The leg­endary Con­corde was raised between 1976 and 2003. Asso­ci­at­ed with glitz, glam­our, and speed, he has become a true icon of the air. So why is this unusu­al air­craft not used in busi­ness today? In this arti­cle, we will talk about what hap­pened to the world’s first super­son­ic air­lin­er.


First takeoff of the Concorde

Cre­at­ed in the 1960s, the Con­corde was designed to bring peo­ple togeth­er as well as to trav­el between con­ti­nents. The poten­tial for com­mer­cial trav­el­ers was clear. Routes such as cross­ing the Atlantic are com­plet­ed twice as fast at super­son­ic speeds. The Con­corde was the air­craft that made those dreams come true, tak­ing pas­sen­gers from New York to Lon­don in three hours.

flight attendants

France and Britain came togeth­er, signed a “con­sent” and gave the idea a name in the process. BAC (British Air­craft Cor­po­ra­tion) and Aerospa­tiale were respon­si­ble for design, along with Rolls Royce and SNECMA. The Con­corde design­ers had a nose for inno­va­tion. The plane was spe­cial in many ways. It was the first super­son­ic com­mer­cial air­craft.

Con­corde takes off from the run­way on its first flight. His nose will become an icon­ic iden­ti­fy­ing fea­ture:

first takeoff

It is the point­ed, adjustable nose that is what peo­ple most think of when they think of the Con­corde. The idea was that it could be low­ered on the run­way for max­i­mum vis­i­bil­i­ty and then lift­ed into the air for smooth and aero­dy­nam­ic results.

The engine was an Olym­pus 593 tur­bo­jet engine, which was devel­oped by Rolls Royce and SNECMA engi­neers.

supersonic aircraft

Four engines pow­ered the Con­corde using reheat tech­nol­o­gy, adding fuel to the last stage of the engine. This gave it the extra pow­er it need­ed to take off and tran­si­tion to super­son­ic flight.

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The dou­ble delta wing helped the 200-odd-meter Con­corde to achieve such results. Its shape proved to be deci­sive for break­ing the sound bar­ri­er. The Con­corde was the first air­craft to con­trol its engine intake via a com­put­er. This allowed the air­craft to reg­u­late the flow of air enter­ing its engines. The lin­er was mov­ing at a speed of Mach 2.4, which is twice the speed of sound.

Despite its bril­liant over­all design, the Con­corde expe­ri­enced many dif­fi­cul­ties in keep­ing aloft. The­o­ry is great, but prac­tice has a habit of bring­ing things back to earth. For many air­lines, the lin­er has become a lia­bil­i­ty due to its sta­tus as a fuel eater. The oil cri­sis in 1973, three years before Con­corde went com­mer­cial, drove up prices.

concorde on the runway

An attrac­tive air­lin­er has become a sym­bol of pres­tige. It seemed like Con­corde was built for exclu­siv­i­ty, not effi­cien­cy. The plane had 100 seats, which is not much by today’s stan­dards. The ini­tial inter­est of a few com­pa­nies dwin­dled to a cou­ple of big names — British Air­ways and Air France. They had sev­en Con­cordes out of 20 built.

In addi­tion, the Con­corde rep­re­sent­ed high­er flight stan­dards. But there was a prob­lem: noise. The super­son­ic jour­ney includ­ed a deaf­en­ing son­ic boom. The big-nosed beau­ty was forced to fly over the water to dis­turb only the fish. Even then, locals com­plained about the noise as planes took off and land­ed from places like Heathrow.

Air France Flight 4590 crash

An Air France 4590 caught fire on take­off from Charles de Gaulle Air­port in Paris. It fell in the sub­urb of Gones­sa, where 113 peo­ple trag­i­cal­ly died.

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The wreck­age of Con­corde Flight 4590 after the crash in Gonesse, France, July 25, 2000:

fragments of the plane after the crash

What caused the fire? The tire report­ed­ly burst, punc­tur­ing the fuel tank. The design was changed, but by 2003 the Con­chord fleet had land­ed and was no longer tak­ing off. This hor­rif­ic acci­dent did not destroy Con­cord, but is con­sid­ered one of the con­tribut­ing fac­tors to its clo­sure. If the crash of 2000 did­n’t end Con­corde, what did?

Relat­ed top­ic: Mys­te­ri­ous plane crash­es

Why did the Concorde stop flying?

Ulti­mate­ly, the Con­corde was both ahead of the curve and at the same time ham­pered by var­i­ous 20th-cen­tu­ry issues. The plane ate fuel, was too noisy, and the clien­tele was pres­ti­gious, but not numer­ous due to the high cost of tick­ets. One rea­son was Wall Street’s post‑9/11 cut­backs in trav­el bud­gets and the sharp rise in main­te­nance costs.

aircraft in the museum

Despite all of the above, the air­craft leaves many hap­py mem­o­ries of more ambi­tious times. The hope is that super­son­ic trav­el will make a come­back in some form. Will the same ele­gant and mem­o­rable lin­er as the Con­corde ever be cre­at­ed? Hard­ly…

You can see the plane at the Intre­pid Muse­um in New York, about which there is a sep­a­rate arti­cle on