back to article Take-off crash 'n' burn didn't kill the Concorde, it was just too bloody expensive to maintain

For a generation that never heard the sonic boom as Concorde broke the sound barrier overhead, the iconic white arrow-shaped aircraft dubbed "The Rocket" by British Airways is just a story our parents told. Before we travel to the museum in Filton, Gloucestershire, that houses it, let's take a trip back in time. Aérospatiale/ …

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  3. Tim 49

    The most amazing engineering

    When the project was cancelled, the very next airframe would have been the 'B' model, with wings that were more optimised for low-speed operation, & more powerful engines that no longer required reheat, which even though it was only used for takeoff & for about 13 minutes from M0.95 to M1.7 was very thirsty. This would have enhanced efficiency, but none were built.

    The engineering, particularly for the engine intakes, ramps & spill doors & their control was staggering for the 1960s. at M2.0, more than 60% of the thrust was generated from the intake, from energy recovered from the pressure changes, with vary rapid adaptations for temperature, air pressure, demanded power etc. Concorde could lose two engines at M2.0 on the same side with no fuss, other than very rapid deceleration.

    Even things like the tyres were radical, since the delta produces no lift until rotation, unlike conventional wings that start to reduce the tyre loads as speed increases. So you have an aircraft with a much higher take-off speed (1/2mv^^2 & all that), with all its weight on the wheels, requiring new tyre technology. And the main gear legs are too long to fit in the bays, so they have to shorten as they retract. Amazing, wonderful white bird, the like of which we'll never see again.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: The most amazing engineering

      Amazing engineering from one point of view, until you look at its fuel consumption and the levels of pollutants it puts out. Ok in the 1970s, not so much today. Even if BA and AF hadn't canned it it would by now probably be in breach of half a dozen noise and pollution regulations. And as someone who lived 15 miles from heathrow and still had to put his hands over his ears when concorde flew over just so some businessmen could save 3 hours flying time to one city, I'm not particularly sad to see it gone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The most amazing engineering

        I used to work not far from Heathrow, we used to avoid phone calls and go make a cup of tea when the 11am flight to NY was due.

        It wasn't a terrible hardship, and she was a wonderful sight to see.

        1. mantavani

          Re: The most amazing engineering

          I used to time my walk home across Albert Bridge and through Battersea Park for the same flight, so we were both gazing at her at the same time!

          1. elbisivni

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            Mantevani - that brings back memories. I used to live in one of the mansion blocks on Prince of Wales Drive on the edge of the park and would regularly annoy my flatmate by opening the balcony door to watch and hear Concorde follow the river.

            it was also one of the things I missed after I moved to the correct side of the river a few years later.

        2. jeffdyer

          Re: The most amazing engineering

          About 7 minutes later she was over Cardiff. I still remember looking up, and sometimes setting my watch.

        3. Mike Pellatt

          Re: The most amazing engineering

          Indeed. I used to be a Surrey County Councillor.

          We had to pause at every full council meeting as the 11am flight went over County Hall in Kingston.

          No-one ever complained

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            Kudos to another engineer who put the time into local government. We need more there to counterbalance the muesli-eating arts and politics graduates who think that science is a matter of opinion.

      2. myhandler

        Re: The most amazing engineering

        I live about 5 miles from Heathrow though not on the normal flight path. Concorde used to take off, do a sharp right and fly directly down our street seemingly very low - the house used to shake and I'd run out to try and catch a glimpse. My baby son called it Councoun.

        And as a kid I used to see it doing the test fights high in the sky over Wiltshire. Amazing machine.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: The most amazing engineering

          "And as a kid I used to see it doing the test fights high in the sky over Wiltshire. Amazing machine."

          The Saturn V was an amazing machine, but you wouldn't want one taking off a few miles away from you every damn day. Concorde might have been an engineering tour de force, however it was also bloody obnoxious to anyone who had to endure it regularly. Its all very easy to get misty eyed about it if you didn't have to suffer the consequences.

          FWIW I used to work in an office right next to the heathrow runway and the novelty of planes taking off and landing gets old REALLY fast. After a few days all you notice is the noise and the disgusting smell of jet fuel if the wind is blowing in your direction.

          1. mantavani

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            I bet the runway was there before your old office. Always amuses me when people complain about what they moved next door to.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The most amazing engineering

              If you move next to an quiet little office and then it changes to an all night kebab shop, you may complain.

              You move to a 9-5 warehouse and 2 years later it becomes a 24/7 steel mill (like that will happen in the UK), do you just put up with it?

              If you move next to a smallish airfield with flight paths that don't go your direction, then a few years later you have one of the loudest ever planes flying directly over your house, you may complain.

              You make a choice on what is known at that point or the near future, not what may happen 20 years down the line.

              And no, I don't live near an airport.

              1. Stevie Silver badge

                Re: The most amazing engineering

                Sorry, Lost all faith ... but those situations do not pertain. Every last one is a straw man you constructed to make some point lost in the blither.

                Smallish airfields were not host to Concorde. It flew internationally, so it required an "international" airport at which to drop anchor. Pesky thing, national immigration requirements. And if you think Concorde was loud, you should have heard that Phantom - standard issue at the US airbases in Norfolk when I were a lad. Or a Shackleton taking off for coast watch duties.

                Your point about choices being made in the "now" conveniently ignores the facts that 20 years down the road you are living in it and it is "now", and that the Steel Mill requires a re-zoning that will take over a year to complete and in this time of instant communication would never be able to be done quietly.

                And if you can't figure out the issues with living in an area re-zoned from commercial to industrial use, you have to take what's coming. usually a whacking great property tax break for having a steel mill next door, though the mill would probably want to buy you out so your hovel could be turned into a storage shed for coil steel.

              2. Steve Crook

                Re: The most amazing engineering

                Yes, exactly. To have 20 or 30 concorde flights taking off and landing every day must have been hell. Oh, wait, it was what? 2 or 3?

                As a kid I lived under an occasional Heathrow flight path. We got a diet of low level VC10 and Boeing 707 they weren't quiet either. But somehow, we struggled on.

                1. boltar Silver badge

                  Re: The most amazing engineering

                  "Yes, exactly. To have 20 or 30 concorde flights taking off and landing every day must have been hell. Oh, wait, it was what? 2 or 3?"

                  And add in all the other aircraft and it becomes a nightmare.

                  "But somehow, we struggled on."

                  So because you didn't have a problem with it - kids generally don't FWIW - then others should just stop whinging and carry on? You smug self righteous pillock. Not everyone is an aircraft fan who goes week at the knees at seeing concorde, some of us just see a machine, not a "bird" nor do we engage in some lame pseudo romantic anthropomorphic nonsense and call it "her" or "she" while going all misty eyed. It was a plane to get businessmen to new york a few hours faster, BFD, a PITA for anyone nearby the airport on the ground and an enviromental disaster. I'm glad its gone. Mod me down planespotters, I couldn't care less. When you're done zip up your anoraks, fill up your thermoses and go stand in some mud next to a fence waiting for more "birds" to fly over you you sad bastards.

                  1. GodBlessIBM

                    Re: The most amazing engineering

                    It's "Thermoses". Capital T for a brand name. You grumpy bugger.

              3. jeff77

                Re: The most amazing engineering

                I moved to Maidenhead 15 years ago. As pledges go, David Cameron's in 2009 was unequivocal: he said that a Conservative government would not build a third runway at Heathrow. For the avoidance of any doubt, he added: 'No ifs, no buts'.

                Heathrow flights are capped at 480K per year – which was set as a condition of the Terminal 5 planning consent in 2001. Once runway 3 is in operation the number of flights (air transport movements or ATMs) will be 702K in mixed mode, which is an increase of 46% and means that alternating mode, (the current system where residents under the flight paths get a break for half the day) will be binned.

                It is reasonable to think that a restriction on flight numbers critical to the granting of planning consent for a new very large terminal at Heathrow would be meaningful for at least two decades. And one would expect that an unequivocal statement by a PM would bind future governments, particularly those of the same party, for at least several decades. Clearly neither is accurate. And one cannot escape the conclusions that BA always intended to get runway 3 built once consent for T5 was given and that Theresa May's government considers David Cameron's commitment given 9 years ago not to allow runway 3 counts for nought.

                To the person who wrote that 'it amuses him / her when people move next to an airport then complain about the noise': nice. You keep smiling, amused person.

                1. anothercynic Silver badge

                  Re: The most amazing engineering

                  BA are not the ones asking for the third runway to be built. Heathrow Airport do. And quite frankly, Heathrow *does* need a third runway. However, I *do* believe that the number of flights should roughly remain the same for the airport (perhaps increase by 10% but with strict no-night-flights limits except in limited circumstances) even if the third runway were to be built, primarily because the third runway would allow the flexibility for existing flights to continue even in inclement conditions (like heavy fog, heavy winds, snow, etc), whereas right now, countless flights are cancelled and cause endless misery to those who have no option but to travel when they're scheduled to travel.

                  While I commiserate with the burghers of Eton, Windsor and Maidenhead, be aware that most modern airliners are a damn sight quieter on takeoff and landing than the oldies (like BA's venerable 747s and 767s with the old RB211s or some of the US/ME 777s with their GE90s!), and that what you have experienced is LHR trying to find a way to be less intrusive where jet noise is concerned by spreading the intensity across different paths. That it's catching you out now is... well... unfortunate.

                  I certainly would *never* believe a politician who tells me that "we will *never* allow this to happen" if it affects my future home.

            2. boltar Silver badge

              Re: The most amazing engineering

              "I bet the runway was there before your old office. Always amuses me when people complain about what they moved next door to."

              I was talking about aircraft in general. By the time I worked there concorde was thankfully long gone. And FWIW I terminated that contract early, I couldn't stand working there any longer as my health had begun to suffer. Even now when I smell jet fuel I start to feel nauseous.

              I like cars, but I wouldn't want to live or work on the hard shoulder of the M25 either.

              1. asdf Silver badge

                Re: The most amazing engineering

                >"I bet the runway was there before your old office. Always amuses me when people complain about what they moved next door to."

                Not saying OP did but seems to me also you get some people who get a huge bargain on a place due to proximity and then look for sympathy and fight the airport every chance they get.

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: the disgusting smell of jet fuel

            None of which is unique to Concorde, as a trip to JFK or La Guardia will quickly prove. Airports stink of Jet-A. Live and work elsewhere.

            Take-off noise from Concorde was earsplitting though, I'll grant.

            No louder than the Phantom flyby I was "privileged" to experience in Grande Prairie one year at an airshow. Ears rang for hours afterward.

            1. Bob Wheeler
              Thumb Up

              Re: the disgusting smell of jet fuel

              During the 70' going to an Air show and watching a Vulcan fly over the runway at about 500ft and then the pilot pull back on the stick so it's standing on it's tail while applying full power.

              The earth shaked!!!

              1. Kevin Johnston

                Re: the disgusting smell of jet fuel

                Used to go to Bembridge Airshow on the Isle of Wight (the airfield is the home of the Pilatus Britten-Norman Islander) and we had a Vulcan a few times...

                Gear down, flaps down, full chat at what appeared to be 100 feet up....FEEL the sound. Sadly after shattering windows in nearby towns the display got sanitised.

          3. tfb Silver badge

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            I'd be fine with a Saturn V taking off a few miles away (assuming 'a few' is 'enough not to be physically damaging) once a day, or a supersonic plane flying overhead once a day (same constraints about damage). In fact I'd positively enjoy both I think (I've lived places where fast jets fairly regularly did training, so I have some experience of things like this). What I would not be OK with is something flying overhead every five minutes, even something much quieter than Concorde. (Yes, I don't live near a large airport!)

            1. jeff77

              Re: The most amazing engineering

              Try living under the Heathrow flight path now: something flies overhead every 90 seconds.

            2. Greencat

              Re: The most amazing engineering

              Agreed. I live on the flight path of the local RAF base and we get all manner of exotic aircraft flying overhead - sometimes extremely low. They are infrequent enough - say once or twice a week - that they are something to be marvelled at rather than annoyed by.

              I'd feel very differently if it was hourly.

          4. swampdog

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            I guess you wouldn't have wanted to live near Vulcan bombers then? A chap wouldn't want to break the red traffic lights at the end of their runway. Sometimes they'd go vertical asap which put them on their tail over the road.

            Chinooks have got quieter or I'm going deaf (probably both). A modern Concorde would be quieter too. All hail the Stealth Concorde!

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: The most amazing engineering

              @swampdog - "I guess you wouldn't have wanted to live near Vulcan bombers then?"

              I think I've said here before that I grew up near Finningley, and the sound of Vulcans taking off and landing is part of the soundtrack of my childhood. A couple of jobs ago I lived on the flight-path for Coventry Airport - I was disappointed that the aircraft didn't make "proper" amounts of noise.

              1. DominicA

                Re: The most amazing engineering

                I went to junior school at RAF Scampton (Dad was a Vulcan pilot on 35 Sqn) and grew so accustomed to the Vulcan noise that when we moved I missed it.

                I can't deny having a bit of dust in my eye when I saw 558 fly for the last time on her farewell tour. The Vulcan was only beaten for beauty (in my eyes) by Concord. A shame that there isn't still one flying example of either for younger generations to marvel at.

                1. rcw88

                  Re: The most amazing engineering

                  Me too, I saw her overflying Gaydon, and Scarborough on a previous tour. There's a Concorde at East Fortune, tucked away in a hanger, saw XH558 there as well.

                  There's a Concorde prototype at Yeovilton, I can nearly touch both sides from the centre of the aisle its that small.

                  But a thing of beauty - ABSOLUTELY, I use a picture of one taking off in a STEM presentation to show STEM isn't about creating 'things' - its about creating things with great design and solving problems.

            2. Scorchio!!

              Re: The most amazing engineering

              "I guess you wouldn't have wanted to live near Vulcan bombers then? A chap wouldn't want to break the red traffic lights at the end of their runway. Sometimes they'd go vertical asap which put them on their tail over the road."

              I'm glad you mentioned the Vulcan. When I was a child we lived somewhere on one of their flight paths either going out or returning, and I can remember looking up on hearing a moaning sound like all of the hounds of hell, and seeing the shape of what I still consider to be the most beautiful aircraft ever made. I can remember the sound even now. They can be heard by searching "vulcan bomber howl" on Youtube. The best one I've heard is titled "This must be the longest Vulcan XH558 Howl". My mother used to tell me this was the sound of freedom, our freedom.

              1. MJI Silver badge

                Re: The most amazing engineering

                Delta Winged British Aircraft

                I just remember in the 60s somewhere near Bristol, lots of traffic jams, to see a Concordet.

                Sitting on the slip way of Lizard life boat seeing a small shape in the sky.

                A Vulcan air displaying over Holyhead Island (and one year a double Hunter crash).

                Most recently XH558 climbing over Pershore.

              2. rcw88

                Re: The most amazing engineering

                Vulcans used to fly quite often over our house when we lived just east of Leeds, at about 300 feet. Part of their training routines of low level flying. An awesome machine, XH558 carries my mums name in perpetuity [hopefully], she loved that plane and helped pay to get it back in the air.

                The Vulcan howl, the best thing. Ever.

          5. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            > The Saturn V was an amazing machine, but you wouldn't want one taking off a few miles away from you every damn day

            I live not far from KSC, and remember all the double-sonic booms from landing Shuttles. It was something I looked forward to, and something I miss. I'd give a kneecap to see a Saturn V fly even monthly, much less daily.

            Top article by Mr. Ambasna-Jones! Hats off to him.

        2. Outski

          Re: The most amazing engineering

          @myhandler I lived, variously, in Hounslow, Teddington and Putney, all under the flight path, to the point that when I was Putney, it seemed to be "fly round London a bit, turn west at Outski's and you're on final approach".

          And all three places, I still always looked out in awe when Concorde went over, just stunningly graceful.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            Caught her coming into Heathrow one sunday evening, when the flights resumed while on the train to Paddington.

            I think most of the coach stopped what they were doing to watch her.

            Also once while walking in Sidcup.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The most amazing engineering

        I lived on the flight path too. Ignore the downvotes, it was unbearably noisy

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: The most amazing engineering

          I spent a week on a training course at the University of Exeter in the mid-90s. One evening I was drinking in one of the smaller, quieter bars and got chatting to a campus security guard who had dropped in for a little light refreshment. Just before 9pm he said to me, "Come and listen to this," and unlocked the patio doors. We stepped outside, facing south, and he stood there looking at his watch. "Any minute now... just a few more seconds..."

          *whump*

          Concorde had just gone supersonic, about 15 miles out over the sea.

          .

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: The most amazing engineering

            Elsewhere in that fine city I was usually out walking the dog waiting for the self same boom.

      4. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: The most amazing engineering

        I worked for several years just outside Heathrow during the 1990's (on the Bath Road to be precise). So I got to experience Concorde taking off once or twice per day. It wasn't that loud. Stop being a sooky.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: The most amazing engineering

          "Stop being a sooky."

          English translation anyone?

          1. GrumpyKiwi

            Re: The most amazing engineering - translation

            'Stop being a sooky' = 'stop being a crying baby.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: The most amazing engineering - translation

              "'Stop being a sooky' = 'stop being a crying baby."

              So why not just say that instead of using some kiwi slang no one within 12000 miles of london understands apart from your compatriots.

              As for being a cry baby - its easy to criticise others who don't like stuff that doesn't personally bother you. But then looking back through your posts you're not exactly Mr Perfect. No wonder your wife fucked off.

              1. GrumpyKiwi

                Re: The most amazing engineering - translation

                Yeah it's very easy for me to critique having worked (as mentioned) immediately outside Heathrow for several years during the Concorde era. As in les than 400 metres away from the runway.

                I have all sorts of bad aspects to my personality (hence the ex-wife), but being a whiny little cry baby - or alternatively as its often difficult to tell them apart, an autisticly screeching millennial - isn't one of them.

              2. GodBlessIBM

                Re: The most amazing engineering - translation

                Jesus, Boltar. Bad day at the office? Get a fucking grip, old chap.

      5. charlieboywoof

        Re: The most amazing engineering

        Sorry, you lived near an airport, your choice.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: The most amazing engineering

      The ramps and spillways concept for the intake was brilliant. It did cause some violent unstarts and surges though when the shockwave collapsed and 'blew out the candle' but for the time, this and many other innovations from the design and engine teams were absolutely bleeding edge for their time.

      Brian Trubshaw, one of the test pilots, wrote a great book about the design of Concorde, and it's a joy to read. For engineers and engineering/aviation buffs, this book and The Empire of the Clouds by James Hamilton-Paterson are must-reads.

      I have yet to pop down to Filton to see the great white bird again in person, and I always feel a stab in my heart when we line up before getting onto LHR RWY 27L and see the lone BA Concorde moulding away in the corner just off the runway (at least there is *someone* at LHR, possibly someone from BA Engineering, who gives her an occasional wash). That plane would be *so* much better on the big BA roundabout off the M25 Spur similar to Air France's F-BVFF at Charles de Gaulle.

    3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: The most amazing engineering

      It's a shame that I only found out after my uncle's recent death that he was instrumental in the computer systems that ran the plane when it went supersonic...

      Apparently there was a lot of national secrecy around particularly as the concorde technology was so very close to cutting edge military technology that some aspects were borrowed and he wasn't even permitted to tell his immediate family what he was working on.

    4. macjules Silver badge

      Re: The most amazing engineering

      I am pretty sure that I have written of my experience with Concorde before but here it goes again.

      18th January 1991 was the start of Operation Desert Storm and just about everyone had decided not to fly that day. I was booked on an economy flight to New York that day but British Airways had cancelled most of their flights due to the abnormal number of cry offs, except the for 50 or so of us true diehards who they marshalled into an executive lounge in Terminal 4. Around 9:30am they informed us that almost all flights for today were now cancelled bar one: BA001 LHR - JFK 10:30. We were then marshalled onto a flight and zoomed across the Atlantic.

      I never really noticed the lack of cabin space, the minute windows or the feeling that your kidneys just went through your back on takeoff. I was so into the " OMFG I'M ACTUALLY ON CONCORDE" by then that the whole flight passed in a haze and I don't think any of us wanted to actually get off at the other end.I am pretty sure she flew back empty to London.

      BA can do their worst to me, and they have indeed tried. I will always, but always, forgive them for that one moment of generosity by them and I will never forget it.

  4. Thoguht Silver badge

    Pressure?

    The airframe got longer due to the high temperatures caused by air friction, not pressure. Given that it was being pushed by the engines from the back, presumably pressure would have shortened it rather than lengthened it.

    1. Ben1892

      Re: Pressure?

      I think technically it's the air getting hot during pressurisation by Concorde driving into it, rather than air rubbing against the airframe and causing friction. Have a google for isentropic heating and you see what I mean

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pressure?

        Similar phenomenon to what happens under a returning spacecraft's heat shield as it comes back into Earth's atmosphere

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        I think..it's the air getting hot during pressurisation by Concorde driving into it,"

        Actually skin friction drag is the big item that rises in the M0.9-M1.5 range.

        It's the reason Aluminium is fine for subsonic aircraft, OK up to M2.2 (IE Concorde) dubious at M3 (Phantom II "Peace Jack" programme for extended "dashs") and above that probably best going to Titanium, high temp steels, Nickel based superalloys etc.

        Consider the X15. No air breathing on board yet designed win Inconel X due to 750c skin temps. At 70 000 ft the outside air temperature is 10s of C below zero.

        Concorde was surprisingly like the SR72. Both grew and both leaked fuel on the ground. However I don't think the Concorde designers needed to use it as hydraulic fluid as well.

        1. MrXavia

          Re: I think..it's the air getting hot during pressurisation by Concorde driving into it,"

          "Concorde was surprisingly like the SR72. Both grew and both leaked fuel on the ground. However I don't think the Concorde designers needed to use it as hydraulic fluid as well."

          Are you sure the Concorde leaked fuel? I can't find a reference to that, and it seems unlikely that a commercial aircraft would have been permitted if it leaked....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pressure?

      "The airframe got longer ..."

      I remember as a schoolboy going on a school trip which involved a visit to a carpet factory where they made the carpets for Concorde and they explained they had to be designed to be able to stretch and contract because of this.

      Also, as the airframe stretched gaps would appear between the engineers instrument panel and the bulkhead at the back of the cockpit and on the last flight delivering the Concorde to be dispaled in Seattle the engineer pushed his cap into the gap before it closed up so you can see it jammed in there ... sadly within days of the exhibit opening someone ripped it out and nicked it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pressure?

        Just checked my photos from my first visit to the Filton concorde and there's a cap jammed in the (closed) gap in the cockpit on that one as well (I had thought it was there but initial google search brought up story of the Seattle exhibit!)

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Pressure?

        I've been to the Museum of Flight (Seattle) and seen their Concorde. Beautiful aircraft, doesn't really matter that it never paid. I do know someone who got a flight on it, and he told me it was worth the money.

        Sure wish the cockpit was open, but I understand why it can't be.

        I'd love to see a photo of Concorde with the Saarinen TWA terminal at Kennedy in the background. The two look like they were made to go together.

        Also -- the PanAm plane in Kubrick's 2001 looks very Concorde-ish.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Pressure?

            There's a pretty high probability that I helped pay for your education, and I don't want to think that my money was wasted on someone who ended up so selfish and small-minded.

        2. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: Pressure?

          Mrs Tim99 and I travelled on it from Heathrow to Miami via Washington and back in 1989 - It reallly did not feel cramped and uncomfortable. There was no headroom when standing (I'm 5'8") but plenty of legroom. The aircraft was refuelled in Washington before the Miami leg, and during refueling we all transferred to a luxury bus that had a cabin that was jacked up level to the door. According to the pilot the Washington-Miami leg was the fastest that the aircraft went in normal service, the fuel loading was low and when went there were a number of empty seats. For “noise regulation” the acceleration was reduced after take off, and the feeling that you had was that the aircraft was falling - We had been warned by the pilot to expect that, otherwise it felt like we were about to crash.

          We stayed in a hotel on Miami Beach, and the next morning Concorde went over the hotel, we were by the swimming pool, and it was indeed really loud (but a good loud). I suspect that if you listened to it every day, it would not be so much fun.

          1. VulcanV5

            Re: Pressure?

            @ Tim99: Thanks for the memories! Mrs V and I have never forgotten that particular route nor ever will. I grew up with The Eagle comic, so looking out of Concorde's window at a sky so deep blue it was almost black and the shimmering curvature of the Earth itself made me feel like I was Dan Dare. Somewhere in a drawer here we have pictures I was allowed to take on the flight deck, plus the complimentary pale grey Concorde wallet, the flight menus -- even the embossed 'Supersonic Flight Certificate' BA gave each individual passenger as a memento.

            Not long after our to-ing and fro-ing Concorde was withdrawn from the Washington-Miami sector; the 3-day a week service became Heathrow-Dulles only with connecting flight by 'ordinary' a/c to MIA. The magic was already being constrained by -- allegedly -- concerned citizens objecting to the noise over DC, though how odd it was to discover so many were not merely concerned but actually working as, or related to, Boeing lobbyists.

            Looking back, it seems to me the age of miracles was not yet passed at that time. We could walk on the moon and fly high at Mach 2. Nowadays, technology that's infinitely more advanced allows us to be monetized by Facebook and lobotomized by Twitter. Progress, right.

        3. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Pressure?

          @Antron, you'll be pleased to know that the Saarinen TWA Terminal is being turned into a hotel! This is such a great turn for an iconic terminal that was going to be turned to rubble!

      3. Mike Richards

        Re: Pressure?

        The stretching also had to be factored into all the wiring and plumbing in the plane.

        It's extraordinary that it was possible to design, build and fly this unearthly aircraft fly in the 1960s.

        America, you went to the Moon, but we got Concorde.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          America, you went to the Moon, but we got Concorde.

          Actually in terms of cost and technical complexity they were quite similar.

          But Concorde lasted several decades longer and (as a percentage of all the passengers it carried) killed a much smaller percentage of the people it carried.

          M2 flight is quite easy if you can a) Carefully select height and weight limited (A 6' guy in a modern combat plane. No chance) physically fit aircrew and b) Don't have to worry about the fuel bill.c) Put them in a tiny space so the only air they need is enough to fit in a face mask.

          Try that with fat sweaty businessmen. Yet that's exactly what Concorde allowed.

          BTW Concorde's mistake was it met the noise standards for the previous generation of turbojet passenger a/c, rather than the later turbofans, because it took so long to get into service and the world oil price rose 4x (to $12 in 1973 $. I can hardly imagine such a time. :-( ).

          And when played blind recordings of a Concorde takeoff NYC residents found the subsonic jets louder (they're not called "noise abatement manoeuvres" for nothing). However the time it took to deal with these objections killed a lot of interest in buying more Concorde's from other (potential) operators.

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: America, you went to the Moon, but we got Concorde.

            @John Smith, it did not help that Ports Authority of New York played to that by claiming it was Concorde that was so noisy, and the makers of Concorde spent years testing and proving that it was in fact not their plane. :-(

  5. Neil 32

    Better On A Camel

    Such a shame she is no longer flying and that most of us have never had the chance to fly on her.

    I visited G-BOAC at the Runway Visitor Park next to Manchester Airport and did the extended "technical tour". They are a little more accommodating at Manchester in that they will let you sit on the seats (although they do ask you don't recline or lower the tray tables - spare parts are somewhat hard to get hold of these days!) and they also let you onto the flight deck and even sit in the pilot's seat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Better On A Camel

      "They are a little more accommodating at Manchester in that they will let you sit on the seats"

      You used to be able to do this at Filton when it was a pre-booked only tour before they built the museum (took ~15 years to do this which is outstandingly fast for sorting anything out in Bristol ... Bristol has been talking about trams and an arena for decades ... trams have now morphed into "MetroBus" which is about to open one of 3 routes only a couple of years late - and several £10M's over budget - and latest wheeze is to abandon the already arena in cnetral Bristol and covert the Brabazon hangar in Filton, where concorde was built, into an arena ... though as this puts the "Bristol Arena" in South Gloucestershire then the politics are strong on this one ... doubtless this will eventually be served by the Bristol nderground system that the Mayor is now wibbling about)

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Better On A Camel

        Don't forget they just dropped the Metrobus stop at Filton Abby Wood because they built the entrance too small for the buses to turn in.

        By the time they actually start service the Metro buses will probably only be going between two stops a hundred metres apart.

        Yep, slow and steady, that's the Bristol way.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Better On A Camel

          I expect they will take some bog standard Enviro 400s, paint the word "Metrobus" on them, and run them on an existing route.

  6. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Minor Point

    Originally it was going to be BOAC that would have flown Concorde and lead to other airlines ordering it in a desperate race to keep up, however that merged with BEA to form BA before Concorde's first flight. Which is probably handy as the traditional BOAC blue nose and undersides would not have faired well at M2.0.

    If you want to see a prototype Concorde with all the test gubbins inside the Fleet Air Arm Museum about an hour or so south of Filton, at RNAS Yeovilton, has aircraft 002 the first British example, along with some of the experimental aircraft that proved the aerodynamics. I'm not really sure why it has them as it doesn't fit with the rest of the exhibits on naval aviation...

    1. x 7

      Re: Minor Point

      "I'm not really sure why it has them as it doesn't fit with the rest of the exhibits on naval aviation..."

      It was the only air museum with a long enough runway close to Bristol

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Minor Point

        'It was the only air museum with a long enough runway close to Bristol'

        Ahhh that makes sense. Ta.

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: Minor Point

          BARELY long enough runway.

          I watched it land (on borrowed engines), from a hillside a few miles away from the runway..

          Technically the runway was too short, but somehow they managed it, by using a lot of run-off apron.

          Bet the pilot had brown trousers.

          Watched the BA ones taking off from Heathrow a few times; fuelling up at the petrol station, you had to stop and put your hands over your ears, even after the "hush kit" upgrades made the engines quieter (supposedly).

          Watching it as it left the ground made every other aircraft look like it was flying slo-mo; greased weasel or what!!!

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: Minor Point

            @Ian Emery

            you had to stop and put your hands over your ears

            "Ooh… You Are Awfully Loud, But I Like You!"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Minor Point

      "If you want to see a prototype Concorde"

      and to be a completist there's the british second protoype at IWM Duxford. One "interesting" feature on the prototypes is that there's an escape hatch for the crew to bail out with parachutes

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Minor Point

        Lots of airliner prototypes have escape hatches. Particularly as a lot of them do test flights with large crews on board nowadays, playing with all the computers. After all, you've got all that space in the back, why not fill it with servers and techs.

        On colour, Concorde did get painted blue at least once. Pepsi did it (paid BA I think) for a publicity stunt when they changed their cans from white to blue in the 90s. But it wasn't able to go supersonic without melting the paint, so just bibbled over to Paris for a photo-op and went home for a respray.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          IT Angle

          Particularly as a lot of them do test flights with large crews..playing with all the computers.

          Each of the 4 Concorde engines had 13 computers. IIRC they ran the inlet (complex), the engine (probably more monitoring than adjusting) and the outlet (full adjustable reheat and altitude/speed adjustment)

          That said some of these were analogue computers, hard wired to take scaled voltages and currents, mash them through a bunch of operational amplifiers and drive some actuators. Good for near instantaneous response to certain parameters.

          Others met the more modern description, with executing programs in ROM. Built to mil spec by Elliot Brothers?

          I'll note it took 66 flights to plan the "schedule" of spike positions on the SR71. While Concorde's speed range was lower it was design to cope with "unstarts" where the inlet expels the shock wave (a potentially fatal event on the SR71 requiring immediate pilot action) automatically.

          1. bazza Silver badge

            Re: Particularly as a lot of them do test flights with large crews..playing with all the computers.

            That said some of these were analogue computers, hard wired to take scaled voltages and currents, mash them through a bunch of operational amplifiers and drive some actuators. Good for near instantaneous response to certain parameters.

            Well, you still have the group delay round the feedback loops, but that's it.

            One subtle and now overlooked feature of analogue control avionics is that certification is far easier. No software. It's easy to prove an analogue circuit meets a specification both analytically and by testing. Digital is far harder, and especially so when you use digital electronics to run software...

            I'll note it took 66 flights to plan the "schedule" of spike positions on the SR71. While Concorde's speed range was lower it was design to cope with "unstarts" where the inlet expels the shock wave (a potentially fatal event on the SR71 requiring immediate pilot action) automatically.

            A big difference between Concorde and SR71 inlets is stability. Square sloped inlets such as Concorde, Tornado, F15, etc used are more tolerant of disturbances in the airflow into them. Maneuvering is unlikely to upset that airflow. Whereas the SR71 was all about absolutely maxing the pressure recovery (for which spike round inlets are the best), no compromises, and was much more on the edge whilst at high speed. Very exciting, if nerve wracking, ride!

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

              A big difference between Concorde and SR71 inlets is stability.

              I did not realize this.

              IIRC the SR71 had something like 13 different operating configurations, with different doors (some active, some sprung loaded) opening and closing at different flight stages.

              I'd guess axi-symetric inlets were were easier to analyze. Quite an important issue given the limited computer power available for the era.

        2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Re: Minor Point

          This page has a few shots of the blue-painted Concorde:

          http://www.concordesst.com/history/events/pepsi.html

  7. Dave 126 Silver badge

    A couple of engineers, when facing a measurement problem in designing the RR Olympus engines for Concorde solved that problem. They spun their solution, a touch probe, out into a company called Renishaw (a sponsor of the Filton Aerospace museum) , whose measurement equipment is today used in the precise placement of electronic components (Foxconn, Samsung et al), as well checking aerospace components, neurology and other fields. Their logo can be seen at 5 minutes into the official iPhone 5 video - it's the ruby-tipped touch probe checking the case chamfers after diamond cutting.

    http://www.renishaw.com/en/concorde-completes-final-journey-to-new-gbps19m-home--40636

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I find it sad that a company that accomplished what they did for Concorde is now doing iPhones.... seems like we as a civilization have slipped.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Headmaster

        I find it sad that a company that accomplished what they did for Concorde is now doing iPhones.... seems like we as a civilization have slipped.

        Bullshit and a bad case of Big Tech lust. Like Kasparov complaining that a State would go to the Moon (yes!) but a private company would build iPhones.

        An iPhone is far more useful (as well as complex and far-out) than a Concorde.

        And a new Concorde can always be built if the economic incentives are right, so you are basically complaining that the economic incentives are not right. Well, duh!

        Also a bad case of not quite having a good feel how engineering works. Companies providing the right tools are the salt of the Earth, they are always necessary, whether someone uses the tools to build a Concorde or an iPhone, an LHC or your toilet seat doesn't matter.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sad?

        They don't "do" iphones http://www.renishaw.com

        They do loads of cool stuff

  8. Vinyl-Junkie

    Supersonic flight

    "although its characteristic sonic boom was no longer heard above populated areas by the 1990s in the wake of complaints from those whose windows had been shattered."

    Concorde was never allowed to fly supersonic over land during its commercial operating career. On transatlantic flights the aircraft would fly subsonic over land before transitioning to supersonic mode over the Bristol Channel. Whilst the boom was audible, and occasionally loud enough to rattle windows in North Devon and North Cornwall, it certainly was never loud enough to shatter windows. The only damage that was attributed directly to repeated sonic booms from Concorde was the loosening of the pointing between slates on some roofs.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Supersonic flight

      'Concorde was never allowed to fly supersonic over land during its commercial operating career.'

      Apparently due to how efficient she was at supersonic speeds, and how inefficient at sub-sonic speeds, unless Concorde had broken M1.0 by the end of the Bristol channel they had to abort back to Heathrow as there wouldn't be enough fuel to cross the Atlantic. I'm fairly sure that's detailed in Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford, which is well worth a read if you're interested in Black Arrow, Concorde, or any other cutting edge technology the UK abandoned its lead in...

    2. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: Supersonic flight

      Windows were certainly broken during supersonic test flights over Bristol (presumably by RAF jets) conducted to see whether Concorde's sonic booms would be a problem or not. Perhaps that story eventually morphed into Concorde itself breaking windows.

      1. spinynorman

        Re: Supersonic flight

        @Thoguht - it was Lightning aircraft from what I can remember.

    3. Mike Richards

      Re: Supersonic flight

      In West Cornwall, we'd get the boom from the Air France Concorde out of JFK around 9pm every night. Th-THUMP! and the windows would rattle.

      Sound of childhood, gone forever.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maintenance

    My brother used to work for BA at LHR as a parts dispatcher for aircraft in the late 90's. He did tell me a story that once it had landed they noticed some damage to a part of it. They didn't have the exact part available, so apparently they sent a man with a screwdriver down to one on display, to 'borrow' it from that so that it could fly on the return leg a few hours later.

    Whether that tale is actually true is another story...

    1. CraPo

      Re: Maintenance

      You mean the 40% scale model one?

      http://www.concordesst.com/model1.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Maintenance

        >You mean the 40% scale model one?

        >http://www.concordesst.com/model1.html

        No it was most likely Brooklands Museum or the Imperial War Museum. Bristol had a mock up of the flight deck. Perhaps they got bits from that as well....

        1. CraPo

          Re: Maintenance

          The OP said LHR

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Maintenance

            You trying to tell us they raided a 40% scale model for parts for a full size actual aircraft....?

            Really?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maintenance

      Yes, they raided the model on display in the (late lamented) industrial museum in Bristol. Nowadays they'd be out of luck as we no longer have an industrial museum to display the history of things that have been made in Bristol etc but instead have the "M-Shed" (I'll allow the name as its the name of the original harbour shed where it and the previous industrial museum are based) which seems more interested in finding out how everyone feels about being a Bristolian and how so many people from different cultures have moved here and get a long and don't riot (very often but when they do its for perferctly acceptable reasons) .... aerospace is reduced to a section in one dispaly cabinet and there's no mention of the hi-tech/microelectronics industries in te region (despite it being one of the majpr centres in Europe if not the world)

  10. lee harvey osmond

    Lavatory!

    It is once more time to discuss Concorde's lavatory. Right at the tail of the aircraft where the fuselage begin to taper, so, if a conventionally-sized adult male standing up to pee, you didn't have the headroom to look down to see where you were aiming

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lavatory!

      No problem, you just had to bend your nose downwards out of the way so you could see again...

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Lavatory!

      You could just sit down to pee. It's not exclusively for ladies y'know.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Lavatory!

        ...and helps to insure that the liquid goes where it's supposed to when the air (or sea) is rough!

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Lavatory!

          ... or even when it isn't.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Lavatory!

          I would prefer you to ensure the liquid goes where it should do than insure that it does.

          ensure = put procedures in place to prevent failure

          insure = put procedures in place to recover after failure

        3. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Lavatory!

          Or even on solid land on a perfectly fine and calm day. Men never seem to be able to aim correctly.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: Lavatory!

            As a man who once had to clean some 20 toilets that were used by some 200 young men for a couple of weeks, I can fully corroborate this.

  11. Baldie

    Surprise Sighting

    I saw this plane on its way to Filton. I often ran along the Thames towpath to Chiswick in those days, and one day coming round a left hand bend, I saw Concord's nose overhanging the opposite bank. Funny place to park an aeroplane I thought, and ran on.

    It made sense a couple of days later when the Evening Standard was full of pictures of it being floated down river on barges. Funny route from Heathrow to Bristol I thought, what about the M4?

    1. Vinyl-Junkie
      Headmaster

      Re: Surprise Sighting

      The Filton Concorde was flown in; there's footage of the landing here, for example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4UHTiMJqpM

      The barged Concorde was en-route to The Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland.

    2. Andrew Newstead

      Re: Surprise Sighting

      That one was going up to the air museum at east Fortune, near Edinburgh The one at Filton was flown in..

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Surprise Sighting

        Filton one was flown in. Their was quite a buzz about its swansong flight. A friend of mine has some lovely big prints of photos taken of her above Clifton suspension bridge taken from a helicopter (either a police or press chopper, I forget)

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Surprise Sighting

          Ive seen the barged one in Edinburgh . Similar setup to the one in the article - glassed off cockpit , and you get a feel for the internal size.

          didnt know you could barge from Thames to Edinburgh though!

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Surprise Sighting

      There's an episode of the excellent 'Cabin Pressure' where they're forced to leave an airport by road, due to a lack of available fuel. And other various silliness.

      Mines a 25 year old Talisker please. Or is that apple juice?

      1. hoola Bronze badge

        Re: Surprise Sighting

        After "borrowing" the petrol from the various vehicles parked around G-ERTI to stop it taking off.

        I always thought that commercial jets had under-wing pumped fuelling rather than a petrol cap on top. Now that would spoil the story.

  12. Kevin Johnston

    many memories

    My Father was involved in some of the early testing in the wind tunnels and ditching tanks before it was certified to fly and he has some real horror stories including some unrealistic requirements for flight parameters on the ditching tests.

    It was clear that a lot of effort went into the political side as this was an aircraft which 'was meant to fly'

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: many memories

      At Farnborough in 2016 there was an interesting talk by the company that did the model tests for ditching*, basically a large scale model is shot from a catapult into a test tank. In the case of Concorde it then bounced out and flew across a nearby road.

      *Due to the way the regulations are worded they still have to use physical models rather than computer ones.

  13. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Duxford

    There's also a (pre-production) Concorde at Duxford. I've been in it and I was surprised at how cramped it was inside.

  14. David Harper 1

    Watch the Channel 5 documentary

    Channel 5 showed a two-part documentary late last year which included interviews with some of the aviation engineers who were involved in developing Concorde and solving the many technological challenges. It's well worth watching and it highlights what an engineering marvel Concorde was.

    The Imperial War Museum at Duxford has the Concorde which was used for testing in extreme conditions. You can walk through the interior. The front half is fitted with seats to show what passengers would have experienced, whilst the back half still has all of the test and monitoring equipment in place.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Watch the Channel 5 documentary

      I was going to mention that too. One of the points I remembered about that program, was one of the pilots saying that after they did some market research they found that customers didn't actually know how much their ticket cost and so they could increase it and improve their finances.

      1. Mike Richards

        Re: Watch the Channel 5 documentary

        The stroke of genius was to contact the executives directly, rather than their PAs who did the actual bookings (and therefore knew the price of a plane ticket). £5000 IIRC.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Watch the Channel 5 documentary

          Yes. Which is why this bit "It was expensive to fly – a ticket to New York cost £3,500," of the article is a bit misleading. It was that expensive because it could be, not because it had to be.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Watch the Channel 5 documentary

      Before the museum at Filton you visited their Concorde on pre-booked tours where many of the guides who took groups around were peopel who had worked on Concorde at Filton. Went a couple of times and it was fascinating.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Supre Cruise

    I've heard about Concorde's super-cruise feature several times. Does anyone have a bit more detail on it that a non-aeronautical engineer type might understand?

    1. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: Supre Cruise

      Supercruise simply means the ability to sustain supersonic flight without afterburner.

      1. KimJongDeux

        Re: Supre Cruise

        Afterburner. Flight crew used to refer to them as "the re-heat".

    2. Tim 49

      Re: Supre Cruise

      Bit of background, & a quick ramble. Jets work by ingesting air, compressing it, lighting it & shoving the expanding gas out the back, in a continuous process (unlike pistons, which are discrete such, squeeze, bang & blow of course). You can either accelerate lots of air a bit (modern high-bypass turbofans), or less air a lot (very noisy, uneconomical turbojets). However as you go faster, the efficiency of fans drops, & that of the pure jets increases, in simple terms because you need less 'compression' the faster you go. Also as you go faster, you need faster air coming out the back, & jets push the air out faster than fans (huge simplification here, please accept that!).

      So for supersonic, you either need low-bypass fans, or pure jets. You also need loads of thrust. One way to get this big thrust is to use reheat, where you squirt neat fuel into the exhaust, downstream of the turbine, & light it, adjusting the nozzles at the back of the engine to compensate for the pressure changes at the back when you start this additional generation. You also want to keep some lower-speed & higher-pressure air coming out the back as well, in a 'cylinder' around the higher-speed supersonic air, in order to (a) make it quieter, & more importantly (b) to stop the cone of supersonic air expanding (diverging); you want the thrust to go straight back & not be wasted as the air expands in all directions.

      Using reheat is horribly thirsty, but it means that you can have a lighter, "less powerful" engine for the majority of time when you don't need it. Generally, engines big enough to sustain supersonic flight would be massively overpowered for other times (and remember twin-engine airlines have loads of excess power too, since they must be able to get off the ground if one fails).

      However, with careful magic in the intake & exhaust (and clever wings & fuselage to reduce drag), you can do away with reheat, & 'supercruise' on 'dry' power. There's a lot of extra drag when transitioning through M1.0, but it reduced again by M1.7 in Concorde's case, & she could then supercruise, on full dry power, with no reheat. Reheat all the time would use about 4x more fuel.

      Concorde was unique here, with about 8% of the thrust coming from the engine itself, 63% from the intake, & the rest from the convergent-divergent nozzle system at the back. So supercruise is just very clever optimisation of the intake/engine/exhaust system to optimise power & efficiency at supersonic parts of flight.

      The really clever thing is the intake on Concorde, where you're slowing the air down by 1500MPH in a length of 15 feet, without expelling a shock wave out of the front of the intake, since to do so would multiply drag, & bad things would happen (this is termed an Unstart). Managing this shock front an the multiple shock waves dynamically is an amazing thing.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Supre Cruise

        'Concorde was unique here, with about 8% of the thrust coming from the engine itself, 63% from the intake, & the rest from the convergent-divergent nozzle system at the back.'

        I think the SR-71 Blackbird had similar figures in terms of where the thrust was coming from, I've read one account where the engine was described as 'getting in the way', but unlike Concorde it had to use afterburner to maintain supersonic flight.

        1. Tim 49

          Re: Supre Cruise

          Yes, SR-71 was a bit different though, because they could exceed M3. At those speeds, the compressor of a jet is almost becoming a drag item, & SR-71 bypassed most of the air directly through some big 'drainpipes' along the outside of the casing. They were essentially running almost like a ramjet at those speeds, with little compression & just igniting fuel in the airstream, running on reheat (afterburner for our left-pondian friends).

          The big spiky-things at the front of the Blackbird engines moved forward & rearwards to manage the shockwaves. Unstarts in the intake could be extreme in the Blackbird, and at least one was lost because of this. A pilot's helmet was cracked by the force of his head hitting the side as the aircraft as it yawed during an unstart.

          Concorde got the sweet spot of speed & performance. Trying to go faster would require more exotic fuselage materials & getting certification for safe operation faster than M2.abit with paying passengers rather than steely-eyed fighter jonnies would, I suspect, have been too difficult & costly - the Americans spent 1BN USD developing a faster passenger jet than Concorde & gave up.

          As someone else says, there's tons of info on pprune, & there's also the heritageconcorde site, & several really good books, & the itvv.com Concorde flightdeck DVDs, which after many years are about to stop being made. If you're going to buy anything, get the itvv dvs.

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Supre Cruise

          ... the SR-71 Blackbird...

          Two books: Sled Driver (by a pilot), which is horrendously expensive and hard to find [but...shhh...there's a pdf out there] and Skunk Works by Ben Rich (available in paperback).

  16. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Not just for the rich and famous..

    Back in the early '90s a customer told me they had a regular seat so they could transfer backup tapes between London and NY.. Which made sense given the high cost and limited capacity on transatlantic cables at the time. I didn't ask if they had a regular PFY working as courier, or that was a perk for staff fancying a trip across the pond.

    I do miss the sight & sound of it flying over Reading though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just for the rich and famous..

      I remember when ST started a project based in Bristol and Grenoble the project managers demanded that the databases in the two sites be synchronzied every 24 hours and requested the required network capacity to do this. Someone calcualted the bandwidth required to cope with this requirement and (this was back in T1 days) worked out the cost and pointed out it would be cheaper to employ someoine and buy them a return LHR/Lyon tiicket + hire cars every day to shuttle a set of tapes between the sites! Result was tha project managers decided to scale back the amout of data that needed to be sync-ed

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Not just for the rich and famous..

      I read a nice version of sneakernet the other day, which I hadn't heard about. Apologies if others have.

      Amazon have got a couple of articulated lorries full of hard drives. When someone wants to transfer obscene amounts of data to Amazon's cloud they drive over, hoover it all up and drive it back to one of their datacentres.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not just for the rich and famous..

        Reminds me of Andrew Tanenbaum (of 'Computer Networks' fame) quote: 'Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.'

      2. Mike Richards

        Re: Not just for the rich and famous..

        Snowmobile - for when you have to move a few exabytes to a new home:

        https://aws.amazon.com/snowmobile/

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " Not just for the rich and famous.. "

      Tickemaster UK had a standing deal that if anything happened to their guru the US parent would have a guy on the first Concorde out.

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Not just for the rich and famous..

      hey had a regular seat so they could transfer backup tapes between London and NY

      How did they pass customs?

      "Do you have anything to declare!."

      "Just some PVC film with a thin layer of iron oxide, officer ..."

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Why is speed important for transferring backup tapes?

        And why not transfer them from NYC to Ohio or Toronto? I find it hard to believe a business was worried about continuity following a disaster able to take out the entire North American continent.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Why is speed important for transferring backup tapes?

          It wasn't purely backups, otherwise they could've just driven them far enough out of London/NY to be safe from <whatever> event. So avoiding places like Troy or Trenton. The company was a rather large, well known and well connected Anglo-American giant, so needed to have sales/finance/production data shared across the pond.

          And like others have pointed out, the challenges (and costs) of synchronising large databases, or doing synchronous replication over long distances are still often misunderstood.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

            "he challenges.. doing synchronous replication over long distances are still often misunderstood."

            True.

            One of the reasons Lotus Notes was (for certain tasks) very attractive.

    5. old_iron

      Re: Not just for the rich and famous..

      "I do miss the sight & sound of it flying over Reading though."

      Playing hockey at Reading (well, Sonning really) back in the day, just after 13.00 on a Saturday you could hear the engine note change as she went past the Beacon and they cranked it up further before going all out after the coast. We'd stop and watch, regardless whether the ball was in play...

      Def, one of the great sights of my lifetime

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Not just for the rich and famous..

        We'd stop and watch, regardless whether the ball was in play...

        Def, one of the great sights of my lifetime

        I think that was a sign of it's iconic status. Despite it being a regular event, people would still look up and watch it go by. A far more graceful bird than the ones overhead now. Almost sounded as good as the Vulcan as well :)

  17. Ol'Peculier

    The BA Concord that's moored on top of Intrepid in New York (and looking a little out of place TBH) has tours that allow you to sit down (in the front row, where the Queen sat!) and also into the cockpit. There is a charge for it, but the person that did it was very knowledgeable about it and was happy to ask questions, although my friend and I were outnumbered by non-English speaking tourists, so we kind of had him to ourselves!

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Intrepid is my favourite part of visiting NYC.

  18. Matthew 3

    Hats in the gaps?

    I recall reading that the heat expansion during flight was sufficient that a large gap opens up on the flight deck and that, for the last flights, the captains put their hats into the gap. After slowing down the gap closes up again. The hats are thus sealed in for ever, unless the plane flies again.

    Is this true? And did it happen for this Concorde?

    1. Neil 32

      Re: Hats in the gaps?

      I am 99% certain that G-BOAC at Manchester has some sort of brochure stuck between the Flight Engineer's station and the bulkhead. I'll see if I can dig out the photos from home.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hounslow 17:56 weekdays ...

    for *years* was the time to see this beautiful machine fly overhead. You'd hear it well in advance - the engines were truly unmistakeable.

    Presumably it touched down at 18:00 ?

    It's hard to criticise the US for not pitching in ... there's a TV interview somewhere where one of the decision makers stated that it would have been politically impossible to spend US taxpayers money on what was only ever going to be a playboy project. So whilst we might feel all sorts of warm feelings about Concorde, it's worth noting that we (and our parents) paid for it, and never reaped the rewards.

    It's also a stark monument to the terrible sense of state of decay ... no supersonic travel, no moon landings, takes longer to get around the UK than ever before ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: [Concorde] we paid for it, and never reaped the rewards.

      Surely just being able to appreciate the engineering, aesthetics, and the sheer achievement counts as a reward.

    2. RubberJohnny

      Re: Hounslow 17:56 weekdays ...

      it would have been politically impossible to spend US taxpayers money on what was only ever going to be a playboy project.

      It was spent getting a dozen people to the moon and back instead.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: It was spent getting a dozen people to the moon and back instead

        Yeah. Trained scientists doing a dangerous job for the betterment of mankind.

        Not a bunch of overpaid Z-list "celebs" being subsidised on the taxpayers tit.

        Your point would have only made sense if the US had sent "celebrities" to the moon. And it would have been negated if they'd left them there.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: It was spent getting a dozen people to the moon and back instead

          I'm not sure the moon landings were really done for the "betterment of mankind".

          Yes the space program gave us loads of new technology and knowledge (as well as paying to train thousands of engineers), but we could have set out to get much of that knowledge with research and still saved all the funds spent on the hardware. All those medical sensors, for example, that were developed to monitor the astronauts could just have been invented by spending cash on medical research.

          We do these things for a combination of prestige, "because we can", PR, idealism and progress - because we can't always know what technologies will actually be viable - until we've built them.

          That's the thing with these kinds of projects. Some work and become essential, some work but fail commercially, some fail to get off the ground. It's not always easy to know what you'll get at the start, when you have so many problems to resolve, and you don't know if your solutions will be good enough or so amazing that the new technology changes the world.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: It was spent getting a dozen people to the moon and back instead

            We do these things for a combination of prestige, "because we can", PR, idealism and progress - because we can't always know what technologies will actually be viable - until we've built them.

            That's exactly right!

            AND to impress the ladies!

            X-Files: "Because I Can"

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: It was spent getting a dozen people to the moon and back instead

          Not sure why the downvotes. I am no fanboi for america but... the apollo program and concorde are not comparable

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Hounslow 17:56 weekdays ...

      So whilst we might feel all sorts of warm feelings about Concorde, it's worth noting that we (and our parents) paid for it, and never reaped the rewards.

      Depends on where you look for the return on the initial investment. In Concorde's case, it gave us (ie Europeans) Airbus, and in terms of economic stimulation and return that has been excellent. There's hundreds of thousands of people engaged in gainful employment today as a direct result of the Concorde treaty being successful (ie yes, we can work together, let's do more of that).

      Ok, so Airbus might have happened anyway, but Concorde did set the scene rather well.

  20. Elves are not people too

    Not just operated by BA & Air France

    Whilst no Concordes were sold outside of BA & Air France, an enterprising executive at Singapore Airlines managed to lease one for a while, although they did run into some local problems with neighbouring countries who banned it from flying in their airspace.

    A part of the contract allowed them to code-share with BA at a reduced cost, but he managed to convince people to let Singapore Airlines paint 1 side of the aircraft in Singapore Airlines livery and keep the other in BA paintwork. They then instructed the pilots to fly in for landing (together with ATC) so that the Singapore Airlines livery was always on show to the crowds when coming in.

    http://cdn-www.airliners.net/photos/airliners/7/6/6/1069667.jpg?v=v40

    1. RubberJohnny

      Re: Not just operated by BA & Air France

      One was also leased to U airline Braniff out of DFW.

  21. IanDs

    For anybody who's really interested in the technical background and history of Concorde, there's a *very* long thread (>100 pages) on PPRuNe with an enormous amount of inside information from lots of the people who designed, built, tested and flew it.

    https://www.pprune.org/tech-log/423988-concorde-question.html

    A fascinating way to spend an evening, if you're interested in that sort of thing :-)

  22. wolfetone Silver badge

    Well, I know what I'll be doing on my day off before I start my new job next week.

    Anyone fancy chipping in for petrol money for a jaunt down to Bristol?

  23. jason 7 Silver badge

    Wasnt just running costs...

    ....unfortunately, 9/11 killed off many of it's regular passengers. Also as a result sales of high-end video conference suites went through the roof.

    Basically Concorde wasn't fast enough compared to a digital data stream of sound and video.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wasnt just running costs...

      Also, the invention of the "laptop" meant time on the plane could be used for work could actually be more productive (and comfortable) in 1st class in a 747 than in Concorde ... and save a bit as well.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Wasnt just running costs...

        Quite. having been in a museum'd concorde the seats looked like "back of a sports car" seats.

        I think I'd rather save £3000 and take 3 hours longer . It would be the only chance id get to make £1000 per hour.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Wasnt just running costs...

          Concorde didn't just save on the flight time. They check-in and customs processing was also streamlined, meaning you didn't have to show up early and wait 2 hours for your flight, then wait another hour to get out of the airport, so total time savings were more like 5 or 6 hours door to door. For many businesses that was worth the 3000 GBP.

    2. Borg.King

      Re: Wasnt just running costs...

      I've always believed that Concorde's demise was due to the lack of any Air Force having anything they could deploy quick enough to bring down a hijacked Concorde at Mach 2.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Wasnt just running costs...

        OTOH, it would probably be fairly suspicious if three somewhat shifty Mohammeds already known to the security services get seats on whitey's luxury plane.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Wasnt just running costs...

        Except an English Electric Lightning

      3. PerlyKing Bronze badge

        Re: Bringing down a hijacked Concorde

        Somewhere on the Internet I found a load of English Electric Lightning reminiscences. One of them was about a Concorde test flight up and/or down the North Sea, to which various NATO air forces were invited to "come and have a go" and see if they would be able to shoot her down. The only aircraft which did a successful intercept and simulated kill was a Lightning.

  24. Herring`

    If they had continue refining the tech, then we might have comfortable and (relatively) quiet Mach 2 transport now. Materials and engineering in general have come on a long way since the 1960s. Who would've predicted in 1970 that the future of air transport was in taking drunks to Magaluf for £4.50?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      The drunks don't really only pay £4.50 though.

      And the problem with any supersonic airliner is that it's going to be more expensive than the competition. Both for the new plane, and the fuel.

      At which point you're then going to need extra types of aircraft in your fleet and that means much more expensive logistics, maintenance and training costs.

      With all the latest knowledge it may be possible to make a viable supersonic passenger aircraft. It could always find a place on routes like the Atlantic (and Pacific if it can get the range).

      But the airline industry is a pretty volatile one. And pretty risk-averse nowadays. I saw a comment from Warren Buffet a few years ago, that he'd calculated the global airline industry was still running at a loss. As in all the carriers combined since about 1910 have spent more money than they've taken in total revenue. And there are a lot fewer governments willing to subsidise / bail-out their flag carriers for reasons of national prestige nowadays.

  25. steelpillow Silver badge
    Boffin

    Costs

    The main cost problem was the Olympus engines. Originally built for the 1950s Avro Vulcan bomber, they were uprated and adapted for supersonic use by Concorde. Not only are military engines traditionally far more maintenance-hungry than civil, but the tacked-on afterburner was not as efficient a solution as a clean-sheet design would have been. Had investment for a new engine been available, operating costs would have been substantially lower.

    Then, the insistence on subsonic flight over land (based on grossly exaggerated but fashionable claims of destructive shock waves - fake news is nothing new) made most of its routes convoluted and uneconomic.

    Yet another cost problem was that because of these things, not enough were in use to make the support organisation economic. The usual solution in these cases (Lockheed TriStar, de Havilland Comet, etc. etc.) is to convert them to a military role. Concorde might have made a cheap alternative to the SR-71 or B-1, but nobody wanted to know.

    Nevertheless, in its heyday when finally freed from political interference, Concorde did manage to turn in an operating profit.

    The real killer was that time ran out and giving it a facelift to extend its life into the modern age would have been too expensive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Olympus engines Re: Costs

      @steelpillow "The main cost problem was the Olympus engines. Originally built for the 1950s Avro Vulcan bomber, they were uprated and adapted for supersonic use by Concorde. Not only are military engines traditionally far more maintenance-hungry than civil, but the tacked-on afterburner was not as efficient a solution as a clean-sheet design would have been. Had investment for a new engine been available, operating costs would have been substantially lower."

      The funny thing is, when cruising at Mach 2, Concorde's engines operated more efficiently than those of all other airliners - reheat was only needed for transonic flight (acceleration through Mach 1 to Mach 1.7 according to the Haynes manual I've got here). They had to, or Concorde never would have been able to carry enough fuel to cross the Atlantic because supersonic flight is not in itself efficient.

      Because Concorde had variable geometry engine intakes operating by digital control, and because the engineers who worked on that part of the design were old fashioned wizardly boffins, Concorde got an 80:1 compression ratio from engine intake entrance to engine compressor exit.

      That enormous compression ratio is why the engines were so efficient: basically, the higher your compression ratio, the better your efficiency; and up until relatively recently, no gas turbine engine used on subsonic airliners came close to Concorde at cruising speed. Modern designs like the RR Trent-1000 line of engines apparently provide a 50:1 compression ratio - but the engines used on the original 747, a contemporary of Concorde, had a mere 23.4:1.

      As for the Concorde engines suffering due to their military origins, well, it's not that simple. They were developed from the version of the Olympus which had been enlarged and adapted for the TSR-2 - a supersonic aircraft, unlike the Vulcan. An awful lot of work went into improving the engine after that as it moved through several design iterations, particularly with respect to reducing maintenance requirements since it was intended for a civil application. You might put up with having to do engine work of some sort after every flight of a bleeding-edge military jet (at least in the 1950s or 60s), but it's out of the question with a jet airliner. Civil jet engines have to just keep on working.

      According to the Concorde Haynes manual, the Olympus 593-610, the final Concorde engine, had only its origins in common with the Vulcan power plant. Bristol Siddeley began work on Concorde's engine with the Olympus 22R (aka Olympus 591, Olympus Mk 320, or BOl.22R according to various sources) and came up with the Olympus 593D - "D" for "derivative" or "derived" - from the 22R. This used the metallurgy developed for the TSR-2 engine, since it was proven to cope with supersonic flight conditions.

      During the Concorde design process, it became clear a more powerful engine was needed, so Bristol re-designed the 593D to come up with the Olympus 593B ("B" for "big") - with larger diameter and longer turbines and compressors (i.e., more stages).

      Now then, this engine had a cannular combustion chamber (8 separate but interlinked combustion chambers), left over from its military roots. This was replaced with a pure annular combustion chamber in the 593-602 version: it worked much better (Concorde stopped being so smoky), but suffered problems from rapid deterioration in service (erosion, burning, and cracking) which took until 1981 to solve with improved parts.

      And all the while, the design engineers were working on making the engine as efficient and reliable as they could with a myriad other changes in detail. The result was excellent, it really was, for all that better could be achieved these days.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Olympus engines Costs

        The long and protracted development cycle, which our anonymous coward describes, well illustrates the shortcomings of the original subsonic Olympus for the task. Not all of them could be fixed by incremental redesign and the end result was not as low-maintenance or as well-integrated as a clean-sheet engine could have been.

        Concorde was indeed efficient in supersonic cruise, but anti-noise legislation forced it to spend a lot more time subsonically than anticipated, and here neither the airframe nor the engine was efficient. And that of course would have affected a clean-sheet engine just as much.

        But really, there is a better place for this discussion - see icon.

  26. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Quality headphones going cheap

    In the 2000s, a friend of mine had some Sennheiser HD 25 headphones with the British Airways logo printed in the headband. After the Concorde fleet was retired, the inflight entertainment headphones were sold online. DJ friends of mine swear by HD 25s.

  27. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

    "Noisy" Concorde

    I still remember some idiot on television talking to a reporter, bemoaning the way Concorde was louder than anything else that flew and should be banned immediately - during the interview, one flew almost directly overhead and he didn't even realise it was there!

    1. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: "Noisy" Concorde

      Indeed; those who complain about Concorde's noise are almost certainly too young to remember "proper" jet engines, as opposed to today's fanjets. The BAC 1-11, Boeing 707, DC-8 and VC-10 were all way louder than Concorde, especially as you got further away from the runway, as Concorde had a very aggressive climb profile, which minimised the noise footprint if you were more than a mile from the end of the runway.

      Until 2013 it was still possible to appreciate just how noisy the VC-10 was. I was standing in Port Meadow in Oxford, approximately 12 miles from Brize Norton, listening to a VC-10 doing circuits; it was possible to hear it clearly through every stage of the circuit!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember reading that (perhaps to encourage people to consider upgrading to Concorde for their next flight) where possible BA pilots on 747s would before take-off let passengers on the NY flight know if they were queued for take-off behind Concorde ... then 3 hours into the flight they'd come on tghe intercom to say "you might be interested to know that I've just ehar the Concorde that took off just in front of us has now readhed the terminal gate in New York where will should be in another 3 hours time"

  29. kpreg

    News from the ground

    My uncle was a chief ground engineer on Concorde at Heathrow. He was 'retired' a couple of years before the Air France crash - he gave a warning as his generation was pensioned off. He told his family and friends to no longer fly on it - as the specialised knowledge to maintain it was being lost when he and his peers were pushed out and there was an attempt to use regular aeronautical engineers to save cost, his personal and professional opinion was that the aircraft would start to have very serious issues.

    He passed away before the crash, as do so many of his generation when they retired, which I am glad of.

    While the crash investigators said it was debris which caused the accident to which I have no reason to doubt, my uncle didn't see the beautiful machine to which he had dedicated his career and working life have a catastrophic crash, as per his concerns.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: News from the ground

      Thumbs up for recognizing that a technical system lives and dies with the people that surround it like an electron cloud.

      Something that politicians ,MBAs as well as the general public are often unable to realize. You can't restart a complex technical undertaking that you stopped a bit earlier by just throwing money at it (or even worse, by throwing freshly printed "money" at it).

  30. Franco Silver badge

    I've been to East Fortune (Scotland's National Museum of Flight) which is home to another Concorde and it is well worth the trip. They also have a Vulcan, a Spitfire, a Harrier Jump Jet and various other commercial and military aircraft and some good interactive experiences for the kids (my 5 year old nephew absolutely loved it).

    The crazy thing about Concorde is the disparity between the inside and the outside. From the outside it still looks modern, even futuristic. The cramped cabin and the insanely complicated cockpit reveal it's age

  31. ewan 3

    Heating not pressure

    "This was an aircraft that flew so high, at 60,000 feet, you could see the curvature of the Earth, and so fast that the airframe stretched, gaining between 15.24 and 25.4cm (6-10 inches) during flight thanks to the extreme pressures."

    Given the difference between sea level and space is only 14psi, it was the aerodynamic heating that made the thing expand, not the pressure. See also SR71, which leaks fluids until it heats up.

  32. Valerion

    Brooklands

    For those of closer to London, I highly recommend the Brooklands Museum Concorde Experience.

    You get to go on the plane, sit in the seats and they do a simulated take-off. It's all very well done, and the rest of the museum is worth the visit too.

    1. RubberJohnny

      Re: Brooklands

      I was lucky in 1991 as a competition prize I won a flight in G-BOAE for a Bay of Biscay flight to 60,000 and Mach2.

      The takeoff in a lightly loaded (reduced fuel, no baggage) Concorde is stuck in my memory and was more amazing and exciting than I had even anticipated. Just mind-blowing.

    2. TWB

      Re: Brooklands

      A bunch of my colleagues/friends went to Brooklands a few years ago and were lucky enough to be there on a day when the chief test pilot (IIRC - or at least a very knowledgeable and experienced Concorde pilot) was there. Being a weekday and it was fairly quiet, apparently they had him to themselves for ages and he was more than happy to talk - and all being engineers - they more than happy to ask questions. Wish I'd gone along.

  33. Defiant

    But

    Could have stripped them down and rebuilt with modern tech/engines

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: But

      Not cheaply. And I'd imagine the airframe is the cheapest part to replace (relatively speaking of course).

      You can't just replace the engines on an aircraft designed to supercruise. Engine power, engine inlet inlet air control, fuel consumption, weight etc. are an interlocking set of design decisions. Change one, you've got to re-design others.

  34. Pete4000uk

    This was back when

    the future looked very different from today. Anyone care to take a put on when the future now looks like?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: This was back when

      You asked for it.

      Black Pigeon Speaks: Britain ABOLISHES ITSELF

    2. PaulyV

      Re: This was back when

      I think it's a future where auto-correct renders most of what we type rather confusing. ;)

  35. John Miles 1

    Misapplied brilliance

    Yes fantastic engineering - especially when you think it was more than 50 years ago. And horrendously noisy, I remember parking at Heathrow when one was taking off and the fittings inside the car were rattling with the vibration/noise. However, I wonder why the UK thought it a good idea to spend £B's on something enjoyed by a handful of travelers whilst USA built the 747 etc which has been enjoyed by Bs' of travelers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Misapplied brilliance

      If you read the article you would have realised that it was projected to cost £94M, and was predicted to be the future of air travel.

      That's why they thought it was a good idea. The fact it didn't turn out that way is lamentable, but your comment is stupid. I am sure with the benefit of hindsight which you posess, Concorde would never have been built.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Misapplied brilliance

      John Miles 1,

      It's because people can't see the future. The 747 was initially a failure, that probably came quite close to bankrupting Boeing. Because even if you come up with the correct technical solution for the future, that only counts if your customers also realise that you've got it, and give you the cash. Otherwise you go bust, and someone else buys your technology on the cheap and maybe tries again.

      Look at the Comet. The future of civil aviation, and a brilliant plane. Far ahead of the competition. How were the designers to know that those big windows weren't a very good idea? We still don't have big windows on our planes today, because of those fatigue problems, and it's possible that any new future airliner (supersonic or not) will have no windows, to save weight and maintenance - and make the cabin bearable with screens instead.

    3. Kristian Walsh

      Re: Misapplied brilliance

      Yes, "the USA" (or rather Boeing) built the 747, but it also failed to build a competitor to Concorde. The Boeing 747 is one of those accidental success stories that get re-told as forward thinking after the fact...

      Boeing designed 747 primarily as a freight aircraft, in response to a U.S military requirement for a jet-engined heavy transport. It didn't win that contract (Lockheed did, with the C-5 Galaxy), but when Pan Am asked Boeing about a 300-seater plane to reduce taxiway congestion at busy airports, Boeing revived the project, but the plane's heavy-transport origins kept their focus on freight: even with passenger-airline orders on the books in the mid-1960s, the 747 model was still envisioned as a "freighter that could take passengers", to the point that customers were offered the big passenger jet with the option of a re-fit into full freight service once supersonic passenger flight took over. The thinking was simple: with a supersonic option available, nobody would want to fly the "slow plane".

      A big reason for this odd attitude was that at the time 747 was being developed, Boeing's biggest project was the 2707, a Mach-2-to-3 capable passenger jet, heavily subsidised by the U.S. Government, and eventually abandoned in 1971. The 2707 project nearly bankrupted Boeing, and in the end it was very fortunate for them that they had decided to produce 747: their "nice-to-have" additional option turned out to be the core product that saved the company.

      The other big factor in the collapse of supersonic passenger flight was the Oil Crisis. When Concorde was being planned in the early 1960s, petroleum, and thus aviation fuel, was dirt cheap. By the time Concorde actually went into service in 1976, there had been two Oil Crises, OPEC had flexed its muscles considerably, and fuel had more than doubled in price. Fuel now became a much greater part of a plane's running cost than it had been previously, and Concorde used about three times as much of it per seat per mile as competing planes.

  36. Jonathan Richards 1
    Go

    "... failed to live up to Lord Amery's pitch"

    TFA quotes that pitch as saying "[Concorde] has every chance of securing a substantial part of the world market for supersonic airliners. This is a chance that will not return."

    The first sentence was clearly borne out. There was no other supersonic airliner in the market, Tu-144 notwithstanding. The second sentence is a hostage to the future, of course, but the chance hasn't returned yet, 56 years after Amery said it.

    Thanks for an interesting article. Having seen Alpha Foxtrot outside in all winds and weathers for so many years, it's good to know that it is now in from the cold!

  37. Pangasinan Philippines

    Many memories

    There was some argument about spelling it without the 'e' (Concord) but the French won that argument.

    I was at Lechlade when the first flight landed at Fairford. Huge crowds at the riverbank enjoying the spectacle.

    I lived in North Swindon - near the Arkells brewery and (when outdoors) could hear the plane on take off when full power was applied.

    Years earlier, when at school, went to a lecture by Sir Barnes Wallis. Biggest laugh came when he said of the Americans "I told them not to use titanium!"

    I was in Hong Kong when Imelda Marcos visited on Concorde for a shopping trip which was also a sales pitch for the aircraft.

  38. Due4AChange

    Sonic Boom over Cape Cod

    I grew up spending summers on Cape Cod and you could almost set your watch to the 9:00AM sonic boom as the Concorde flew over on its approach to Kennedy. While I understand the economics, noise and related factors that prevented it from continued flying, the shear engineering that went into it, and dropping the flight time across the pond in half has to be recognized for the advancement factor. We don't see such leaps and bounds so much these days.

  39. Gustavo Fring

    non cocncord

    "air-raid shelters covered in grass despite the fencing" I may be mistaken , but I have never thought of fencing as keeping out grass , or stopping its growth in any way ?

    Concord .. surely the knowledge gained from this has gone on to influence our present fleet of Sabre engined Moon -rockets .... (in 2022 maybe?) 2033 possibly ?

  40. Snarky Puppy

    Wonderful memories

    I was nine years old in 1975 when my parents took me to Nairobi airport to see Concorde. My first impression was one of disappointment at how small it looked, not helped by it being parked at the farthest end of the airport. There it sat, a gleaming white dart under the vast African sky.

    Fast forward to 2016 and a visit to Duxford air museum. I was walking through Concorde 101 on display there and saw a plaque marking its visit to Nairobi in 1975. Suddenly realised with shock and wonder that I was standing inside the same aircraft I'd seen as a boy over 40 years earlier. I don't mind admitting I welled up and promptly made a donation to the upkeep of this wonderful aircraft.

    What was Concorde doing in Nairobi you may ask? Icing testing. Strange as it sounds, the air temperature over the equator at 60,000 feet is colder than it is over the Poles at the same altitude.

    Wonderful memories of an iconic aircraft.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Wonderful memories

      When I was a similar age, our teacher split us into groups to plan a class trip. The winning group's trip would then be our end-of-term treat.

      I think I may have misunderstood the brief somewhat...

      My aunt had just been to Mexico to Chichen Itza. I therefore had a lovely new t-shirt with a pyrmid on it. That (and some shiny brochures from a few trips to helpful travel agents) was the basis of our presentation on the destination.

      This was to be a day trip, so how to get there? Well I'd seen a thing on TV, or in the paper, that you could hire Concorde for something amazingly cheap like £20,000. (mid-1980s money). However, I believe that was a short hop over to the coast and back, and may not have included fuel. And certainly not the fuel and two flight crews needed to get us to Mexico and back. Let alone the transport from the closest available runway.

      We went to Southend-on-Sea.

  41. TrickyT

    Ahh, brings back memories. I started my career at DEC (which morphed into Digital->Compaq->HP :-( I got out during the start of the HP session) at the facility in Ayr. Concorde used to regularly test at Prestwick Airport (a few miles away), assume pilot training. It was the norm for the offices to take a break and go out to watch Concorde circling above, or flying out over Arran. We knew it was testing due to the noise!

  42. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

    I remember seeing a cartoon in a copy of Punch back in my schooldays...

    Concorde with it's droop snoot touching the ground, surrounded by little black dots....

    Two techie types, in white lab coats standing off to one side...

    One says to the other: "You're right. It IS eating ants!"

  43. Andy Taylor

    I grew up in the west of Reading, directly under the flight path and my lessons were regularly interrupted by the sound of Concorde passing over my school in Theale.

    As a computing student at Bristol Polytechnic (now UWE), I was extremely fortunate to get the chance to pilot the simulator at Filton. So technically I have "flown" Concorde (although I needed some "help" with the landing*). The simulator sans hydraulics is now at Brooklands where you can pay £199+ to have a go yourself.

    *crashes, even in simulators are generally discouraged (but remember that a good landing is one you can walk away from, a great landing is one where the plane can be used again).

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      FAIL

      @Andy Taylor

      Simulators: my son was stationed with an attack helicopter (AH-64) squadron in Korea as an artillery fire control officer. They couldn't take him for a ride (both cockpits must be pilots) but they did let him try the simulator.

      He crashed it so hard they had to reboot it :-)

      (his only prior experience flying helicopters was radio control models...and he wasn't very good at that either)

  44. Packet

    Love reading about this splendid machine

    Though I do dislike all the whinging about the noise.

    I fondly recall what Kelly Johnson / Ben Rich of SR-71 fame said to a local municipality while defending their brainchild, it's "the sound of freedom".

    Another book recommendation is "Champagne on the edge of space" written by a flight attendant on the Concorde (and it mentions the flight engineer hat being stuck in between the expanding spaces too)

    1. IanDs

      Re: Love reading about this splendid machine

      I think the author of the "Champagne..." book made quite a few posts as "Landlady" on the PPRuNe Concorde thread, some of which probably weren't fit for publication...

      1. Packet

        Re: Love reading about this splendid machine

        Ooh fascinating - something to read on this quiet boring day.

        Muchos gracias, amigo

    2. HPCJohn

      Re: Love reading about this splendid machine

      Talking about Champagne, there is an SR-71 pilots tale in Francis Spuffords book "Backroom Boys".

      An SR-71 is flying a mission over the Carribean, probably an overflight of Cuba. Pilot and RSO are in silver astornaut suits, sitting there sucking juice through a tube and probably peeing through a tube at 60 000 feet.

      Over the radio comes an air traffic controller "Turn left 20 degrees to avoid conflicting traffic". The pilot questions this - after all they are at 60 000 feet. "Nevertheless - turn left 20 degrees"

      The two SR-71occupants then see a Concorde sailing serenely past, with passengers in shirtsleeves and summer dresses, drinking champagne and eating lobster.

      (Yes I know - over a certain height it is uncontrolled airspace. But this is a good tale)

  45. Paul Ward

    Flew LHR to JFK on Concorde in 1996...

    Albeit on a charter rather than a scheduled flight Back then Goodwood Travel used to charter it and offer weekends in New York - Concorde out on Saturday, two nights at The Plaza then back on a 747.

    Cost was c.£2000 THEN but it was worth every penny. Wake up on Saturday and a civilised time, check in for a 12:40 departure. 3 hours 20 to JFK, so arrive 16:00 UK time. UK had gone to BST but US had not yet gone to Daylight Savings Time so six hour time difference so 10:00 in New York. The usual (for then) hour through immigration at JFK then into town, check into the hotel and was wandering down Fifth Avenue at 12:30 New York time having woken up in my own bed in the UK the same morning...

    As others have said Concorde did not fly well subsonic and it was noisy in the cabin. No IFE but who wanted films/TV when you were on Concorde? Seat pitch wasn't that great either. I remember them lighting the reheats, two at a time, over the Bristol Channel resulting in two gentle nudges in the back. As the Captain said we were already at 45000 feet which was beyond was most airliners could reach. They then let Concorde 'cruise-climb', rising as it burned off fuel; we got to 58000 feet that day...

    REALLY glad I did it...

  46. strum Silver badge

    One factor which isn't much discussed is the godawful location of London's premier airport, meaning that this (and all the other aircraft) had to take-off/land over heavily populated (and quite expensive) real estate.

  47. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    1) I used to do the NY-London Heathrow (and back) hop a couple of times a year. Never once heard a BA crew shill for Concorde. Disbelieve this was a corporate policy.

    2) Claims that Concorde was out-of-reach for "normal" people are the stuff that comes out of the back of a well-fed male moo-cow.

    Back in the day, one could pick up a gig as a legitimate courier (a one-off thing that could be arranged before Fed Ex had a stranglehold) and for carrying whatever paperwork (or diamonds; you never knew) you got to fly Concorde. I had a colleague who did this a few times.

    One could book onto a Concorde-out, QE2 back cruise. Quite reasonable prices. I had a colleague who did this for his Easter trip back to Blighty.

    Or one could get together with one's neighbours and charter the craft as more than one street of people did, for a flight on this miracle of science and technology. I remember a bunch of pensioners who did it and got on Nationwide into the bargain.

    And one could fly standby at reasonable rates. I had a colleague who did that more than once.

    Now if you mean that flying one-way on the spur of the moment was expensive, well, try doing that first class on a slowboat today.

    The main revenue-related problem I recall with Concorde during it's operational days was the glacial pace at which airports agreed to have it as a guest. Original flights were to Bahrain. That's it. Took forever to get a NY leg added. Memory suggests it was around the time the Space Shuttle began overflying the USA at Mach12 en-route to Vandenburg that the Americans lightened up.

    Just before I came to the USA, in 1984, a publicity campaign was run in which first Concord and then a 747 were landed at Birmingham airport. Somewhere I have a beer festival glass depicting Concorde flying through some rugby goalposts as a commemorative (beer festival was held on a rugby field).

    "They" said the day the 747 landed that it stopped scant feet from the A45 and there were serious doubts it could get aloft again on the short runways available. Every time I watch Die Hard II I think of that. But Concorde flew in and flew out again without reported issue.

  48. Cheesemouse

    Not forgetting our old friends

    I'm sure the community on this thread will also remember the beautiful Vulcan and Lightning aircraft which had similar window rattling prowess. Loving the nostalgia here. Apparently the Lightning's vertical acceleration was very hard to match. Do share your experiences

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was it really only the maintenance costs?

    "What finally killed Concorde wasn't the infamous crash of the Air France Concorde on take-off in 2000, killing 114 people. It was price. Airbus, the Anglo-French joint venture that provided maintenance, told BA and Air France in 2003 it was no longer able to provide support at an economical price."

    That is indeed what we were told, but then Branson popped up and said he'd got a contractor ready to provide Concorde maintenance and offered to buy the redundant aircraft - but the airlines wouldn't sell them to him.

    Also, Concorde ticket prices were high because its passengers were willing to pay, and many of them were able to pay rather a lot more. Could the airlines really not have paid higher maintenance costs, increased ticket prices to match, and continued to run a profitable supersonic service?

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Concorde was taken out of service and retired from flight for reasons more than just maintenance costs. I've nothing to go on myself, no reason to suspect actual skullduggery, and no idea what the behind the scenes picture really was; but maybe one day, the full story will be told.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Was it really only the maintenance costs?

      I believe Air France weren't making money. And hadn't for ages. They didn't want to sell to BA, even for spares. But without both companies, I doubt the maintenance costs were affordable.

      I'm still not sure if Branson's offer was genuine, or just good PR. And trying to get under BA's skin of course...

    2. Paul Barnett

      Re: Was it really only the maintenance costs?

      The story I heard (no proof, sorry) was that after the crash, and the fixes to fuel tanks etc to make them stronger and more debris-resistent, the extra weight meant shorter range. Still enough for jfk-lhr, but no longer enough for jfk-cdg. As you can imagine, Air France would not be happy no longer being able to fly their premier route but BA still able to, So AF talked to the french governement who then had words with aerospatiale, who then suddenly decided it was uneconomic to continue providing spares, thus ending Concordes flying life.

      And if this is true, then Richard Branson's offer to continue flying it was just a publicity stunt, as many of us suspected at the time.

  50. TopCat62

    The first BA Concorde passenger flight after the Paris crash was on September 11, 2001. I saw it on the approach to land, about 4 miles from touchdown around lunchtime.

    The reason I remember is I was out with the dog, and my brother phoned me, saying "Have you seen what's happening?" I replied, "Yes, it's fantastic to see Concorde back in the air again". He said "Er, no... go home and put the TV on...."

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £20m in operating profit counts as "never viable"?

    The article states:

    "[Concorde] had never been viable" [...] "earning BA £20m in operating profits"

    These two statements seem somewhat contradictory.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: £20m in operating profit counts as "never viable"?

      It wouldn't have been viable if BA and Air France had had to pay the actual cost of the aircraft, i.e. 50% of the programme cost each. They were essentially gifted them. Although as they were both government owned airlines at the time it was essentially moving a state asset from one department to another.

  52. Anonymous Tribble

    Memories

    One of my greatest memories from childhood (late 1970s) was when my parents somehow wrangled an unofficial behind-the-scenes tour of Heathrow. We were shown around a number of hangers with various planes in. We were able to go on board the planes, as well as walk around under them.

    The last plane we were shown was a BA Concorde that was being cleaned up and serviced between flights. We walked under it, then climber the surrounding gantry and went on board.

    Because of maintenance work being carried out, the nose wheel was retracted and we were told that we could go into the cockpit and take a seat at the controls, but only two of us allowed in at a time in case the plane tipped up and caused damage.

    After that we went out on the gantry around the Concorde and the best bit was we were able to stand right in front of the plane and look in the cockpit windows. Then I reached out and shook the Concorde by the nose. Awesome!

    A pity I've never flown on one, or even seen one fly. Just plenty on the ground,

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Memories

      In the days before they re-routed the Northern Perimeter Road that used to cut across the maintenance area at Heathrow, you could be driving past one or more Concordes parked up not far on the other side of the fence.

      1. Paul Ward

        Re: Memories

        Indeed; early one memorable morning in the 1990s I drove past four of them parked in that maintenance area.

  53. N2 Silver badge

    Defrost the chicken

    Yes,

    We had to tell the Americans who destroyed several engines.

  54. Tristan

    "during flight thanks to the extreme pressures"

    But the body lengthening was due to the temperature of the skin, not the pressure.

    Apparently there was a gap in the cockpit which was closed at speed by this expansion which was about the right size for the pilot's hat.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brexiters beware

    A story about an epic European project.

    I don't see how anyone interested in the engineering brilliance of Concorde would ever vote to leave..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brexiters beware

      Funny considering most of the work was done on Concorde before the EEC as we know it was formed.

      More remoaner nonsense.

  56. GrumpyKiwi

    Concordski

    The Tu-144 was (supposedly) never any kind of serious contender as competition for Concorde. According to former Aeroflot pilots every single flight was running close to disaster which was why there ended up being so few of them.

  57. FuzzyWuzzys
    Happy

    Privilege of having been on it while in "dry-dock"

    When I was a kid my Dad used to work as manager of a council swimming pool, he became friends with one of the ground engineers. Summer 1979 this engineer, my family and another got invited to take a tour of Heathrow "backstage" and I got to go on Concorde while it was grounded having routine checks made. Our guide got me one of the little packs they only gave to passengers who flew on it, brochures, magazines, menu, sleep masks, postcards, badges! We got to see the whole plane but sadly not the cockpit as it was being repaired and a little too dangerous with wires all over the place. One of my best childhood memories.

    Years later my wife got really into plane spotting and we used go down Heathrow all the time to sit all day watching planes come and go, noting numbers and such like. When you heard that roar you knew it was coming in or getting ready to rip down the runway and off across the Atlantic!

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "twice the speed of sound (Mach 2 - 2,447kph, 1,522mph)"

    Sorry to be a pedant but Mach 2 doesn't correspond to any specific velocity, it simply means "exactly twice the local speed of sound". What that means in true air speed depends on the local conditions. It's just that the performance of the plane is similarly affected by the same local conditions so Mach number is more relevant when flying the plane in those circumstances.

    </rant>

  59. Cannop

    A surprisingly "small" aircraft, I worked at the Concorde hangers at Heathrow a few times during its service and was surprised to be able to stand on the ground and touch the wing tip of a fully fuelled one!

  60. ccomley

    Flagwaver

    Well, it does depend a bit how you do the accounts. As with the american's moon shots, there were huge amounts of spin-off from the learning processes required to build the Concorde, which the bean counters can never realistically assign to the plane's profit and loss account. But by the end I doubt there were many NEW spin-offs being discovered.

    It's also worth remembering that Boeing didn't like it and would press at any slightest excuse to have the plane grounded. And the Paris incident certainly gave them an opening. It worked for them with the Comet, and here they are again...

    But yes in reality it became too expensive to run. It's a pity. It was more than a way of crossing the atlantic that most of us could not affort. It was a flag waver. It was something Mr Humble Brit could loo up at and think - we built that! (OK, the french helped a bit! :-) ) It meant that in any discussion in any bar in the world, we had the "top trump" card in at least one category. And to some extent, it still does, even sat on the ground at Filton, the list of "first"s most of which remain and probably will remain "only"s is going to win out over the dull plodding boeings, airbuses, and similar craft which all look the same and never go faster than sound... even if they are more comfortable to ride in and cheaper to get on.

  61. Andy3

    Concorde was a beautiful piece of engineering both from a technical and an aesthetic point of view. It was way ahead of its time and employed many techniques which had to be invented for it. I find it hard to believe that after 25 years of an almost-perfect record it could be scrapped after one fatal accident. There are other types of airliner (hello Boeing....) that have crashed and burned multiple times but continue to fly. Obviously the bosses wanted rid.

  62. Old Hand

    Thank you!

    I am very pleased to see you making notable bits of past British history available again. Thanks,

  63. JohnG11

    I was fortunate to be allowed to do my electronics engineering apprenticeship at BAC Weybridge in the mid sixties, now known under it's original Brooklands name. The old track was largely still in place, except for the chunks they had to cut out to prevent the re-flooding of "the bowl" due to unprecedented river rise.The river Wey runs through the site. And the other chunk they removed to allow the VC10s to take off. Whilst there the main work was on VC10s and some on BAC1-11s.

    I was quite unaware at the time that the TSR2 was being built until the project was cancelled. There was undue influence brought as the F1-11 (heap of rubbish) was being developed at the same time.

    Later on I got to see the first Concorde fuselage mock-up in one of the smaller hangers there.

    Incredible to think the skin was made of Duralumin.

    The highlight was meeting, shaking hands and talking to Barnes Wallace during the induction process. The other thing was the attention to detail one learnt and the incredible standards of engineering that were instilled into us, young fools that we were.

    I could tell many tales of nearly killing ourselves doing crazy things on the old race track. Like taking a trolley down the hill climb slope with five of us on board. Lucky to be alive frankly. The old Vincent Black Shadow made a few star appearances on parts of the old circuit that were still navigable.

    It was there I got my first grounding in IT, operating an ICT 1500, a re-badged RCA301 20k character machine. Went on to assembler and later machine code on FEPs.

    Happy memories.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      TSR2

      My dad has seen the first one fly.

      When he was last working the garage he worked at had another employee who worked on the production line,

      Armed guards burst in and stopped them making parts, then took away tooling to destroy it.

      1. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: TSR2

        TSR2 was a victim of being massively over budget and behind schedule. It was a very ambitious aircraft pushing the very edge of the performance (and materials) envelope of the era so it's a not a surprise that this was the project status at the time of its cancellation.

        The F111 promised to do much the same things only with the US bearing the development costs which was why it was taken up as the replacement - and indeed the F111 was (eventually) capable of doing all that.

    2. old_iron

      Remember as a schoolboy going past on the train and seeing the huge "deflectors" built supposedly to stop the trains being blown of the track by the big passenger jet VC10/Comet? test flights.

      I always wondered if they were truly necessary...

  64. michael cadoux

    Space race

    We developed a technically superb aircraft that had no chance of paying its way, but closed down our successful space programme because Ministers couldn't see any prospect of commercial return, and that just a few years before Telstar. UK satellite Prospero still bleeps forlornly in orbit. Oh well, we're back in the space industry, but only after 40 years of lost opportunities and worldwide competition.

  65. Spudley

    Take-off crash 'n' burn didn't kill the Concorde, it was just too bloody expensive to maintain

    Well yes of course it was.

    Even the newest one was built in the 1970s. They retired in 2003. Most commercial aircraft would be considered old and would be getting expensive to maintain by the time they get to that kind of age.

    The low production volume multiplies that, as do the unique capabilities and features of the aircraft.

    Concorde was always going to need to be retired within that kind of time frame. The accident may have moved the retirement forward by a bit, but even without the accident, it couldn't have carried on indefinitely. For comparison, the Boeing 707 ended production the same year as Concorde. How many of those were still flying in 2003?

  66. jimdandy
    Windows

    SST teaser?

    Yeah, yeah, yeah; nasty noisy and otherwise un-green. But it was an amazing sight to see and even more to ride in. Paris to NYC in 2.2 hours. Curvature of the Earth out the tiny windows. Three (count 'em) three skins and reductive portholes from which to view the world.

    And the nicest and most comfy ride (jeez, free slippers, free eye shades, a basket full of goodies to take home; real drinks from leveling off right through landing prep - and out of real bottles, not those little 1.2 oz shotgun shells,).

    There's nothing like Mach 2 to make an Atlantic flight smooth and easy. Granted, the snaky fuselage made for never standing upright if you're over 5'7", and the portholes did get just a bit warm at full speed. Careful with your napping.

    As a one time event it was wonderful (and that's not considering the first class "lounge" at Orly) and I get that it was not sustainable. Then.

    And how about now? There haven't been any new technical marvels that could bring back that experience with better tech, and better fuel efficiency? Wrong. It's that nobody cares because it is not any more financially "important" than it was back then. In fact, the current business model for passenger air transport is to provide the same slow and ridiculous travel for everyone. Except if you can afford to pay 3-400 % above economy you can get the same warm moist towel, fancy drinks, reclining seats and a smiling bimbo/bimbette for twice the air time of the SST. That really doesn't make it twice as fun, trust me.

    If y'all say it's not supportable due to the damage to the ozone layer, I'll say OK. And I'll just try to stay vertical long enough for sub-orbital travel that would kick the SST's ass in any case.

  67. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Isn't Filton where the MJN airdot is based?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      About 20 years ago there were plans to turn the Filton Airfield into a Bristol Airport that was actually in Bristol ... and with Bristol Parkway station being less than a mile away it was also being talked of as giving quicker access to London than Heathrow (this was before the Heathrow rail link). However, protests by local residents scuppered that ... but not before Royal Mail had decided to switch its main sorting office from being beside Bristol Temple Meads station to a new building on the airfield to handle all the overnight mail now being handled by planes instead of trains .... however, due to the airport plans not going ahead they didn't get the ability to fly mail planes from Filton so all mail gets sorted in Filton, loaded into lorries/vans and driven to Bristol (Lulsgate) airport on the other side of the city!

  68. Slx

    Aviation is a lot less glamorous then the days when Concorde was envisaged. We've gone from expensive, luxury to mass market and that has entitled a huge switch towards ultra efficiency both environmentally and economically.

    The other aspect has been post 9/11 security. No matter what you do, you seem to end up taking hours and hours to get to a flight these days. So whether your aircraft shaves a few hours off the journey starts to become less relevant.

    Extra security has decimated the use of short regional fights too. Often even though the flight night only take 35 minutes, you would still be quicker driving due to all the rigmarole at even very small airports.

    If we want to see supersonic passenger flight again, it's going to have to somehow archive ultra efficiency. That's a huge engineering challenge.

  69. PaulyV

    The Movie

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdwoWbBduxw

    Quite the event when I was taken to see it at our local cinema. I still remember a bedraggled and soaked Martha Raye's quote as she staggered out the lavatory door:

    "The bathroom's broken..."

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Filton's "Last Hurrah"

    The article describes Concorde as Filton's "last hurrah" but that's not quite correct.

    Thanks to the canny French at Toulouse we have Airbus with wings being developed at Filton.

    Why "canny" ? It was commonly said at Filton that if you arrived a day early for a Concorde meeting at Toulouse, you'd find design work being done for Airbus by engineers whose time (and of course wages) were being booked to the Concorde bill.

    At least the French made sure they'd have a follow-on project.

  71. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    It was politics that killed Concorde

    BA had retrofitted their fleet after the crash in paris and they were the safest concorde had ever been, it was making BA money and they were happy to continue. The problem was Air France, They were in debt, losing money on concorde, as they didnt capitalise on its prestige or make it a standout service, and couldnt afford the maintainance or re-fit of their fleet,

    Airbus (effectivley a french company) held the Type Certificate for Concorde and as Air france could no longer afford to run it, they couldn't have BA the only operator, so they did not renew the certificate.

    The inovations that made condcorde work were all British, and if we could have afforded the development costs (having not recovered fully fromWWII) we would have built it alone. The Air intakes and their controll system designed by Ted Talbot were well ahead of their time. The Ogive Delta was our design, the engines designed by RR ...

    Personally it was always a pleasure and time check hearing the inbound flight over SE london at 1800 each evening, and i spent hours over the years going throuth concorde 002 at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton cocpit, seats and all.

  72. Ima Ballsy
    Happy

    Ahh ......

    I still remember the day it flew over Jackson, Mississippi USA. What a wonderful sight ...

  73. 2Fat2Bald

    in my view the crash provided an opportunity for the airlines do to something they would have done anyway, if it wasn't for the opprobrium it would attract.

    concorde, for all its technical achievements, was simply conceptually misconceived. Not that many people travelling wanted to do so in cramped conditions at great expense to do something in 6 hours (allowing for travel to the airport, check in etc) that could be done in 8 in relative comfort and value.

  74. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Just reading on the day I visited Concord

    Coincidently, I just spent the day at the RNAS Museum at Yeovilton and got to wander all alone through 002. It was nice and quite there today. That's the 3rd Concord I've been in but never had the chance to fly in and sadly never will.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People that are surprised by airfield noise and expansion (although chances are that the airfield is a development of a 1940's military necessity) are probably the same people that buy, or have sympathy with people that buy houses built on a floodplain and then whine when they can't get insurance because they've experienced a 'once in two hundred years' event twice in ten years....

  76. Chris Collins 1

    cost was a big factor but not just maintenance

    After the france crash, there was new concerns about engine safety at takeoff, a 2 engine plane can lose half its horsepower one engine out of 2 and still take off, whilst 4 engine planes often need 3 engines aka 75% power available. The problem with concorde is tho the 2 engines either side are very close to each other and as such damage to one engine can spread to another very easily as was shown in the france crash, and its quite possible concorde would have had to rectify this moving onwards which would have cost a lot of money. I expect this was a factor.

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