Concorde: The Master of Commercial Flight

January 2021 was a special point in aviation’s history as it marked the 45th anniversary of Concorde’s first commercial flight. To be precise, on 21st January 1976, two Concorde jets took off at the same time on two different routes. These were the first scheduled supersonic passenger services. British Airways flying on the London – Bahrain route while Air France flying between Paris and Rio de Janeiro.

As an aviation and aircraft enthusiast, I have enormous admiration for anything to do Concorde. I consider myself fortunate to have played a small part during turnaround operations at Glasgow Airport including marshalling the aircraft onto parking position. As I recall, the thundering vibrating noise from its engines – during taxing and take-off – was the most “enjoyable” roaring sound I have ever heard. I am using this paradox to show the level of awesome excitement and grandeur send out by Concorde’s magnificent design and features. During the 27 years of commercial operations, the Concorde was a true Master of flight.

A coordinated venture

The aircraft’s name comes from the French word ‘concorde’  and its British equivalent word ‘concord’. Both these words mean agreement, harmony, and union. The idea also reflects on the Anglo-French joint undertaking to develop and manufacture this aircraft. Accordingly, Air France and British Airways were the only companies to operate the Concorde and only 20 Concordes built between 1969 and 1979.

The aircraft had some impressive features that were also unusual for commercial airliners. The ‘drooped nose’, allowing the pilot to have better visibility. This characteristic only been fitted on a small number of aircraft, types that behave with a high-nose in the landing and take-off phases. In addition, the ‘slender delta’ wing on the Concorde cleverly designed to provide a number of advancements. For instance, the Concorde wings allowed for sufficient lift at low speeds and good performance at supersonic speeds. Finally, another of its special features was the turbojet engines with afterburners.

The saddest moment

Despite my admiration for this master aircraft, I have to admit that the Concorde attracted a lot of negative publicity too. The high fuel consumption and its high price tag made it environmentally unfriendly and unprofitable at the same time. However, the darkest moment in its relative short commercial life came on 25 July 2000. Air France’s Flight 4590 crashed after departing from Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing all 100 passengers and nine crew members. This was the only fatal accident, which involved a Concorde.

The Concorde provided luxury services and high speed. But those came at a high price and the flights were in majority used by wealthy passengers. In comparison to the pay-load factors of other aircraft the Concorde carried small number of passengers who were prepared to pay ludicrous amounts for a ticket.

Overall, the Concorde holds an excellent chapter in the air-transport history book. Its appearance, characteristics, reputation and eminence put it at a Master’s level in every category. In the 27 years that served commercial aviation, provided passengers and others with excitement and thrill. For people like myself, even after all these years from its retirement, the Concorde still lives in our hearts and constantly delivers to us a myriad of interesting memories.   

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