Concorde

Today marks the 13th anniversary since the last passenger flight from New York arrived in the UK. Every seat was filled, a feat that had become increasingly rare for a plane that was a technological marvel but a commercial flop….


  • Only 20 aircraft were ever built despite 100 orders, most of them cancelled in the early 1970s.
  • Taxiing to the runway consumed 2 tons of fuel.
  • The white colour scheme was specified to reduce the outer temperature by about 10°C.
  • In a promotional deal with Pepsi, F-BTSD was temporarily painted blue. Due to the change of colour, Air France were advised to remain at Mach 2 for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • At supersonic speed the fuselage would heat up and expand by as much as 30cm. The most obvious manifestation of this was a gap that opened up on the flight deck between the flight engineer's console and the bulkhead. On some aircraft conducting a retiring supersonic flight, the flight engineers placed their caps in this expanded gap, permanently wedging the cap as it shrank again.
  • At Concorde's altitude a breach of cabin integrity would result in a loss of pressure so severe that passengers would quickly suffer from hypoxia despite application of emergency oxygen. Concorde was thus built with smaller windows to reduce the rate of loss in such a breach.
  • The high cruising altitude meant passengers received almost twice the amount of radiation as a conventional long-haul flight. To prevent excessive exposure, the flight deck comprised of a radiometer; if the radiation level became too high, pilots would descend below 45,000 feet.
  • BA's service had a greater number of passengers who booked a flight and then failed to appear than any other aircraft in their fleet.
  • Market research later in Concorde's life revealed that customers thought Concorde was more expensive than it actually was. Ticket prices were progressively raised to match these perceptions.
  • The fastest transatlantic airliner flight was from New York JFK to London Heathrow on 7 February 1996 by British Airways' G-BOAD in 2 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds from takeoff to touchdown. It was aided by a 175 mph tailwind.


See also: A Rocket to Nowhere. Oil painting by Charles E. McHugh.

Comments (5)

Michael Halls-Moore

This is great, particularly the fuel consumption on just getting to the runway!

There are some equally interesting facts about the SR-71 Blackbird, which had similar issues:
https://en.wik…

Oct. 25, 2016, 11:06 a.m. #
Noel Quinn

It is not widely understood that the reason the French and British governments invested vast sums on this program in spite of its lack of commercial viability was that the planes had a second, secret life as bombers which was never disclosed. The British and French air forces each had the use of a squadron of these planes in the event of a war against Russia because their own bomber forces had became obsolete against Russian air defences and it was not possible economically or politically to spend enough money to replace them. The result was a joint "hidden in plain sight" development program to develop a dual purpose aeroplane that could be put into service at short notice but budgeted as a civil program.
The Russians then managed to infiltrate the construction plant in France with communist sympathising trade unionists who stole the entire plans and supplied them to the Russians who then built a replica plane and flew it at the Paris air show. By the time it flew it too was also obsolete but it both succeeded as a deterrent and as a way to bankrupt Russia who couldn't afford it either.
The perception that the plane was a failure is just propaganda. It could have been kept flying with no great difficulty but it no was longer receiving secret subsidies from the military and couldn't pay its way.

Oct. 25, 2016, 11:18 a.m. #
Martin Seaborn

@Noel_Quinn

There has never been any proof for the industrial espionage theory. Similarities between the Concorde and the Tu-144 are easily explained by similar environmental parameters and technical challenges. Internally, the planes are as different as day or night.

Oct. 25, 2016, 12:15 p.m. #
cm

@Noel thanks! great info.

Oct. 25, 2016, 12:38 p.m. #
Danny Dutton

@Noel,

Additionally, there's no proof that the Concorde was ever used in a military fashion. The French already had the Dassault Mirage IV, capable of Mach 2.2 (faster than the Concorde). The British considered building their own supersonic bomber as well but ended up purchasing the Blackburn Buccaneer and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The only thing that suggests at all the idea of a militarized Concorde was a painting by some guy and some plastic models that were built based on the painting. There were plenty of existing supersonic bombers such that retrofitting a consumer airliner for strategic bombing missions would be very costly and might not even work. You don't design a passenger plane to hold missiles under the wings just like you don't design a military plane for comfort.

Oct. 26, 2016, 6 p.m. #