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British Aircraft Corp. / Aerospatiale Concorde



In the late 1950s, Sud-Aviation in France (later represented by Aerospatiale) and Bristol Aircraft in the UK (lost in mergers that formed British Aerospace) were both working individually on the design of a supersonic civil transport aircraft. Both companies realized at an early date that the creation of such an aircraft was feasible, but beyond the economic capability of any individual company; thus came about the Anglo-French design and development agreement in November 1962, with the two companies backed by their individual governments.

After the Anglo-French Supersonic Treaty was signed in 1962, years of intensive research and over 5,000 hours of wind-tunnel tests proved that the long, streamlined fuselage and slender ogival delta wing finally reconciled good control at speeds as low as 230 mph with low drag up to Mach 2.2 (around 1,300 mph).




The wings, produced by Aérospatiale, have elevons which work together as elevators and differen-tially as ailerons. There are no flaps; control is built into the wings through camber, taper, droop and twist. Rolls-Royce designed the power-plant - so called because the four Olympus turbojet engines constitute just one part of a complex four-part system made up of air intakes adjustable for high and low speeds, engines with two independent compressors for low fuel consumption at sub- and supersonic speeds, the reheat system to give extra thrust for takeoff and transonic acceleration, and variable geometry exhaust nozzles that also serve as reverse thrust. The cruising speed was fixed at Mach 2.2, just below the “heat barrier”, so the airframe, designed for a life of 60,000 hours, could be constructed in an aluminium alloy resistant to variations in temperature from minus 35 to over 120 degrees Celsius (-310/2480F).


The Anglo-French plane took off from Toulouse and was in the air for just 27 minutes before the pilot made the decision to land. The first pilot, Andre Turcat, said on his return to the airport: "Finally the big bird flies, and I can say now that it flies pretty well". The French-built F-WTSS test flight reached 10,000ft (3,000m), but Concorde’s speed never rose above 300mph (480kph). Mr Turcat, his co-pilot and two engineers taxied to the end of the runway at about 1530GMT. Strong winds meant the test flight was in doubt for much of the day.


BAC-Sud Aviation Concorde prototype 001 F-WTSS


Two previous test flights had to be abandoned because of poor weather conditions. Concorde sped down the runway and there was a spontaneous burst of applause from watching reporters and cameramen as the wheels lifted off the ground. The noise from the four Olympus 593 engines, built jointly by the Bristol division of Rolls Royce and the French Snecma organisation, drowned out any noise from the crowd.

The first British test pilot, Brian Trubshaw, who watched the flight from the news stand, said, "I was terribly impressed by the way the whole flight was conducted. It was most professional and I would like to congratulate Andre on the way he handled this performance."

Less than half-an-hour later, the aircraft was brought back down to earth using a braking parachute and reverse thrust. The crew emerged at the top of the steps, led by Mr Turcat, who gave the thumbs up signal with each hand.

On 9 April 1969, Brian Trubshaw made his first flight in the British-built prototype. The 22 minute flight left from a test runway at Filton near Bristol and landed at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. The British government had so far invested £155m in the project.

Key features of the design include the early decision to limit speed to Mach 2.2, making conventional construction possible; the development by Rolls-Royce and SNECMA of the reliable Olympus 593 engines to power the type the evolution of the computer controlled variable area air intakes which ensure that each engine receives an optimum air flow under all flight conditions; and the design of a fuel system which serves not only to feed the powerplant, but also to act as a heat sink for the limiting of wing temperature in prolonged supersonic flight, and additionally to work as a system to maintain in flight the correct relationship between the aircraft's centre of gravity and its aerodynamic centre of pressure. This last effect is achieved by trim tanks from which fuel is pumped rearward during acceleration and forward as the aircraft returns to subsonic flight speed.

The Concorde first exceeded Mach 1 on 1 October 1969, and Mach 2 was passed during a test flight on 4 November 1970.

Despite the reactions of economists and the ecologists, Air France and British Airways began simultaneous inaugural Concorde services on 21 January 1976, from Paris via Dakar to Rio de Janeiro, and from London to Bahrain respectively, just over four months later, on 24 May, simultaneous services were launched frorn Paris and London to Washington's Dulles International Airport.

In January 1976, 29 years after the first aircraft broke the sound barrier, two Concordes took off from Paris and London on the first supersonic passenger service.


Concorde flies high at 50,000 feet or more, where air density is around one tenth that at sea level, temperatures are low and supersonic engines efficient. Sixty thousand feet is OK, because it can go supersonic there. Thirty thousand feet is OK because it can fly subsonic at that level. It is difficult to maintain a fixed altitude. It needs to follow the Mach number, which is dependant on air temperature. It operates at the block altitude of 50-60000 feet. Starting off at Mach 2 at 50000 feet, and gently climbing as fuel is burnt off.

The fuel burn of the Paris-New York route is similar to that of a Boeing 747. But carrying 100 passengers, the jumbo 440 plus. The take-off speed is 220 knots, the typical take-off weight 186 tonnes (made up of 80 tonnes unladen weight, 96 tonnes of fuel and 10 tonnes of passengers and baggage). Twelve minutes after takeoff it can be at Mach 1, 26 minutes after take-off Mach 2. The complicated fuel management systems to alter the centre of gravity as the centre of pressure shifts mean that a flight engineer is required. Landing speed is 163 knots. The skin temperature reaches 127 degrees C at Mach 2.02, and this was in fact the limiting factor in the original design with the airframe materials available at that time.

From a total of twenty originally built, fourteen were delivered to British Airways and Air France.




The aircraft were designed for working lives of 6700 cycles, with a possible 10,000 cycles seen as a desirable goal, through a life extension programme. Both airlines continue to co-operate closely in exchanging information on this work. There have been few incidents in service thus far, the well-publicized departure of bits of British Airways’ rudders being the exception. The aircraft continue to be expensive to maintain (about 2.5 times as labour intensive as the Boeing 747), but the prestige value is still considered to overide this.

Many airlines showed initial interest, but then cancelled their options and lost interest entirely.

With its massive development costs, Concorde was always struggling with profitability on the commercial routes. In more recent years, an upturn in charter business has helped defray Concorde's high costs and utilisation so much so that profitability had to some degree been achieved.

Then came the accident to the Air France AF4590 aircraft, F-BTSC in Paris on 25 July 2000 where all one hundred passengers and nine crew, plus four people on the ground, lost their lives. After expensive and intricate modifications, British Airways put five aircraft back into service commencing on 7 November 2001. Air France put four back into service on the same day and both airlines operated to New York at the same time.



With the drop-off in passenger numbers and the uncertainty of air travel in general, plus the ever-rising engineering costs to keep the fleet airworthy, British Airways took the decision on 10 April 2003 to terminate operations from the end of October. Air France had already ceased operations from the 6 of May 2003.

The last Concorde operation (a British Airways New York to Heathrow) was conducted on 24 October 2003.

British Airways operations saw Concorde make about 50,000 flights, travelling some 140 million miles and clocking up nearly 238,000 flying hours in the process, of which around 100,000 were supersonic (the prototype and development aircraft had collectively reached nearly 4,500 flying hours).

The remaining Air France aircraft were all retired to museums earlier in 2003: F-BVFA (c/n 205, 17,824 hours) to Smithsonian's Steven F Udvar-Hazy centre at Dulles Airport, Washington Airport on 12 June 2003; F-BVFB (c/n 207, 14,771 hours) to the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum in Germany on 24 June 2003; F-BVFC (c/n 209, 14,332 hours) on 27 June 2003 to the Airbus factory at Toulouse; F-BVFD (c/n 211, 5,821 hours) withdrawn in 1982 following a heavy landing and was finally scrapped in 1994; F-BTSD (c/n 213, 12,974 hours) to Le Bourget Air and Space Museum on 14 June 2003 and F-BVFF (c/n 215, 12,420 flying hours), parked since July 2000 and officially withdrawn from use since 10 April 2003 and eventually to be displayed at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris.



Recipients of the five airworthy British Airways aircraft are as follows: G-BOAC (c/n 204, 22,260.11 hours/7,730 landings) flown from Heathrow to Manchester on 31 October for the Manchester Airport Aviation Park, where it will eventually be housed in a special glass hangar. G-BOAD (c/n 210,23,397.25 hours/8,406 landings) was flown from Heathrow to JFK New York on 10 November and on 24 November it was lifted onto a 260-ft former NASA barge (previously used to transport Apollo Saturn V moon rockets) and transported along the Hudson River to where it was moored to the quayside in Manhattan, at Pier 86, adjacent to the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. It will initially be displayed as part of the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum. G-BOAE (c/n 212, 23,376.07 hours/8,383 landings) was flown from Heathrow to Barbados (a Concorde route for 21 years) on 17 November and arrived just under 4 hours later with an Atlantic crossing altitude of 60,000 ft. It is to be displayed at the Grantley Adams Airport Bridgetown, where it will form the centre-piece of a new aviation museum being set up in 2004 at Spencers Plantation close to the airport. G-BOAF (c/n 216 18,257.00 hours/6,045 landings) had the distinction of being the last Concorde built (first flown on 20 April 1979), the last to fly, and the last airliner to fly supersonic, leaving Heathrow at 11.29 hours on 26 November for Filton. There it will come under Airbus UK charge, although still owned by BA but on indefinite loan, as a ground display aircraft. "Alpha Fox" will form the centrepiece of a new aerospace heritage centre on the site, incorporating the Bristol Aero Collection at Kemble, and will be in place in an "interim" exhibition area which should be open to the public around Easter 2004. G-BOAG (c/n 214,16,239.27 hours/5,633 landings) was flown from Heathrow to Seattle's King County Airport, via New York on 3 November for the Museum of Flight to take its place amongst other airliners such as the prototype DC-2, Boeing's 727, 737 and 747 prototypes, plus the only de Havilland Comet in North America. This flight outbound from New York to Seattle created its own achievement as the flight time of 3 hours, 55 minutes and 12 seconds, setting a new East to West coast record.

The airframe stored at Filton since 1982 as a spares source, G-BBDG (c/n 202, 803 hours), is to be transported to the Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey. The UK prototype, G-BSST (c/n 002, 835 hours), can be seen in the FAA Museum at Yeovilton, whilst G-AXDN (c/ n 101, 632 hours), the first British production aircraft, which made its maiden flight on 13 February 1974, can be seen at Duxford Airfield as part of the Duxford Aviation Society collection. Similarly, in France can be seen F-WTSS, (c/n 00 1,812 hours), the French prototype, in the Le Bourget Air and Space Museum; F-WTSA (c/n 102, 656 hours), preserved and on display at Orly Airport, Paris; F-WTSB (c/n 201, 754 hours), is on display outside the Aerospatiale (Airbus) Headquarters at Toulouse.

Two others, G-BOAA (c/n 206, 22,768.56 hours/ 8,064 landings), and BOAB (c/n 208, 22,296.55 hours/7,810 landings), unmodified since the Paris crash and not flown since 12 August and 15 August 2000 respectively, have also found new homes. G-BOAA will be dismantled and transported to Scotland's National Museum of Flight at East Fortune near Edinburgh, whilst G-BOAB will stay at Heathrow as a ground display aircraft to be eventually installed within the Terminal 5 complex.




BAC-Sud Aviation Concorde prototype 001 F-WTSS
Engines: 4 x Bristol Siddeley / SNECMA Olympus 593 B Stage 1, 13,435 kg dry / 17,100 kg afterburn thrust
Wing span: 84 ft 0 in (25.56 m).
Length: 203 ft 11.5 in (62.17 m).
Height: 40 ft 0 in (12.11 m).
Wing area: 358.25 m²
Max TO wt: 343,500 lb (155,800 kg).
Max level speed: M2.2.
Ceiling: 18000 m
Range: 5200 km


Concorde (pre-production aircraft)
Powerplant: four Bristol Siddeley/SNECMA Olympus 593 turbojets of 35 000+1b thrust rated take-off power (ISA at sea level), low thrust boost afterburner on earlier engines.
Wingspan, 83 ft 10 in
Length, 191 ft 1 in
Height, 38 ft 0 in
Gross wing area, 3860 sq.ft
Max. usable floor area, 1000 sq.ft
Max. cabin length, 129 ft 0 in
Max. width, 103.4 in
Max. height, 77 in
Accommodation: max. high density seating, 138 at 34 in pitch
Volume of freight and baggage holds outside cabin, 530 cu.ft
Operating weight empty, 135 610 lb
Total fuel, 185 000 lb
Max. payload (volume limited), 28 000 lb
Max. take-off, 340 000 lb
Max. landing, 200 000 lb
Max. zero fuel, 165 000 lb
Wing loading (max. take-off weight), 88 lb/sq.ft
Wing loading (max. landing weight), 52 lb/sq.ft
Thrust loading, 2.62 1b/1b thrust
High-speed cruise, 1261 kt. TAS at 50 000-62 000 ft
Long range cruise, 1261 kt. TAS at 50 000-62 000 ft
Balanced field length at 330 000 lb take-off weight, at ISA at sea level, 9400 ft
Landing distance, max. landing weight, ISA at sea level, 7600 ft
Range max. payload, 3500 nm at 1200 kt. / 50 000-62 000 ft

Concorde 01
Engines: 4 x RR, 34,730 lb.
Wing span: 84 ft 0 in (25.6 m).
Length: 203 ft 11.5 in (62.17 m).
Height: 40 ft 0 in (12019 m).
Max TO wt: 343,500 lb (155,800 kg).
Max level speed: M2.2.

Engine: 4 x Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 Mk 602 afterburning turbojet (38,000 lb / 170.2kN) thrust.
Wing span: 84 ft 0 in (25,60 m).
Length: 203 ft 11.5 in (62.17 m).
Height : 37.073 ft / 11.3 m
Wing area: 3,856 sq ft (358.25 sq.m).
Wing load : 103.73 lb/sq.ft / 506.00 kg/sq.m
Max take off weight : 399987.0 lbs / 181400.0 kg
Weight empty : 174779.3 lbs / 79265.0 kg
Max cruising speed: 1,450 mph (2,333 km/h) at 54,500 ft (16,600 m).
Cruise speed: 2.2 mach @ 55,000 ft.
Range: 4,020 miles (6,470 km) at Mach 2.05 cruise/climb with payload of 28,000 lb (12,700 kg). Accommodation: Crew of 3 and 128--144 passengers
Cargo, nil.
Operating alt: 60,000 ft.

Engines: 4 x Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 Mk.610 turbojet, 38,050lb / 169.2kN afterburning
Wingspan: 25.66m / 83 ft 10 in
Length: 62.17m / 203 ft 9 in
Height: 11.40m / 37 ft 5 in
Wing area: 358.25 sq.m / 3856 sq.ft
Operational empty weight: 78,700 kg / 173,500 lb
MTOW: 185,069 kg / 408,000 lb
Max payload: 13,381 kg / 29,500 lb
Fuel capacity: 119,786 lt
Max cruise: M2.04 / 1176 kt / 2178 kph at 51,000 ft / 15,545m
Take-off speed: 215 kt / 397 kph
Landing speed: 162 kt / 300 kph
Initial climb: 5000 fpm / 1524 m/min
Service ceiling: 60,000 ft / 18,288 m
Take-off dist to 35 ft: 3414m / 11,200 ft
Range max fuel & res: 3550 nm at M2.02
Accommodation: 100-128 passengers



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