What it felt like to fly Concorde

The Anglo-French Concorde was the height of aviation sophistication, flying between London and New York in just two hours. (AFP/Getty Images)
The Anglo-French Concorde was the height of aviation sophistication, flying between London and New York in just two hours. (AFP/Getty Images)

It was the ultimate airliner. From 1976 until its retirement in 2003, few things in life signified luxury quite so much as a flight on Concorde. It could whisk around 100 people – paying over £4,000 a seat – for a two-hour trans-Atlantic trip at speeds faster than that of a rifle bullet. It was a remarkable achievement of engineering.

The whole aircraft was revolutionary, and it presented unique challenges to the designers and test pilots. The Concorde’s delta wing design borrowed the form of much smaller jet fighter aircraft in order to achieve its dazzling speed, while the airliner had a moving cockpit that sloped forward for landing, and assumed that classic needle-nosed shape as it sped towards its cruising speed of Mach 2.

Concorde did turn out to be a favourite, at least for those who could afford it. Passengers may have enjoyed a choice of four different champagnes to wash down a sumptuous three-course meal, but if you think Concorde’s interior was the height of sophistication, think again. Compared to your average Airbus, Concorde was decidedly cramped.

The airliner first flew in 1969, after an ambitious joint engineering project between Britian and France. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)
The airliner first flew in 1969, after an ambitious joint engineering project between Britian and France. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Concorde was retired in 2003, a few years after the fleet’s sole fatal accident, when one craft crashed soon after taking off from Paris. However, the legacy of the needle-nosed airliner lives on. Engineers are striving to develop supersonic passenger transport that will finally deliver on the promise of a London to New York trip in an hour, though in a less-expensive, less-polluting, less-noisy fashion.

But before we start dreaming of this far-off future, let us enjoy these cutting-edge moments from our aeronautical past. And let’s not forget that it could do more than just fly very fast in a straight line;  Concorde pilot Brian Walpole explains how to pull off a Top Gun-like manoeuvre in the video below.

Edited Version (Originally appeared on BBC.com)

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