ConcordeThe Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde supersonic transport (SST) was one of only two models of supersonic passenger airliners to have seen commercial service. Concorde had a cruise speed of mach 2.04 and a cruise altitude of 60,000 feet (17,700 metres) with a delta wing configuration and an evolution of the afterburner equipped engines originally developed for the Avro Vulcan strategic bomber.
It is the first civil airliner to be equipped with an analogue fly-by-wire flight control system. Commercial flights, operated by British Airways and Air France, began on January 21, 1976,
and ended on October 24, 2003, with the last “retirement” flight on November 26, that year.OriginsIn the late 1950s the British, French, Americans, and Soviets were all interested in developing a supersonic transport. Britain’s Bristol Aeroplane Company and France’s Sud Aviation were both working on designs called the Type 233 and Super-Caravelle, respectively.
Both were largely funded by their respective governments as a way of gaining some foothold in the aircraft market that was, until then, dominated by the United States.Both designs were ready to start prototype construction in the early 1960s, but the cost was so great that the companies (and governments) decided to join forces. The development project was negotiated as an international treaty between Britain and France rather than a commercial agreement between companies.
This included a clause, originally asked for by Britain, on penalties for cancellation. It turned out that Britain was the country that actually tried to get out. A draft treaty was signed on November 28, 1962. By this time both companies had been merged into new ones and the Concorde project was thus a part of the British Aircraft Corporation and Aerospatiale. The consortium secured orders for over 100 new airliners from the leading airlines of the time. Pan Am, BOAC, and Air France were the launch customers with six Concordes each.The aircraft was initially referred to in Britain as “Concord”.
In 1967 the British Government announced that it would change the spelling to “Concorde” to match the French. This created an uproar but it died down after a government minister stated that the suffixed “e” was for excellence. Concorde 001 took off for the first test flight from Toulouse on March 2, 1969, and the first supersonic flight followed on October 1. As the flight program of the first development aircraft progressed, 001 started off on a sales and demonstration tour beginning on September 4, 1971.
Concorde 002 followed suit on June 2, 1972, with a sales tour of the Middle and Far East. Concorde 002 made the first visit to the United States in 1973, landing at the new Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to commemorate its opening. These trips led to an influx of orders for over 70 aircraft. However, a combination of factors caused a sudden cascade of order cancellations, including the 1970s oil crisis, acute financial difficulties of the partner airlines, a spectacular crash of the competing Soviet Tupolev Tu-144, and environmental issues such as sonic boom noise and pollution.
Air France and British Airways ended up as the only buyers. The aircraft and parts were later sold to them for the nominal price of one British pound apiece.The United States had cancelled its supersonic (SST) program in 1971. Two designs had originally been submitted; the Lockheed L-2000, looking like a scaled-up Concorde, lost out to the Boeing 2707 which originally had been intended to be faster, carry 300 passengers, and feature a swing-wing design. It was suggested in France and the United Kingdom that part of the American opposition to Concorde on grounds of noise pollution was in fact orchestrated or at least encouraged by the United States Government out of spite at not being able to propose a viable competitor. However other countries, such as Malaysia, also ruled out Concorde supersonic overflights due to noise issues.Both European airlines operated demonstration and test flights to various destinations from 1974, onwards.
The testing of Concorde set records which are still not surpassed; it undertook 5,335 flight hours in the prototype, preproduction, and first production aircraft alone. A total of 2,000 test hours were supersonic. This equates to approximately four times as many as for similarly sized subsonic commercial aircraft.Technological featuresMany features common in the early 21st century airliners were first used in Concorde.For speed optimization:double-delta (ogive) shaped wings afterburning Roll-Royce/Snecma Olympus turbojets with supercruise capabilitythrust-by-wire engines, ancestor of today’s FADEC controlled enginesdroop-nose section for good landing visibility For weight saving and enhanced performance:Mach 2.04 ‘sweet spot’ for optimum fuel consumption (supersonic drag minimum, while jet engines are more efficient at high speed) mostly aluminium construction for low weight and relatively conventional build full-regime autopilot and autothrottle allowing “hands off” control of the aircraft from climb out to landingfully electrically-controlled, analog fly-by-wire flight controls systemsmultifunction flight control surfaceshigh-pressure hydraulic system of 28 MPa (4,000 lbf/in) for lighter hydraulic systems componentsfully electrically controlled analog brake-by-wire systempitch trim by shifting fuel around the fuselage for center-of-gravity controlparts milled from single alloy billet reducing the part number count.
Experience in making Concorde later became the basis of the Airbus consortium and many of these features are now standard equipment in Airbus airliners. Snecma Moteurs, for example, got its first entry into civil engines here. Experience with Concorde opened the way for it to establish CFM International, with GE producing the successful CFM International 56 series engines. The primary partners, BAC, later to become BAE Systems, and Aerospatiale, later to become EADS, are the joint owners of Concorde’s type certificate. Responsibility for the Type Certificate transferred to Airbus with formation of Airbus SAS.
Scheduled flightsScheduled flights started on January 21, 1976, on the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio 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.
When the US ban was lifted in February, for over-water supersonic flight, New York quickly followed by banning Concorde locally. Left with little choice on the destination, AF and BA started transatlantic services to Washington D.C. on May 24. Finally, in late 1977, the noise concerns of New York residents gave way to the advantages of Concorde traffic and scheduled service from Paris and London to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport started on November 22, 1977. Flights operated by BA were coded ‘Speedbird 1′ through ‘Speedbird 4′.
The average flight time on the transatlantic routes was just under 3.5 hours. Up to 2003, both Air France and British Airways continued to operate the New York services daily. Additionally, Concorde flew to Barbados’s Grantley Adams International Airport during the winter holiday season and, occasionally, to charter destinations such as Rovaniemi, Finland. On November 1, 1986, a chartered Concorde circumnavigated the world in 31 hours and 51 minutes.For a brief period in 1977, and again from 1979 to 1980, British Airways and Singapore Airlines used a shared Concorde for flights between Bahrain and Singapore Changi Airport. The aircraft, G-BOAD, was painted in Singapore Airways 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 when a new route, bypassing Malaysian airspace, was designed. However, an ongoing dispute with India prevented the Concorde from reaching supersonic speeds in Indian airspace, so the route was eventually declared not viable. From late 1978, to November, 1982, Air France flew the Concorde on a regular basis to Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport.From 1979, to 1980, Braniff International leased two Concordes, one from both British Airways and Air France.
These were used on flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to JFK, feeding the routes of BA and AF to London and Paris. The aircraft were registered in both the United States and their home countries. For legal reasons a sticker would cover up each aircraft’s European registration while it was being operated by Braniff. On DFW-JFK flights the Concordes had Braniff flight crews, although they maintained their native airline livery. However the flights were not profitable for Braniff and were usually less than 25% booked which forced Braniff to end its term as the only U.S. Concorde operator.