Concorde, the world's first supersonic passenger aircraft, made its first flight ten years ago. The?
Concorde, the world's first supersonic passenger aircraft, made its first flight ten years ago. The anniversary coincides almost to the day when the last Concorde to be built in Britain was ready to roll off the production line (on 2 March).
SYNOPSIS: It was from here, Toulouse in the South of France that the first Concorde took to the air. The date, March the second, 1969. It was the outcome of six and a half years of joint effort by the manufacturers, the British Aircraft Corporation and the French company Aerospatiale. But it was to be another seven years before the first paying passenger travelled aboard the aircraft.
Ten years after that flight the last Concordes are being built in the U.K. and France. When finished, 14 of the 16 production Concordes will be in airline service. It has been a reliable aircraft ... nine out of ten flights have started within 15 minutes of schedule. It has made more than 5,600 flights.
The fares are higher than on conventional aircraft, but about 300,000 people have paid for the experience of flying at 1,350 miles an hour (2,172 kilometres an hour).
But there have been problems, like black smoke from an early model. Demonstrations persisted, like this one in the United States. Major complaints have been about noise levels, especially the sonic boom that trails Concorde when it flies faster than sound.
In 1976 the first regular airline flights were started. The Air France service to Rio de Janeiro takes seven hours, half the usual flying time.
At the same time, British Airways began scheduled services to the Middle East Gulf state of Bahrain. The Emir of Bahrain had inspected the aircraft when it made a promotion visit four years earlier.
It was November 1977 before Concorde could fly to New York. Protects from environmentalists and two years of legal argument delayed the start of the service.
A month later, services to Singapore began, but they were soon halted when the Malaysian Government objected to Concorde flying over its territory. Last month (February) the Malaysian government allowed the service to resume.
Five Concordes remain unsold. China has signed a preliminary agreement to buy three. But the only sales so far are to the principal airlines of France and Britain where the governments have paid large sums to help Concorde's development.
The only rival to Concorde has been the Soviet built Tupolev 144. It started the first commercial supersonic service three months before Concorde, carrying freight. A passenger service was stopped last year (1978) after only ten months.
For Concorde though, demand is growing. Technical improvements as a result of flying experience have increased its efficiency. Production is coming to an end but there are hopes of a bigger and faster second generation of Concordes, perhaps built with the cooperation of the British, French and United States aircraft industries.