the remaining operational aircraft were distributed to different locations in Europe, the USA & Barbados where many are open to the public.
The history of Concorde can be traced to studies in the UK & France in the 1950's, looking at the future of airline transport. The UK research establishment, the RAE were looking at a new wing platform, known in the UK as the "slender delta" concept. Although Delta wings had already been used, these designs were little different than the swept wings of the same span. The breakthrough with Concorde was to use the vortex produced by the wing to create lift at high angles of attack for take off and landing whilst still giving good supersonic performance.
At the same time as research was looking at the delta in the UK, Sud Aviation in France was looking at studies of a supersonic airliner called the Super-Caravelle. Other studies were also being undertaken in the USA & USSR.
It was recognized that the development of a supersonic airliner would be very expensive so it was decided that the UK & France would join forces to develop the project to be known as the Concorde (both the British & French use the word Concord, the French with an e on the end, meaning agreement, harmony or union).
The design of the aircraft was driven by the limitations of the technology, making an aircraft large enough and with enough range to be commercially successful whilst not being so large as to need development of new engines and materials. This also limited the speed to Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound. As the French had no modern large jet engines it was decided to use the Bristol Siddeley (later Rolls Royce) Olympus engine that was being developed for the TSR2 military aircraft.
Initially 62 aircraft were ordered by a number of airlines including PanAm in the USA, Air India & Japan Airlines. Most of these orders were cancelled due to the long development time and the oil crisis of the 1970's. As mentioned earlier, only British Airways and Air France were to operate the aircraft with only 2 prototypes, 2 pre production and 16 production aircraft manufactured.
The development of the aircraft was long and drawn out, with many problems needing to be overcome. Not least due to its streamlined shape and the requirement for a high angle of attack especially for landing, vision from the cockpit required a distinctive feature of the aircraft, the droop nose which was lowered for take off and landing. A further issue was the requirement to slow the airflow into the engines to subsonic speeds even when the aircraft was flying at supersonic speeds. This was done using a variable air intake design. Concorde was also the first commercial aircraft to use fly-by-wire controls, although analogue rather than the digital versions fitted to modern aircraft.
Schedule flights began on 21st January 1976 with London-Bahrain flown by British Airways and Paris-Rio de Janeiro, flown by Air France. Due to the sonic boom produced when Concorde broke the sound barrier, it was banned from flying supersonically over land, this limited the routes that could be flown. Initially the aircraft was also not allowed to land in the USA due to complaints about noise, however this was eventually overturned and Concorde proved as popular in the USA as anywhere else it visited.
In 2000, Concorde suffered a fatal accident when F-BTSC crashed on take off from Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris killing all 109 passengers and crew. Concorde was withdrawn from service for modifications to the fuel system, returning to service in 2001, but the 9/11 attacks and an economic downturn caused the aircraft to be retired in 2003.
There is a movement to get a Concorde flying again, but this is very unlikely to happen due to the cost of a return to flight program
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There were two prototypes built, French built 001 (F-WTSS) and British built 002 (G-BSST).
These aircraft had less fuel, a solid nose visor and a different wing platforms well as a different air intake system.
There were two pre production aircraft 101 (01) built in the UK (G-AXDN) and French built 102 (02) (F-WTSA).
These aircraft different wing, more fuel, higher engine standard and a glass rather than solid visor as well as an intake system close to production standard.
There were 16 production aircraft built, airframes 201 - 216, these aircraft were operated by British Airways and Air France.
There are a number of Internet sites that gives details of Concorde, some of these are listed below:
Heritage Concorde www.heritageconcorde.html
Concorde SST www.concordesst.com
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