The Concorde was a marvel of British and French engineering. The closest comparison to this commercial airplane today would be the modern aerospace companies that are preparing for a commercial flight to Mars.
At the beginning of its inception in the early 1950s, the race to complete a passenger airplane that could fly past the speed of sound had a couple of participants. During the cold war, American interests in supersonic flight were sparked but ended quickly as Boeing and Lockheed ran into environmental and budget issues.
The head of the Soviets at the time also tasked its engineers to compete in the race to the first supersonic passenger aircraft. However, thanks to Anglo-French cooperation, the first jet plane that could carry passengers and fly past the speed barrier was the Concorde.
This post contains all the amazing facts about the Concorde that you wish you knew.
Let’s dive straight into all the fascinating facts about the Concorde, its inception, and how it impacted the world.
1. The Concorde was the first commercial airplane carrying passengers that could fly at supersonic speeds. This means that it could fly past the speed of sound.
2. There is only one known photograph of the Concorde flying supersonic. This is due to the fact that they were so incredibly fast that it was nearly impossible to keep up with them long enough to take a photo.
3. The Russians had invented their own version of the Concorde and it was given the nickname Concordski by western media at the time. This was at a time of Soviet rule in Russia during the cold war era and the race to the first supersonic aircraft was one of political advantage.
4. The Russian-made ‘Concordski’ beat the original Concorde to the skies when it first took off in December 1968. Its first supersonic flight was in 1969.
Compare that to its western counterparts who only got the plane flying in March 1969 and its first subsonic flight was in October of that same year.
5. On November 4, 1970, the Concorde 002 was born, and the Mach 2 (sound) barrier was broken. In 1970 the Concorde finally reached one of Britain’s biggest airports, Heathrow.
6. The usual training time for pilots on a new passenger plane was 8 weeks long. The time to train pilots to fly the Concorde lasted around 28 weeks – more than triple the training time of normal airplanes.
7. On June 1, 1972, the Concorde started a tour of Australia, the UAE, and other countries to complete a 45,000-mile sales tour of the world.
8. The Concorde flew incredibly high. It had to reach a height of 60 000 feet, which is over 11 miles high. To put it in perspective, passengers were able to view the curvature of the earth from so high up.
9. On September 26, 1973, the 002 Concorde crossed the Atlantic for the first time, going from Washington to Paris in just over 3 and a half hours.
10. This majestic airplane was the last commercial passenger plane that required an onboard flight engineer as part of the cabin crew.
11. On December 6, 1973, the maiden flight of the first-ever commercial Concorde plane was carried out. The 201, made in Toulouse, took to the skies and hit Mach 1.57 or 1,205 miles per hour.
12. The jet engines used by the Concorde to power its supersonic flight were none other than Rolls Royce engines. These were so powerful in fact that pilots had trouble taxiing the planes and had to turn two of them off to make it easier to move around the airport.
13. On January 21, 1976, the first British Airways Concorde flight took place. The plane flew from London to Bahrain and the pilot was Norma Todd (see more interesting facts about pilots). This flight was a live TV broadcast.
14. The nose cone of the Concorde was able to move up and down. This was to allow pilots to see properly during take-off and taxiing.
15. On January 21, 1981, the Concorde celebrated its 5th birthday and its magnificence was starting to be appreciated.
With an astounding record of over 700,000 passengers, 50,000 flying hours, and over 15,800 flights, the aircraft is given its rightful place as one of the best planes of all time.
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16. The Concorde was not painted its trademark white color just for show. It was a special paint developed in order to reflect some of the intense heat that it created during flight. It also adapted to any temperature changes that took place during supersonic flight.
17. On March 31, 1984, the British Government decided that their involvement in Concorde had been too intense and left all funding and decision-making almost solely to BA.
18. The intense speeds that the plane would reach caused immense heat. The Concorde would inflate anywhere from 6 to 10 inches during flight because of how hot it was. If you had to touch the windows during flight, it would be hot and not cold like normal jet planes.
19. On July 13, 1985, the power and reliability of the Concorde were proven by Phil Collins after he used the service to fly from a U.S. Concert and on the very same day to a Live Aid charity concert in the U.K.
20. Carbon breaks are another breakthrough invention that was propelled by the Concorde. The airplane needed some serious breaks to slow down from 180mph.
They were specially designed by Dunlop and are now used in passenger planes around the world.
21. On November 1, 1986, Concorde went on to complete its first round the world charter flight in an astounding 1 day, 7 hours, and 51 minutes.
22. The oldest passenger onboard one of the Concordes flights was 105 years old. Her name was Eva Woodman.
24. On February 7, 1996, Trans-Atlantic flight records were broken with the Concorde managing the flight in 172 minutes and 59 seconds from New York to London.
25. Diamonds and human organs are both valuable items that need to be stored and kept safe. There is no time to waste between the source of them and getting them to where they are kept. This is why the Concorde was used not only to transport passengers but also to transport urgent goods like body parts and precious minerals.
26. On August 11, 1999, the Concorde managed a visually mind-blowing feat of chasing the sun’s total eclipse as they flew in supersonic formation.
27. During the height of the Concordes time, it flew over fifty-thousand times and carried a total of two and a half million passengers.
29. The Paris crash of 2000 was not the first incident of supersonic planes falling from the sky. In 1973, the Soviets looked to unveil their ‘Concordski’ at the Paris Air show.
However, due to engine and braking flaws, the great airplane crashed and fell into a nearby village right after takeoff, killing all those onboard and 8 people in the village.
30. On August 15, 2000, BA announced that it would stop flying Concordes. This decision was made so quickly that it even caused one aircraft to be stopped mid-take-off following the craft’s airworthiness certificate being revoked.
31. On January 21, 2001, it was the 25th anniversary of the first commercial flight.
32. In 2001, the Concorde returned. After a lengthy and very pricey safety improvement drive from the team over at Concorde, the plane hit the skies as a commercial jet once again.
33. After its notorious crash in 2000, the Concorde was grounded for a good year. It took off and landed for its first passenger flight since the horrific crash on September 11, 2001. The horrible events of that day overshadowed the Concorde’s historic comeback voyage.
34. The Concorde had some incredible flight statistics. It took off at a speed of 250 miles per hour (mph) and landed at around 187mph. However, its cruising speed was a whopping 1350mph (that is two times faster than the speed of sound).
35. On January 12, 2002, the Paris crash results came in. The French Accident Investigation Bureau said that the cause of the incident was a chunk of rubber, caused by a stray strip of metal puncturing a tire, which had shot up into the fuel tank and caused a leak.
36. The Concorde’s flight control system was the most advanced for its time. It could control the wings and adjust its shape to cope with drag during supersonic flight. Wings that were controlled by computers were not a thing before the Concorde.
37. On April 10, 2003, British Airways and Air France started ringing the definitive final bell. Both companies agreed to retire the aircraft after the commercial flight numbers dropped which was most likely due to the Paris crash.
38. On May 31, 2003, Air France had their last Concorde flight from JFK to Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport. All the French Concordes were on display around the world. In November of the same year, the last BA Concorde flight took place.
39. The Concorde’s name means ‘agreement’ in French and it was given to the airplane due to the merging of British and French companies (British Aircraft Corp and France‘s Aerospatiale) to develop the aircraft.
The engineering team was made-up of French and British nationals working together.
40. On March 10, 2005, Paris’ dreadful crash was brought back into the limelight when Continental Airlines were put under investigation. They of course deny any wrongdoing and said the fire wasn’t caused by the strip itself claiming they made no errors.
42. On November 29, 2012, Continental Airlines was in the Versailles appeals court. They were deemed to have no criminal responsibility for the Paris crash as there was no link between the strip and the fire.
43. On February 7, 2017, Concorde 216 was given pride and place at Aerospace Bristol’s special hangar near Filton Airfield. A joint operation between BA and Airbus engineers, the craft was dragged up the ramp and left to bask in the glory and history of this wonderful plane.
44. The Concordes cost more than some of today’s most advanced fighter jets. If you had to build a Concorde in modern times, it would cost around $200 million to complete. That price tag makes the F-22 raptor look very affordable in comparison.
So there we have it, one of the most awe-inspiring crafts of the late 20th century. This world-renowned marvel was dragged through the mud in its final years all down to the existence of a strip of metal and an appalling crash.
Now it can be viewed in aerospace museums around the world as a total of 18 out of the 20 original Concordes still remain. Make sure to check one of them out.