2nd March 1969. Concorde.
The Concorde was the first supersonic airliner in the world: a rival project in the USA was abandoned due to cost.
In the 1950’s, the Fairy-Delta (FD 2) was produced in response to the Ministry of Supply investing into flight behaviour and control at supersonic speed. A modified version would later help in research for Concorde with its ‘droop snoot’ nose and razor, thin delta wings.
It made its maiden flight with Lt. Commander Peter Twiss in October 1954, who was to become the first to breach 1000mph barrier after he and Fairy Aviation decided to beat the US record of 822mph. On March 10th 1956 Twiss achieved 1117 and 1147 mph
Today in 1969 the Rolls-Royce Olympus powered, supersonic Concorde, made its maiden flight in a first half-hour test flight from the Aerospatiale airfield France. On its side was written Sud Aviation France-British Aircraft Corporation (BAC).
The British half was designed by Sir George Edwards, designer of the Valiant, Viscount and VC10, who had previously solved Barnes Wallis’ problem by putting a back spin on the Bouncing Bomb, for the Dambusters.
A prototype Concorde had been revealed in Toulouse way back in December 1967, with the French using metric and the British using Imperial Measures. Surprisingly it all joined together!
By January 9th 1969 the aircraft made its first trial flight over Bristol and its maiden flight from Toulouse on 2nd of March. High inflationary costs however meant that by 1974 costs had risen to £1,070 million a year, at a time when oil prices quadrupled.
Four years later, when the last rolled off the production line at BAC, the cost had soared to a total of £2000 million (2b) or 182 million for each of the 11 in service in the mid 1980’s.
Early mock-ups had borne the name of Super-Caravelle, but this was considered too French, and one of the early squabbles was whether the aircraft’s name should end in an ‘e’.
Concorde carried only a quarter of the passengers of the 747 Jumbos, whilst its range was limited. In fact British Overseas Airways Corporation BOAC), whose Board threatening to resign, had to be bribed to buy the aircraft in return for granting the authority to buy two new Jumbos from Boeing under very favourable circumstances.
In many ways Concorde became a victim of the new environmental conditions, especially in USA, being noisy and not fuel efficient at a time of high oil prices, and was lucky to survive several efforts to scrap it.
Sadly it was to end in disaster on Tuesday July 25th 2000, when the Air France, Concorde crashed on take-off from de Gaulle Airport killing all on board forcing the grounding of both French and British Airways (BA) fleets.
By November 2001 with improved tyres and strengthened fuel tanks, it was welcomed back in New York as a sign of confidence after the Twin Towers disaster of September 11th.
In early 2001 the first test pilot Brian Trubshaw died.
On 26th November 2003 the last built Concorde G-BOAF landed at Filton, Bristol, which proved to be the last ever flight by a remarkable aircraft.
Peter Twiss died in 2011 aged 90.