Concorde's name reflects the development agreement between the United Kingdom and France. Although 20 airframes were built, in the UK any or all of them are unusually known simply as ‘The Concorde’ as if only one existed.
The origins of the project date back to the early 1950’s when Sir Arnold Hall, Director of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), asked noted Welsh Aeronautical Engineer Morien Morgan to form a committee to study the potential of supersonic transport (SST). The group met for the first time in February 1954 and delivered their first report in April of the following year.
Their recommendation outlined a configuration that looked very similar to an enlarged Avro 730 although the report also concluded that a 'short wingspan produced very little lift at low speeds and this would result in extremely long takeoff runs, frighteningly high landing speeds and would require enormous engine power to lift off from existing runways'. Based on this rather disheartening outcome, the group reported that in their opinion the concept of an SST was totally unfeasible.
Soon after however, scientists at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough published a series of new reports on a revolutionary 'wing planform', known in the UK as the 'slender-delta concept'. These reports changed almost overnight the entire nature and outlook of supersonic design. Although the 'delta' had already been used on aircraft prior to this point, these designs used planforms that were not remarkably different from the swept wing aircraft of the same wingspan, considered by the earlier committee.
On 1st October 1956, the Ministry of Supply asked Morgan to form a new study group, the Supersonic Transport Advisory Committee (STAC) with the explicit goal of developing a practical SST design and finding industry partners to build it.
In 1959, a study contract was awarded to Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Bristol Aeroplane Company for preliminary designs based on the slender delta concept. These were initially developed as the HSA1000 and the Bristol 198. Meanwhile, Armstrong Whitworth also responded with their own internal design (based on the M-Wing) and specifically targeted at the lower-speed shorter-range category.
Even at this early time, both the STAC group and the government were looking for major partners to develop the designs. In September 1959 Hawker Siddeley approached Lockheed in the USA whilst following the creation of the British Aircraft Corporation in 1960, the Bristol team immediately started talks with US giants Boeing, General Dynamics and Douglas Aircraft as well as Sud Aviation in France.
Political and economic concerns in France had led to their own SST design contest which had been won by the Sud Aviation Super-Caravelle. In April 1960, Sud’s Technical Director was sent to discuss a partnership with BAC Design Team who were surprised to find that Sud had designed a very similar aircraft to their initial plans. During the months that followed both sets of engineers found that they had much to agree on... For instance, the French had admitted that they had no modern large jet engines available to they had already decided they would buy a British design anyway.
After much political and economic posturing, the Development Committee negotiated an 'International Treaty' between the 2 countries rather than relying on any form of agreement between 2 commercial companies and on 29th November 1962, a draft treaty was signed.
Neither company had any real experience in airframes required to travel at Mach 2 so it was soon agreed that the choice of an ogee-shaped wing was going to be the right one. In fact, the only real design disagreements were over the size and range and whilst the UK Team still focused on a 150-passenger design for use on transatlantic routes, the French were deliberately avoiding this specification entirely as it was considered economically unviable.
Nevertheless, this proved not to be the barrier it might seem as many common components could be used in both designs and cost estimates gradually became agreed. The teams continued to meet through 1961 and it soon became clear that the two aircraft would be considerably more similar in spite of different range and seating arrangements of each. Eventually, a single design emerged that differed primarily in just fuel load although the chosen Bristol Siddeley Olympus engines (developed for use in the TSR-2) allowed either design to be powered by just four engines.
Initially, the aircraft were named Concord (without an 'e') in the UK and Concorde (with an 'e') in France although this led to uproar when Minister for Technology Tony Benn announced that he would order the spelling back to Concorde - Things calmed down a little when he added that the Government considered that the suffixed 'e' represented "Excellence, England, Europe and Entente (Cordiale)."
In February 1965 construction of two prototypes finally began with Concorde 001 being built by Aerospatiale (formerley SUD Aviation) at Toulouse and Concorde 002 was built by BAC at Filton.
Concorde 001 made its first test flight from Toulouse on 2nd March 1969, piloted by André Turcat and subsequently went supersonic on 1st October of the same year.
002, the first UK-built Concorde, flew from BAC Filton to RAF Fairford on 9th April 1969, piloted by Brian Trubshaw.
Over the next 10 years a total of 20 aircraft were built in France and the United Kingdom although 6 of these were prototypes and development aircraft.
After nearly 7 years of testing, development, route proving and an extensive sales programme, scheduled flights began on 21st January 1976 on the London to Bahrain and Paris to Rio (via Dakar) routes. Of the 14 customer aircraft 7 each were delivered to Air France and British Airways and with only 20 aircraft finally being built, the development of Concorde represented a substantial economic loss on both sides of the channel.
Both Air France and British Airways received considerable government subsidies in order to purchase the aircraft and the final overal cost of the project was said to be in the region on £1.3 billion.
Certainly one of the biggest hurdles was when the US Congress banned Concorde landings in the USA, mainly due to residents protest over sonic booms and which prevented the launch on the coveted North Atlantic routes. The US Secretary of Transportation eventually gave limited permission for Concorde services to Washington and both Air France and British Airways simultaneously began service to Dulles International Airport on 24th May 1976.
Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners. Over time the aircraft became profitable when it found a customer base willing to pay for flights, on what was for most of its career, the fastest commercial aircraft in the world. The aircraft is regarded by many as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel.
Despite orders being placed by 17 different airlines for 74 aircraft, over the next 27 years Concorde only flew commercially in just 4 individual airline liveries with Singapore Airlines and Braniff International Airways both operating just one individual aircraft on a short term lease.
Concorde would regularly operate at over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h at cruise altitude) with seating configurations for between 92 to 128 passengers and, with the possible exception of the Tupolov-144, was the only supersonic passenger carrying airliner.
Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the type's only crash in Paris in 2000 and following the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Centre on 11th September 2001. Added to this the remaining in-service aircraft faced multi-million pound overhauls for which the airlines could not prove a financially-viable business case. This, combined with a decision by Airbus (the engineering design support organisation) to discontinue its maintenance support, left the airlines with only one decision.
The distribution and disposal of remaining aircraft was overseen by the airlines in consultation with original aircraft manufacturers to ensure that they were all placed in noteworthy locations and with the correct facilities to ensure their continued availability to the public as an example of just what can be achieved when ‘great minds think alike’.
BAC Concorde Image GalleryThe images on this site are the property of BAE Systems (Copyright © 2016 BAE Systems. All rights reserved)
BAC Concorde Air France departing JFK
Concorde 002 on apron at night
BAC Concorde SUD Aviation prototype 001 first take off 2nd March 1969
BAC Concorde head on view during take-off
BAC Concorde G-BOAF arriving at Farnborough Air show 1980
Concorde 002 maiden flight 9th April 1969
|Powerplant||4 × Rolls-Royce / SNECMA Olympus 593 Mk610 afterburning turbojects|
|Span||84 ft 0 in (25.6 m)|
|Maximum Weight||Taxiing - 412,000 lb (187,000 kg)|
|Capacity||3 (2 pilots and 1 flight engineer) 92–120 passengers|
|Maximum Speed||Mach 2.04 (≈1,354 mph, 2,179 km/h, 1,176 knots) at cruise altitude|
|Range||3,900 nmi (4,488.04 mi, 7,222.8 km)|
20 (6 non-airline)
|F-BTSD||Museum of Air and Space, Le Bourget, France
|F-BVFA||Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia USA
|F-BVFB||Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum, Germany
|F-BVFC||Airbus Factory, Toulouse, France
|F-BVFF||Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France
|F-WTSA||Musée Delta, Orly Airport, Paris, France
|F-WTSB||Airbus Factory, Toulouse, France
|F-WTSS||Museum of Air and Space, Le Bourget, France
|G-AXDN||Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England, UK
|G-BBDG||Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey, England, UK
|G-BOAA||National Museum of Flight, East Lothian, Scotland, UK
|G-BOAB||British Airways Engineering, London Heathrow Airport|
|G-BOAC||Manchester Airport Viewing Park, England, UK
|G-BOAD||Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York, USA
|G-BOAE||Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados
|G-BOAF||Bristol Filton Airport, Bristol, England, UK
|G-BOAG||Museum of Flight, Seattle, USA
|G-BSST||Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, England, UK
British Airways (www.britishairways.com)
Brooklands Museum - Weybridge (www.brooklandsmuseum.com)
National Museum of Flight - East Fortune (www.nms.ac.uk)
Museum of Flight - Seattle (www.museumofflight.org.uk)
Fleet Air Arm - Yeovilton (www.fleetairarm.com)
Intrepid Air & Space Museum - New York (www.intrepidmuseum.org)
Imperial War Museum - Duxford (www.iwm.org.uk)
Bristol Aeroplane Collection - Filton (www.bristolaero.org.uk)
The Definitive Concorde Website (www.concordesst.com)
Or email: Heritage@baesystems.com