The Supersonic Concorde is Set to Return in 2019
Once the Pinnacle of commercial air travel, Concorde jets have not flown for 14 years, now a privately-funded organisation will put 1 back in service.
Concordes used to fly at a height of about 17.7km, just at the edge of space, and were thus able to see the curvature of the Earth and the darkness of space beyond the horizon.
The flight altitude surpassed the official upper limit for even military jets like the F-16.
At such heights, increased exposure to solar radiation became a concern, so each plane was equipped with a radiometer so Captains could keep an eye on the radiation levels, and drop to lower altitudes if necessary.
Beginning 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines jointly operated Concorde flights that plied a London-Bahrain-Singapore route.
The 3X-weekly service, which cut travel time to a remarkable 9 hours even with the stopover, operated for just 5 days before it had to be suspended. The Malaysian government had taken issue with the Concordes’ supersonic boom over western parts of Malaysia.
Unable to navigate an impasse with the Malaysian government, the British had to reroute around Malaysia, which shaved precious efficiency off the route. The service eventually resumed for about 2-years before faltering traffic rendered the route not viable. The service ceased formally on 1 November 1980.
Though Concorde passengers spent little time on board due to its speed, they could expect to be generously fed in that short time.
Take the menu on British Airways’ 1st ever commercial flight in 1976. It featured extravagant treats like fillet mignon, caviar and lobster canapés, heart of palm salad with Roquefort dressing and fresh strawberries with cream.
The flights also carried wines curated by legendary British wine writers Hugh Johnson and Michael Broadbent.
Passengers could then finish with Dom Perignon 1969 Champagne and Havana cigars.
Concorde had a take-off speed of 402kmh and a cruising speed of 2173kmh (more than twice the speed of sound).
The Rolls-Royce-powered supersonic craft could have, in theory, gone even faster, had it not been limited by the incredible amount of heat generated by the friction from moving through the air.
At Mach 2.0, the aircraft’s aluminium skin would be heated to nearly the point where it would begin to soften.
So, Concorde’s were normally coated in a special white paint, to better dissipate the generated heat. Every surface, even the windows, was warm to the touch by the end of the flight.
2 fateful events precipitated the discontinuation of Concorde flights.
The 1st occurred on 25 July 2000; a chartered flight departing from Paris ran over a piece of titanium that had fallen from another aircraft just minutes earlier. The metal debris shredded one of the Concorde’s tires, sending a high-velocity chunk of tire rubber into the underside of a wing. This indirectly cracked a fuel tank, which resulted in a fire. By then the aircraft had attained such speed that it had too little remaining runway to abort take-off. A succession of engine troubles and failures eventually caused a stall, and the aircraft plummeted into a nearby hotel. All 109 passengers and crew on board, plus 4 hotel employees, died in the crash.
All Concorde’s around the world were grounded immediately as safety investigations launched.
It was not until a year later that the 1st Concorde passenger flight after the incident took off from London’s Heathrow Airport.
The flight was meant to re-inspire confidence that the jets were airworthy and safer than ever. The date then: 9/11/2001 – the same day as the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York.
Any positive outcome of the successful Concorde flight was overshadowed, even as consumer confidence in the air travel industry tanked. Subsequent Concorde flights fell to less than 50% capacity, and the loss-making services were eventually discontinued by all carriers by October 2003.
“Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward. For there you have been, and there you will long to return.”– Leonardo da Vinci
I am ready for another Trip to Paris on the Concorde!