Great Aircraft of History: Concorde
The Concorde is one of aviation history’s iconic aircraft. In service from 1976 to 2003, the plane proved that high-altitude, supersonic passenger flights were possible. Here are ten interesting facts about the world’s only supersonic passenger aircraft, presented by Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology:
- Third Choice: Concorde was the product of a British-French collaboration, with the official agreement signed on November 29, 1962. However, the British, who initiated the project, originally tried to interest the Americans and the Germans before turning to the French. The Germans offered them a flat “no”, as their engineering and manufacturing industries were still recovering from the Second World War , while the Americans were more eager to develop their own SST (supersonic transport).
- We’d Like to Buy a Vowel: The name of the aircraft was chosen to celebrate the friendly cooperation between the two nations. However, for some time the British press and British project members persisted in calling it the “Concord” in print, refusing to attach the extra French “e” to the end.
- Fear of Flying: During the development of Concorde, many commentators feared its high altitude (56,000 feet—about 11,000 feet higher than ordinary jetliners) would put passengers at risk of solar radiation exposure. It was suggested that any female flight attendants would have to be above child-bearing age to avoid being permanently sterilized. Obviously, these fears proved unfounded, but the flight deck had radiation detectors fitted that would alert pilots to unacceptable levels, so they could take the plane to a lower, safer altitude.
- Look Out for the Boom: Extensive research was placed into protecting people and property under Concorde flight paths from the effects of the “sonic boom”. Extremist critics worried that windows, people, and animals were all at risk. While the boom was a genuine noise pollution issue, no damage was ever reported as a result of Concorde’s sonic boom.
- Scientific Research Vessel: On June 30, 1973, Concorde provided astronomers with the longest-ever view of a solar eclipse. It flew them along the path of a total eclipse for a full 80 minutes, allowing for many new observations about the nature of this phenomenon to be made.
- Lapping a 747: How fast was Concorde compared to a 747? On June 17, 1974, a Concorde took off from Logan Airport in Boston, bound for Paris. At the same time, A 747 was taking off from Paris, bound for Boston. The Concorde landed in Paris, spent an hour on the ground, and then flew back to Boston. It landed 11 minutes before the 747. It went to Paris and back faster than the 747 could fly from Paris to Boston once.
- Technologically Advanced: The Concorde featured the first carbon-fiber brakes and fly-by-wire capabilities on a passenger aircraft. It was also capable of slowing down by 1,000 miles an hour within a space of 15 feet.
- An Exclusive Club: According to the BBC, there are more ex-astronauts than there are ex-Concorde pilots.
- All the Moves: Former Concorde Pilot Jock Lowe told the BBC that he and other pilots were able to execute barrel rolls with Concorde during test flights. In his opinion, the plane would also have been capable of loop-the-loops—but they were never allowed to try it out.
- The Drooping Nose: The angle of Concorde’s nose cone allowed for a super-streamlined shape in flight, but presented visibility issues for pilots when landing. This problem lay behind the US’s initial refusal to allow Concorde to land at American airports. As a work-around, Marshall Aerospace designed a nose and visor that could be dropped to up to 12.5° from horizontal, allowing the pilot to see what he was doing during taxiing, take-off, and landing maneuvers.