The world’s only successful supersonic passenger carrier, Concorde was an airliner of unsurpassed elegance and a miracle of engineering. It was able to carry 128 passengers at twice the speed of sound, and once seemed to embody the future of commercial aviation.
The British and French governments agreed to build Concorde in November 1962 in the belief that airlines would inevitably want the fastest available airliner.
Concorde’s performance was all that had been hoped for. Taking off from an ordinary runway, it could cruise at high altitude faster than a rifle bullet, without ruffling the comfort of it passengers.
It embodied numerous ingenious solutions to technical problems. Regardless of the aircraft’s speed, variable-geometry engine air intakes kept the speed of the airflow to the engines below 300mph. A retractable visor protected the main windshield against kinetic heating at supersonic speeds. Most famously, the nose drooped to enhance the crew’s view during landing, which was executed in a steep nose-up attitude.
Concorde prosed expensive to maintain and run, and its passenger payload was small. Only 16 production Concordes were built, serving as luxury carriers with Air France and British Airways.
After more than 30 years in service, Concorde made its last scheduled flight on 24 October 2003.