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The Last Supersonic Flight of the Concorde Was 10 Years Ago Today

We were promised supersonic flights. Today, we stay well below the speed of sound. We were promised transatlantic flights from New York to London in 3 and a half hours. Today, that flight takes us 7 hours. We were promised the future of flying. That future hasn't existed for 10 years. The last flight of the Concorde was on October 24, 2003, we've been flying on slow-haul planes since. ( More...

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It was a sad day indeed when Concorde flew no more. I was proud and happy to fly in the bird in 1981 from LHR to JFK. The pre flight experience was luxurious and I was excited to board and sit in my seat near the front. The seats were small, yes, but I spent much of the flight in the cockpit (allowed then!!) and the crew were kind enough to explain the procedures and flight operations. To a non pilot this was heaven indeed. Sadly I had to return to my seat for food service as the narrow galley space would not allow passage during food operations. I did understand what the Mach 2 sign meant and was disappointed that there was no shaking when we sped through the sound barrier, it was very uneventful and silent. I will never forget this wonderful experience and am so glad I paid up the fee to travel on her. Wish she were still around to add some class and pleasure to commercial flying today!
Pete Martinez 1
Then you'd probably appreciate high resolution 360 degree (plus) cockpit view
Thank you, I do remember the view. Especially the darkest of blue skies and curved horizon. Seeing this now I wonder where I found space to hang out. LOL!
Wonderful piece of machinery
Yvon Dionne 3
The Concord flew in to Windsor Airport YQG a few occasions many years ago. When she arrived it caused quite a stir. Traffic backed up on expressway, people gawking and yes the odd rear ender occured. I thought she was an awesome bird!! Saw her land and depart from Philly as well wow was that cool. I still feel it was a sad day when the aircraft was retired.
ChrisMD123 1
Wow - when did Concorde visit PHL? I'd love to see pictures.
Yvon Dionne 1
I'm going to guess I think it was between 1985 and 1990. I was waiting to board a flight to DTW. As luck would have it no camera on that day. Apparently the Concord wsa suppose to land in New York but bad weather forced it to divert to PHL.
ChrisMD123 1
Ah, makes sense. I always pity the poor souls stuck out on the pad waiting for weather to clear at JFK, but it's fun to see some different airlines at PHL.
It was a wonderful bird but it just wasn't a proactical aircraft. The vast majority of us could never afford to fly on her and so the grand lady is sadly nothing but a historical novelty. A large scale proof of concept as it were. I look forward to the day that we see 747's, 777's and A380's replaced by practical (read affordable)supersonic long haul aircraft
Ric Wernicke 2
I think it is possible to by-pass supersonic planes for long haul. The technology exists for passenger spacecraft that could deliver one hour or less point to point transfer in a delta wing vehicle. There are some difficult technical, social, and financial obstacles, but just a century ago a 17 hour journey to Singapore was impossible.
Correct. SST isn't super critical right now. It's just nice to have. It would be nice to see the state of the art take a massive leap forward in a way that benefits the majority rather than the minority though.
PhotoFinish 1
I've had many am opportunity to see the bird in subsonic flight, often on approach, and to inspect her from below, touch the landing gear and jump up to try to touch her underside.

The Concorde was a technological show piece, but the benefits didn't line up with the cost. As much as some may speak of the SST fares as disposable income to the passengers, there was an upper practical limit to the fares. If the fares were raised too high, much traffic would just switch to more comfortable first class on conventional intercontinental airliners.

SST will likely be superseded by a newer generation of technological advancement. There is much research into providing private suborbital space flight. It is not a stretch to imagine that these new technologies will filter down to a commercial point to point airline service that would land intentionally at a different place than departure.

So the progression is
1. ridiculously expensive sub-orbital space tourism
2. Ridiculously expensive superfast suborbital
commercial space flights
3. Network of expensive (but less ridiculously so) scheduled suborbital commercial flights all over the world [more expensive than Concorde and first class but connecting major world cities at previously unheard of times].

If the cost of these futuristic flights ever ever drop so wuch to approach the cost of first class on a conventional airliner, the entire commercial airline industry will have to rethink their model. Many major international airlines are currently in the business of moving first and business class seats around their network. The economy seats are brought along to defray the cost of the flights, and make a portion of the income more predictable.

But without the subsidy of premium seating, there will be fewer planes flying with fewer economy seats, or the economy seats will be more expensive as they should a larger portion of their actual cost.
PhotoFinish 1
I wouldn't expect price parity between suborbital commercial flights and first class commercial fares for a long time.

But the initiation of suborbital commercial scheduled service probably won't be too far behind private suborbital space tourism flights. It will probably be ridiculously expensive for a while. But intercontinental flights measuring in minutes instead of hours would justifiably command the premium that SST could not for only a marginal improvement in times.
I was at the Orlando IAP in 1982 when the British and French Concordes landed on adjacent runways simultaniously. They were carrying the delegates who officially opened the French and British pavilions at World Showcase which was a part of EPCOT. It was a sight I will never forget. It's too bad the fatal accident and cost of operation hastened its demise.Is there a Concorde on display in the United States?
Robert Carver 2
The Seattle Museum of Flight has one on display. I took a walk through it and was amazed at just how small it was inside. A very cool museum.
Derek Thomas 1
An Air France is on display out at the Smithsonian Museum at Dulles Airport. Spent a day there a couple of years ago - AWESOME museum!
There is one in New York City in the Intrepid Museum
I was fortunate enough to fly Speed-Bird One three times. Each was as impressive as the others. The quality of the crew and service were beyond compare. Being invited up to the cockpit was fantastic. The food and the service were five star!

It's a sad note that she was grounded without hope of redesign to correct her flaws, and no successor in sight.
Last flight says it all for a long time and counting.
Roland Dent 1
See the list below WALLACE? The tire problems...maybe now you can see why I get kinda agitated. A division of Cooper Tires USA called AVON here in the UK could have easily built them a superb tire at the low production numbers needed.,
BUT NO..the SOBs plotical ass lickers were happy to let things go. I get annoyed.
Politics is full of ass kissing suck ups.
I was lucky enough to fly on her on 6th June 1981 at the Scottish Airshow at Prestwick. Went to Edinburgh to see her last flight arriving and then leaving for Heathrow. I often watch it on Youtube, still brings a tear to my eye, she should still be flying. East Fortune Airfield is worth a visit to see her. Went on the first day the exhibition opened.
Richard Ashby 2
Hi, although I never flew on her. I did meet Brian Trubshaw, and did see her fly on her first flight out of Filton, and her last flight home. I was lucky to see her fly on a number of occasions. I was also present at Yeovilton when there were two on the tarmac with another on a fly past. The only time there were ever three planes together.

The BA Concorde is still at Filton. Although little known there is also a prototype there, 'tucked' away in a disused hanger.

At a Paris air show I was also fortunate to see the Russian version 'Concordski'. This copy was identical.
Bernie20910 2
Growing up in the shadow of JFK during the 60's and 70's I got to watch the transition from the Connies to the 07, to the 47 and the Concorde. They were all wonderful machines to me.
Roland Dent 1
Jason Feldman 2
unlike the Concorde, time flies :(

I miss her

ZhaohanDong 2
Someone should make a new supersonic plane.

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Psychedelic seats and all?

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I didn't know Braniff pilots flew them. Congrats on being in a pretty elite group.
BA required one of their Captains in the cockpit with them to DC for insurance.
I didn't know you were with Braniff, by any chance did you fly with Bill Blaugher??? I got my LR-JET type and ATP seaplane with him... One hell of a stick and rudder guy!!!
Tom Trainor 2
I would have thought that ALL land vehicles in the U.S. and hopefully the world would have been electric by 1990, along with most energy provided by safe nuclear reactors - fusion of course. But no. We will not stop until the last drop of oil and the last whiff of gas is gone. Why? $$$ profits. Only now is the tech starting to really move. To me, the Concorde represented a too close to the edge of the technology plate vehicle that required somewhat less maintenance than the space shuttle. Just 150 years ago, crossing the Atlantic used to take 7 weeks, or was it months? Oh dear, seven hours? It used to be 12+ noisy, vibrating and bouncy (and scary) hours on a turboprop.
Yes, it was a marvelous and beautiful aircraft, but too impractical.
999 speed indicator
john mason 1
yes it was an adventure in aviation. i was priviledged to see the sun rise in the west whilst at mach 2 and 60000 ft. looked after by people who cared. Never to be forgotten.
Well said.
I have some questions regarding "The Last Supersonic Flight 10 Years Ago Today", which was yesterday :). According to Google it shows November 26th. Was yesterday the last BA revenue flight? When was AF's last revenue flight? Was November 26th the last flight ever of any Concorde because it was the last flight flying to it's final resting place, like a museum?
I had the unique opportunity, 25 years ago, to fly o/b Air France Concorde, from JFK to CDG! I can tell everyone that it was a fabulous experience, and now, it is a great and beautiful souvenir that remains etched in my mind! Many tks to Britain's British Aircraft Corporation and France's Aérospatiale !
Actually, the seats were more like DC-9 first class seats, not huge, but not cramped either. Arriving London in the early evening as opposed to early morning or late at night made jet lag a mere memory. And I only flew it once, alas.
钟 宜君 1
BA2,miss her
How time flies!
I'm in Central CA so it might be worth a side trip to Seattle when I visit my condo in Eugene.
Robert Carver 1
I highly recommend the museum if you are a fan of aerospace. The Shuttle Flight Simulator was the highlight of my visit there. The Concorde was icing on the cake.
Oscar Foster 1
I remembered when the Concord made booming sounds on its Engines just before it took off last 2003.It sounds like an exploding as if the Engines can't burn the fuel on its after burner.That was in LHR.
Paul Ahkolik 1
It'd be great if I could read at least one UNBIASED article on this grand old gal.
the Concorde and its Tupolev cousin are on public display at Sinsheim Museum, about 150km from Frankfurt
Hi Phil, I bet you have some lovely memories that you will keep forever, lucky you. I still have my souvenirs from my flight back in 1981. It was truly a beautiful aircraft.
It was a bad turn of events for the concorde because of the crash and 9/11 as well
The DC-10 metal fragment from a prior departure that downed the SST was only the last nail in the coffin. If that plane was still flying today it would have the required safety precautionary measures updated to today's standards and I'm sure much more economically feasible engines to remain a viable aviation concept. As I understand, the required pre flight inspection for debris of the runway to be used before that flight was not performed.
Ric Wernicke 1
One problem never fully addressed with Concorde was that of supplemental oxygen for passengers in the event of sudden depressurization. Thankfully it never occurred, but the drop down yellow masks and oxygen generators do not perform at Concorde cruise altitude. The company line was that in an emergency a rapid descent would bring the plane down to a safe altitude. Folks that is a 50,000 foot dive. You'd be dealing with a cabin full of hypoxia and frostbite victims.
armoredcav 1
Well, if we can't go fast then lets at least go affordable. We need Boeing and the European boys to cooperate and develop an engine with higher thrust and substantially lower operating cost. Economical is almost as good as going Mach 1.
I think the Concorde was not economical in part due to the restrictions in the US. Noise was used as excuse to exclude it from airports that would have helped make other legs beneficial. The Concorde noise (subsonic) was similar to that of the DC-9. In the 70's most of the complaints around Dulles were from people living 40 miles out and not those in the airport vicinity.
Walt Stoufer 1
I don't know. I read this and as a 71 year old retired engineer. I just scratch my head. "We" weren't "promised" anything, as the article contends. The fact is "we" individually did a 30 second cost/benefit analysis and concluded rationally that saving 4 hours flying transatlantic wasn't worth 2 grand.
Secondly, a fan jet face inlet velocity routinely sees speeds greater than 0.5 Mach, but less than Mach 1.0.
We've collectively reached an aerodynamic plateau. All airliners look more or less the same because physics dictates it. Mach 0.82 is the mean optimal speed. We're against a brick wall and only an entirely different undiscovered technology will speed things up. As for me, I'd like to take a train somewhere!
Oh-la-la Madame la Concorde!
During my hotel & catering training at Shannon (EINN)75 to 79, I got to know all the security guards and Duty people(by their first names) at their offices there. Only 2(!) doors separated me from the ramp, with my camera... Be it SU Il-62's on their way to Havana, El-Al in for refueling, Amin Dada on his way back from a UN session in NYC(when he was still a respected man...)After my school hours I watched everything, listened to everything...
A nod & Greeting to yer man at the Duty Office, a smile too and I was outside on the ramp...Then one day they told me that the Concorde was coming to town for crew training...
When? Can I get aboard? "Yes, Gerry with a few of your classmates"!Wow! Yes, so on the 20-21.03.1978 we boarded for the first of two sessions (60 minutes each)of "touch 'n goes" aboard F-BVFA.With only 12 passengers, no baggage, a light fuel load, I can not only imagine the TOW... During rotation I was crammed into the last square centimetre of my seat's ass-end...I few week's later I was flying EI's B747 EI-ASJ from SNN to DUB, and had the feeling that she'd get never get her wheels off the ground(F-BVFA's memory was too fresh in my memory...) Those RR-Olympus engines and their power is simply overwhelming.
I say "au-revoir" Madame Concorde, that your memories remain in the minds of many.Gerry
Larry Ellis 1
I worked in Edmonton Center when the Concorde destined for display in Seattle reduced speed to subsonic levels due to regulations approaching 60 north latitude. To see the radar groundspeed readout drop from 1000+ knots to approximately 500 was dramatic and somewhat sad.
Mark Lansdell 1
If I remember correctly one of the Concords uued to land at IAD every day around 1300 every day. Operations would halt on Baltimore and eyes would turn to the sky looking for the source of the noise and watch her on approach. I'm told BWI was an alternate and she would land once a month or so, but I never got over to see her. I'm told she only had a thimble full of fuel left when she landed at IAD, so little it required a waiver. But I never confirmed that.
Now you tell me. LOL! Hope it is not true about the fuel.
Unfortunately, I only ever saw the Concorde once, in flight, on my way to work. I was in my car on the 495 eastbound, and saw it on approach to KJFK, looping around to rwy 22R.

Still, it's not something I'll ever forget.

Damned shame no one ever came up with a Concorde II.
PhotoFinish 1
Maybe all that space flight R&D going right now will yield some interestingly fast yet equally super expensive intercontinental flights.

Flights from the opposite end of the globe might measure in minutes rather than hours/days (for the exclusive few, both capable and willing to pay the huge premium for it).
Tyre is the correct spelling for tire in the United Kingdom.
Ric Wernicke 2
Tyre is the spelling used in the UK, but it is far from correct! ;)
Ric Wernicke -3
The Concorde was an oversold adventure in aviation. The only thing it ever did was shave a few hours off over the water flights. The interior was cramped, and most had a French "Marquis de Sade" seat package to torture your backside. The service on the ground was actually pretty good, but in the bird it had only slightly less vibration than a DC3 with a propeller nick. The only sense of speed was the Mach indicator on the front bulkhead. Most of the passengers had no understanding of what it meant.

I'd rather have a First Class suite on a 74 or 77 than Concorde. I could arrive in Europe relaxed and rested. The time saving is just not that important to me.
Roland Dent 3
Ric..they type of customer this attracted the ticket price was about as important to their disposable income as a cab ride in NYC.
Ric Wernicke 0
Roland, the history of aviation is replete with ticket prices that seem ridiculous at the time. I had no argument with the price of the ticket, rather the comfort. Imagine all the cabs in London went absent and were replaced with Bangkok Tuk Tuk's. Same superlative service, but... That was Concorde. I know you thumb clickers can't stand the truth.
Roland Dent 4
I can see your point Ric. But we must remember this was a 1965 design and essentially all of the Concordes were icons. The type of people who rode this machine loved every minute of it. The short flying time made up for any discrepency.

The Concorde was not a big bird and as with all light weight machines..they can get the jiggles. The bird was loved on both sides of the Atlantic. Technicians in KJFK almost had fist fights as to who got the job of looking the bird over.
John Danzy 3
What truth? Yes, YOU rather fly first class on a 747 or 777 but not the Concorde's clientele. A lot of those people commuted to work. And most didn't even care to know that the flight cost them 10K; they rather have a 3 hour commute than 7.

I'm gonna go ahead and bet that you cannot afford a transatlantic first class ticket.
Ric Wernicke 1
Well, a couple dozen Concorde boarding passes say you lost the bet.
I fly Wardair 9 hours non stop to Vancouver. Everyone was treated first class. I had a seat upstairs in the jumbo jet, very comfortable indead.

Still glad i had the experience of a life time in the "bird". There was another sense of speed and that was the take off, anyone lucky enough to have experienced a fly would know what i mean, and yes i did know what the Mach meter was all about.
siriusloon 4
But it was to some people, who -- incredible as this must be to you -- had different priorities from yours.
but to a lot of people it is.
Kenneth Morrow -2
No surprise. $10,000 for a seat the size of a regional jet seat. 3 hours at 1.2 Mach is still 3 cramped hours.
Martin Haisman -5
Oh boohoo. Subsonic is where the money is until they can figure out cheap travel through the mesosphere. I bet the will not promise that one. A lot of misinformation about the Concorde accident and tyre blowout history e.g

1979 burst tyre 6-wing damage hydraulic servo valve and landing gear

1979 Washington burst tyre 5 destruction of wheel, tanks 2,5,and 6 penetrated, hydraulic, and electrical circuits torn from aircraft and engine 2 damaged

1979 Washington Burst tyre 6 damage engine 2-intake and rubber marks/denting on wing.

1979 burst tyre 3 engine 3 damaged landing gear damaged

1979 Burst tyre 4 Wheels n° 7 and 8 damaged and engines 3 and 4

1979 Burst tyres 5, 6, 7, and 8 electrical failure and wheel deflector

1980 Burst tyre 8 braking systems jam, hydraulic system failure and wheel

1980 Burst tyre 8 Burst Take-off damage engine 3, gear door and tyre deflector

1981 Burst tyre 2 Engine 1 & 2 damaged

1981 burst tyre 5 damage engine 2 and gear

1981 Burst tyres 1 & 2, tank 5 penetrated, hydraulic damage and elevon and engines 1 & 2

1981 Burst tyre 6 fuselage damage, damage engine 2 and brake servo valve and wheel deflector

1981 Burst tyres 1 & 2, hydraulic damage and tyre deflector

1982 Burst tyre 6 Burst damage landing gear and hydraulics

1984 Burst tyre 2 wing damage and engine 2 and deflector

1984 Burst tyre 1 damage brakes and tyre deflector

1985 Burst tyre 8 servo valve, landing gear wheel and hydraulic damage

1985 Burst tyre 7 damage landing gear and hydraulics

1985 Burst tyre 5 Burst damage fuselage, door, engines 1 & 2 and tank 5 penetrated

1987 11/08/87 G-BOAC New York Burst tyres 1,2,4,5,6 and 8 damage brakes, wing, engine 3, and gear doors
1,2,4,5,6 and 8 Burst Braking

1988 Deflation tyre 3, loss of wheel bolts, wing impact and damage to tank 7

1988 Burst tyre 1 damage brakes and hydraulics

1988 tyre 7 pressure loss damage brakes and hydraulics

1993 burst tyres 7 & 8 damage fuselage, landing gear and actuator, air intake tyre mark, air intake engine 3, wing root fairing and deflector

1993 Burst tyre 4 damage brakes, landing gear jam, wing damage, tank 8 penetrated, hydraulics, engine 3 damaged

1993 burst tyre 2, damage servo valve and landing gear and brake piping

1993 Burst tyre 2 damage wing and tank 1 penetrated

1995 Burst tyre hydraulic leak

1998 Burst tyre 8 servo valve

2000 Burst tyre 4 Burst Servo valve and landing gear
2000 Take-off Deflector

The pilot elected to take off with a 10 knot tail wind. Engineers left a spacer off the left UC, extra luggage loaded being overweight, witnesses saw the AC on fire at the start of take-off. The pilot was committed because the AC was dragging left towards a 747 holding on a taxiway. Photos illustrate the fire was to the right of the engines and UC and heat ingestion surged the engines. The metal strip in question was malleable to any shape (Including a tyre "cut", was not squashed retaining most of 'its original shape and despite the immense turbulence and thrust from the prior flight just sat on the runway.

Much more from a detailed study on and off since the Concorde accident.
Stefan Sobol 1
The Concorde was a great looking airplane and pushed the technology of the time to the limits. However, it was marginal for the task it was used for.

It could only hold about 100 people in cramped conditions. The trans-Atlantic flights were at the very limits of its range. It was very expensive to maintain and operate. It was very loud when it flew (I used to work a few miles from Dulles airport and even inside the building you could tell when Concorde was taking off). During the takeoff and landing phases the aircraft performance and handling was marginal (to get the speeds down). The Air France Concorde crashed because it could not maintain flying speed with two damaged engines and the landing gear down.

The issue of the sonic booms was not presented well to the public or policy makers, leading to poor acceptance by people who would never be able to ride in it. The space shuttle also produced sonic booms (and other loud noises) and you never heard any complaints about those.
PhotoFinish 1
You can't rightfully compare the occasional launch of a space flight at an out of the way 'space center' whose sole purpose is those space launches to the regularly scheduled daily operation of commercial SST flights from a commercial airport close to highly developed areas near large cities.

People would actually travel to get close enough to witness a space lauch. Viewing from miles away, any extra noise would only enhance their experience.

In contrast, people living or working in the vicinity of airports receiving SST flights wouldn't consider the noise an enhancement to the living experience.
PhotoFinish 1
In fact, if you get regularly scheduled intercontinental commercial suborbital space flights operating out of major airports near major population centers, you'll get the same kinds of noise complaints as the SST and all other commercial flights, especially if these flights create more noise than other flights as the SST flights did.

You won't get a 'space pass' for those flights' noise impact, like the space shuttle might have.
Rob Gibbs -1
One word......Tire
siriusloon 6
Yes, "tire" is just one word, but as in almost every accident, the tire was only one link in a long chain, and removing any of the links could well have prevented the disaster. It is beyond simplistic to blame the entire event on just the tire.

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JetMech24 1
Tire is spelt "tyre" in europe, well the UK anyways, not sure of the others.
Rob Gibbs 0
We understand the "Tyre" deal but maybe it shouldn't have been copied n pasted n it would have had better credibility. Besides one crash is a damn good safety record compared to other aircraft
JetMech24 1
Actually, by him using "tyre" directly proves credibility as that is how the official reports are done. I apologize if it is above your education "n" stuff. One crash for only a handfull of aircraft is not that great of a safety rating, especially for a well known problem that they all ignored until a tragedy occured and forced the aircraft to be grounded. Don't get me wrong, the Concord will always and forever be an icon in the aviation industry and nothing will ever change that fact and it is too bad that no one wanted to put the money into keeping them going.

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JetMech24 2
No, WE spell tire wrong. Don't forget that it is THEIR language that WE modified and twisted and made way more complicated than it already was.

[This poster has been suspended.]

Who is "we"?

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Mark Lansdell 2
"spelled" if your going to argue about spelling.
Neuroguy 1
Actually the RAF saved the UK from invasion by the Germans, at least in 1940. Hitler was impatient and went off to invade Russia the next year, then, on top of that, declared war on the USA, thus doubly dooming his chances of ever winning the war.
Rob Gibbs 0
My point.... thank you phil


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