Concorde

ConcordeConcorde — The Concorde supersonic jetliner (in service since 1976) has a cruising speed of Mach 2 (2,180 km/h; 1,354 mph) and transports about 125 passengers. It is 62 m (204 ft) long.

Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner, a supersonic transport (SST). It was a product of an Anglo-French government treaty, combining the manufacturing efforts of Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation. First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years.

Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow (British Airways) and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (Air France) to New York JFK and Washington Dulles, profitably flying these routes at record speeds, in less than half the time of other airliners.

With only 20 aircraft built, their development represented a substantial economic loss, in addition to which Air France and British Airways were subsidised by their governments to buy them. As a result of the type’s only crash on 25 July 2000 and other factors, its retirement flight was on 26 November 2003.

Concorde’s name reflects the development agreement between the United Kingdom and France. In the UK, any or all of the type—unusual for an aircraft—are known simply as “Concorde”, sans article. The aircraft is regarded by many as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel.

History

Concorde G-BOAF. The final flight of Concorde landing at Filton Airfield, near Bristol, on 26 November 2003 Scheduled flights began on 21 January 1976 on the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio (via Dakar) routes. The U.S. Congress had just banned Concorde landings in the US, mainly due to citizen protest over sonic booms, preventing launch on the coveted transatlantic routes. However, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, William Coleman, gave special permission for Concorde service to Washington Dulles International Airport, and British Airways and Air France simultaneously began service to Dulles on 24 May 1976.

When the US ban on JFK Concorde operations was lifted in February 1977, New York banned Concorde locally. The ban came to an end on 17 October 1977 when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to overturn a lower court’s ruling rejecting the Port Authority’s efforts to continue the ban (The noise report noted that Air Force One, at the time a Boeing 707, was louder than Concorde at subsonic speeds and during takeoff and landing.). Scheduled service from Paris and London to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport began on 22 November 1977. Flights operated by BA were generally coded “BA001” to “BA004.” Air France flight numbers were coded “AF001” and “AF002.”

While commercial jets take seven hours to fly from New York to Paris, the average supersonic flight time on the transatlantic routes was just under 3.5 hours. In transatlantic flight, Concorde travelled more than twice as fast as other aircraft – other aircraft frequently appeared to be flying backwards. Up to 2003, Air France and British Airways continued to operate the New York services daily. Concorde also flew to Barbados’s Grantley Adams International Airport during the winter holiday season. Until the AF Paris crash ended virtually all charter services by both AF and BA, several UK and French tour operators operated numerous charter flights to various European destinations on a regular basis.

On 12-13 October 1992, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first New World landing, Concorde Spirit Tours (USA) chartered Air France Concorde F-BTSD and circumnavigated the world in 32 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds, from Lisbon, Portugal, including six refuelling stops at Santo Domingo, Acapulco, Honolulu, Guam, Bangkok and Bahrain.

The Eastbound record was set by the same Air France Concorde F-BTSD under charter to Concorde Spirit Tours (USA), on 15-16 August 1995. This special promotional flight circumnavigated the world from New York/JFK International Airport in a time of 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds, including six refuelling stops at Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Andersen AFB (Guam), Honolulu and Acapulco. Concorde continues to hold both records.

In 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines shared a Concorde for flights between Bahrain and Singapore International Airport. The aircraft, BA Concorde G-BOAD, was painted in Singapore Airlines livery on the port side and British Airways livery on the starboard side. The service was discontinued after three months because of noise complaints from the Malaysian government; it could only be reinstated on a new route bypassing Malaysian airspace in 1979. An ongoing dispute with India prevented Concorde from reaching supersonic speeds in Indian airspace, so the route was eventually declared not viable and discontinued in 1981. During the Mexican oil boom, Air France flew Concorde twice-weekly to Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport via Washington, DC or New York, from September 1978 to November 1982. The worldwide economic crisis during that period resulted in this route’s cancellation; the last flights were almost empty. The routing between Washington or New York and Mexico City included a deceleration, from Mach 2.02 to Mach 0.95, to cross Florida subsonically and avoid unlawfully sonic-booming it; then a reacceleration to cross the Gulf of Mexico at Mach 2.02. Interestingly, Air France evidently never realized that this procedure could be avoided by flying midway between Miami and Bimini, Bahamas, then turning west around Key West, Florida, to avoid all sonic-boom effects on Florida. It took British Airways to implement this new routing, which was accomplished on April 1, 1989, with G-BOAF, on an Around-The-World luxury tour charter. From time to time, Concorde came back to the region on similar, chartered flights to Mexico City and Acapulco.

Between 1984 and 1991, British Airways flew a thrice-weekly Concorde service between London and Miami, stopping at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. The routing from Dulles to Miami was flown subsonically as far as Carolina Beach VOR; then there was a very rapid climb to 60,000 feet (estimated at 6,000 feet per minute) and Mach 2.02 that was possible due to the aircraft’s very light weight: an average of only about 25-30 passengers and fuel only for the short Dulles-Miami sector. After about 6-8 minutes at Mach 2.02, deceleration and descent was begun into Miami. On several occasions, bad weather at Dulles and a relatively-light passenger payload out of Miami enabled nonstop Miami-London sectors to be flown. The fastest such flight took just 3 hours 47 minutes to fly over 4,000 nautical miles from Miami to London, with 70 passengers. On such trips, the flight plan was filed to Shannon, Ireland, with en route reclearance on to London secured later in the flight after the minimum required fuel for London was clearly present. This flight was farther than a sector often claimed as the farthest ever flown nonstop by Concorde: a special charter for Middle Eastern VIP’s from Washington to Nice, France.

From 1978 to 1980, Braniff International Airways leased ten Concordes,five each from British Airways and Air France. These were used on subsonic flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington Dulles International Airport, flown by Braniff flight crews, Air France and British Airways crews then taking over for the continuing supersonic flights to London and Paris. The aircraft were registered in both the United States and their home countries: a sticker covered up the European registration while it was being operated by Braniff. The flights were not profitable and were usually less than 50% booked, which forced Braniff to end its tenure as the only U.S. Concorde operator in May 1980.

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