BAe Aerospatiale Concorde

The Concorde was a coproduction of French Aerospatiale and British Aerospace. The governments of both countries decided in 1962 to build the supersonic jet together. The Concorde was an object of prestige for both countries and so the aircraft was built in both countries.

The shape of the Concorde is the result of years of engineering. Its delta-styled body makes it look like a military aircraft. The Concorde has no flaps, but was able to lower its nose for landing to improve the pilots view outside. At take off there was additional thrust used which let the Concorde take up speed up to 400kph when taking off.

When a Concorde took off for the first time in Toulouse on March 2nd 1969, there were already 75 options of several airlines for this jet for 128 passengers. At this time it wasn't sure which one of the nearly simultaneously released aircrafts Concorde and Boeing 747 would be the successful one. But when the oil crisis broke out, the result was quickly visible. As a result of the high fuel consumption of the four Rolls-Royce engines, the Concorde seemed to be extremely uneconomical and every airline cancelled its option for the Concorde- except British Airways and Air France, which had been forced to buy the Concorde.

Thus, only 12 Concordes were in service. In the last years, the Concorde was only used on the routes Paris-New York and London-New York, as every other route had turned out to be not profitable enough. The latest fares for a ticket from London to New York were at about 8000 Euros (10,000USD). People jetting from London to New York even passed the path of time on the flight of only 3 hours. On the way across the Atlantic, the Concorde used special supersonic routes where it reached a top speed of Mach 2.2 and an altitude of 51,000ft. This stressed the fuselage so much that the plane expanded by 2 ½ inches or 6 cm during the flight. More expanded than usual was also the inflight service: The Concorde menu was composed exclusively by the world's top chefs, and its ‘wine cellar' was even known to be one of the finest in the world. Passengers who weren't busy tasting the variety of beverages or having a chat with the celebrity across the aisle, could still spend their time looking out the window and seeing the curvature of the earth.

After the crash of a Concorde in Paris on July 25th 2000, all Concordes were grounded until the airlines had modified the tanks as there was a danger of explosion caused by the close location between tanks and engines. As a result of these modifications being finished, the Concorde got its license back in November 2001 and returned into service. Altough the Concorde had been in service for a quarter of a century, it had only reached half of the flying hours for which it has been built. But soon, Air France and British Airways realized that the crash had left some scars – less and less financially strong customers boarded the supersonic jet. Due to the extremely high maintenance costs, Air France and British Airways heavy heartedly decided to retire the prestige aircraft in 2003. Air France stopped Concorde service on May 31 st 2003, British Airways followed on October 24 th 2003 with thousands of eye-witnesses at London Heathrow airport. In the following weeks, all Concordes were shipped to museums around the world. Due to the lack of serious developments of potential successors, one will have to get used to seeing the world's only civil supersonic jet in a museum from now on.

© LK

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© Lukas Kirchner 2005