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    Few would disagree that Concorde is the most controversial civil airliner built in modern times; yet it also represents one of the finest technological achievements in airliner history. The first agreement covering the development and eventual production of a revolutionary supersonic transport, was signed by the British and French governments in 1962. Thereafter, the project was dogged by high cost, skepticism and opposition. It was not easy to design an airliner that would carry over 100 passengers at the speed of a military fighter, and the first prototype

    Concorde did not fly until March 2, 1969. This aircraft, known as Concorde 001, was assembled in France; the British 002 flew in the following month. Reaching 'first flight' status was an achievement in itself for the American contender in the supersonic airliner field, the Boeing 2707-300 was abandoned well before this stage, despite a huge financial outlay.

    Although completed Concordes have been produced in both France and England, each aircraft is built from sections produced in both countries. The British Aircraft Corporation had the responsibility for four of the five aluminum alloy semi-monocoque fuselage sections, the vertical tail, engine nacelles and ducting, and several major systems (including the electrical and thermal). Aerospatiale of France produced the rear cabin section, ogival delta wings, associated control surfaces, flying controls, and the hydraulic and navigational systems among others. However, much of Concorde's success lies in the excellence of the four Rolls-Royce/ SNECMA Olympus 593 Mk 602 turbojet engines which power it. One of the most interesting features of the aircraft is the nose, which can be drooped hydraulically during takeoff and landing, to improve the forward view, while a retractable visor is hydraulically-lifted during cruising flight to fair the windscreen to the raised nose.

    Following the two prototypes, two preproduction Concordes and two static and fatigue test airframes were built, the static airframe being tested to destruction to gauge the strength of the aircraft. Then, from the French Toulouse factory came the first production aircraft which flew on December 6, 1973. This and the next three Concordes were flown in Arctic and tropical climates to assess their handling characteristics and performance. One of them made two return journeys across the North Atlantic in a single day on September 1, 1975.

    All was now ready for the world's first regular air services by supersonic airliners. For these, the fifth and sixth production aircraft had been delivered to British Airways and Air France. Both airlines started their Concorde services simultaneously on January 21, 1976, the British company flying from London to Bahrain and the French from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.

    Despite objections from anti-pollution factions on both sides of the Atlantic, the two airlines began flights to Dulles International Airport in Washington, USA, on May 24, 1976. Vast crowds cheered the sleek deltas, which arrived in under half the time of a more conventional airliner, but the future of Concorde remained doubtful. Initially, 74 Concordes were reserved by 16 of the world's airlines. However, after the option system was withdrawn, in March 1973, they canceled their orders. The reluctance to buy stemmed partly from Concorde's high operating costs, and partly from the controversial nature of the aircraft. Anti-pollution lobbies objected to what they considered to be its high noise and smoke emissions, and Concorde was refused landing rights at many of the world's major airports on the world's busiest routes. Consequently, the British and French governments decided to produce no more Concordes after the sixteenth production model.

    Nevertheless, on October 17, 1977, the US Supreme Court overruled the New York Port Authority's ban on Concorde, thus resolving many of these difficulties. Commercial services between New York and London started at the end of 1977 with daily services beginning in January 1978. In December 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines operated a shared Concorde service between London and Singapore.

Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde
Wing span: 83 ft 10 in (25.56 m)
Length: 203 ft 9 in (62.10 m)
Max T/O Weight: 408,000 lb (185,065 kg)
Cruising Speed: Mach 2.2
Range: 4,090 miles (6,580 km)
Four 169.3 Kn (38,050 lb) thrust
Rolls-Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 Mk 610
turbojets, carried in pairs beneath the wings.

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Created November 27, 2001. Updated October 14, 2013.