In this series we will have a look at aviation’s most iconic aircraft, we will see its highs and lows, its legacy and how it was like flying that aircraft. Today we will look at Concorde.
Concorde was a supersonic aircraft, built by French aerospace company Aérospatiale or SUD Aviation (at that time), and British company BAC (later BAE Systems). It was a joint venture between the French and the British. Russians also built their own SST(Super Sonic Transporter) named Tupolev TU-144.
It was the “Golden Era of Air Travel” when Concorde made the headlines. Flying twice the speed of sound and carrying about 100 passengers, it was denominated by many “A plane from the future”. It was largely targeted towards business travellers. For example, let us say Tony is a CEO of a multinational company and he’s in let us say London if he has a meeting in New York. He’s a CEO so his time is precious, if he took a British Airways 747, it would take about 8-10 hours roundtrip. But if he took Concorde, it would approx. take him 4-6 hours roundtrip. You see, at least 2 hours are saved. This means a lot to them.
It was iconic. From the appearance only, you could say that it was created for speed. Its DELTA WING was a distinguishing feature. It had no flaps, so to increase lift, it bends its nose. Its nose was so pointy and big that if pilots kept it up, they could not see the taxiway. It was the first plane to have the “fly by wire” system.
It flew at an altitude of about 50,000 feet. When an aircraft reaches a certain height and maintains it, it is called a “CRUISE”. Concorde had a phrase called “CRUISE CLIMB”. During its cruise, it was super-sonic and burnt more fuel, and more fuel burning means less weight, which means it will gain some altitude.
Concorde had its benefits but still, only 2 airlines ever operated it ( British Airways and Air France). Many said that it was way ere its time, and it’s partly valid. Initially, there were more than 100 orders but, an incident in Paris Air Show killed the orders. During a demonstration flight of Tupolev TU-144, it blew up mid-air. Other reasons for its failure was the introduction of the Bussiness class and First class. These classes were more comfortable than Concorde. Many governments of the countries, banned supersonic flights in their airspace, ’cause super-sonic flight produces more noise. This meant that it could only fly super-sonic on Oceans and Seas. Also many believed that it degraded the precious OZONE layer. It demanded a lot of fuel. This raised the operating costs, and also increased the ticket rates, thus, only a few people could travel. The final cut was the crash of Air France Flight 4590.
Concorde’s age was short-lived but its legacy is long-lasting. 18 out of 20 Concordes built are preserved in museums. You can find one in the USA, France, Germany and Barbados. It was short-lived but it lives in the industry till date. Many technologies that it introduced, are still in use. Moreover, it showed us how to fly super-sonic. Many new companies are building new SST, but this time it will be a step-up from Concorde. (mainly BOOM-SUPERSONIC). The industry and the companies making new SSTs have learned from the mistakes of Concorde and this time, the industry will be ready to welcome the return of Supersonic travel.
- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:British_Airways_Concorde_G-BOAC_03.jpg (COVER IMAGE)
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