Five decades later! It’s hard to believe but it has been 53 years since Concorde took the skies. Airline Ratings described it as a “masterpiece of engineering, a technological marvel and the greatest financial disaster in aviation industry”. In my view, it is the perfect description. She was ahead of her time, she was innovative and stylish in her design, the first supersonic commercial aircraft. But that came at a cost, and maintaining the Concorde was extremely expensive and that ended up being the reason for her demise.
A bit of history
The Concorde was a joint venture between the British and the French governments. On the 2nd of March 1969, on the French side, Captain André Turcat took her for her first test flight, from Toulouse. A month later, on the 9th of April 1969, Captain Brian Trubshaw took the British Concorde from Filton to RAF Fairford.
What followed was 3 decades of luxury. The Concorde was the choice of travel for the rich and famous. According to Airline Ratings, a return trip from London to New York would cost US$20,000 (AU$28,636). Something most of us could only dream about. However, that didn’t deter some who saved for years to have that experience, at least once in their life, some ended up never fulfilling that dream.
For celebrities, such as Sir Elton John, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins and others it was a regular trip. Airline Ratings’ article claims that the Concorde was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth and that the Queen Mother is believed to have taken the controls of the Concorde in a test flight.
The end of an Era
On the 25th of July, 2000, the Concorde suffered a massive blow that some believed was the catalyst to its sad end. Air France flight AF4590, departed from Paris International Airport Charles de Gaulle, heading to JFK International Airport in New York. Unfortunately, debris left from a Continental aircraft slashed the fuel pipe causing a massive fire on the Concorde. She crashed seconds after taking off, killing all passengers and crew, and 4 people on the ground. In total, 113 people died and 6 people were injured in the terrible accident.
Although the investigation showed that there was nothing wrong with the Concorde and the cause of the accident was the debris left on the runway, the accident was seen as a catalyst for the end of the Concorde. Both British Airways and Air France grounded their fleet for a while. Sometime after the flights resumed, but the high cost of tickets associated with the high costs of maintenance made the beautiful Concorde commercially unviable. On the 24th of October 2003, she made her last flight and it was the end of an era.
Eighteen years later, this amazing aircraft is still remembered and it is still in the memory of aviation lovers like myself.