back to article It is 20 years since the last commercial flight of Concorde

Today marks 20 years since the final commercial flight of the iconic supersonic airliner, Concorde. Concorde was born of studies in the 1950s and 1960s, eventually resulting in the delta-winged airliner, powered to supersonic speeds by four Olympus engines and featuring a nose that could be lowered for landing visibility. …

  1. Lurko

    The benefit of hindsight

    In the specific sense that the aircraft was designed in the 1960 and very early 70s, and unfortunately oil prices went up and stayed up as a result of the OPEC led 1973 oil price crisis. Oil, which had been for a decade or more around $4 a barrel went to $10 a barrel, rising again in 1980 to average around $30 a barrel through the 1980s.

    During the period the aircraft was conceived there was no reason to anticipate such massive and sustained changes, but they did of course occur, and other than state owned captives, no airline could afford to run the aircraft.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: The benefit of hindsight

      The problem was political. We in the US didn't want a foreign plane, especially one that could easily outpace most of our air defense systems, wandering around our skies (look what happened with a random balloon.....). We had to let it in at bit as part of some deal or another so we allowed a limited number of flights to the Eastern seaboard.

      The story would have been different if the plane had been a Boeing product. Yes, its noisy and ineffiicient by modern standards but then a typical business jet isn't exactly cost effective compared to a 737-8 that's crammed to the gills.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: the problem was political

        No, it was much more than that. Concorde had a limited range and flights into JFK were given priority landing, which meant that other flights had to be arranged around Concorde's presence. "Yes, its noisy and inefficient by modern standards" - not even close. The Eastern seaboard, hell any populated area, couldn't deal with the sonic boom without damage to ground dwellings so all supersonic transport would therefore be limited to only overseas flights, and be limited to their far less-efficient subsonic flight speeds once around any populated land mass to boot. This, amongst many other complex reasons, is why Boeing withdrew from the supersonic commercial transport race - limited market, with a limited seating capacity on top of it due to the necessary fineness of the fuselage to make supersonic a commercially viable reality.

        It's a shame really, that the promise of supersonic was never fully realized for general public consumption. I miss the days when we strived to reach for the limits; now, it's the cheapest option wins.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: The benefit of hindsight

        "Yes, its noisy and ineffiicient by modern standards but then a typical business jet isn't exactly cost effective compared to a 737-8 that's crammed to the gills."

        Business jets can be extremely cost effective depending on how you make your measurements. They fly when the passenger(s) needs them to fly. They can operate out of smaller airports that are closer to where the passenger(s) needs to be and there isn't all of the faffing about with security, queues and baggage content analysis. If you just want to measure the cost per passenger mile from one commercial airport to another, the 737 will win every time, but most people don't live at airports or wind up wanting to go to another one.

  2. Philo T Farnsworth

    Gorgeous aircraft

    I've never flown Concorde but I'd seen them on the ground at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC, several times and they were just a gorgeous aircraft.

    An acquaintence of mine did fly to and from London a couple of times on them (somebody else paid) and other than the speed, he didn't think they were any great shakes as an actual flying experience, but I stil regret that I had neither the opportunity nor the wherewithal to do so.

    1. dinsdale54

      Re: Gorgeous aircraft

      My main memory is that they were noisy. I flew pre refurbishment and sitting in a window seat you had to speak up to the cabin crew in the aisle. Excellent wine list! I believe the work of Jancis Robinson.

      The interior was small but once sitting down it was fine. The seats were comfortable, if a little vintage looking and you were only there for a bit over 3 hours.

      I was booked for a 2nd flight when they were grounded.

      I also cycled to Heathrow to watch the last commercial flights land there - 3 Concordes landing one after the other. It was VERY busy on all the perimeter roads.

      Oh yes, the windows got hot to the touch.

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Re: Gorgeous aircraft

        As opposed to buying wine ina. nice restaurant without wasting all that time flying ?

        1. Simian Surprise

          Re: Gorgeous aircraft

          I... think the idea is, you already have to fly, why not have a nice Cab while you're at it?

      2. dunbankin

        Watched the last three over London

        I remember watching those last three commercial flights into LHR from the tower block I was working in, in the City of London. Three Concordes quite low separated by a couple of minutes. Beautifully choreographed. A magnificent sight. You knew it was the passing of an era. (Dabs eyes).

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Gorgeous aircraft

      he didn't think they were any great shakes as an actual flying experience

      I flew on one of the Bay of Biscay jolly flights and will never forget it. Apart from reaching Mach 2 and 60,000 feet the take of was amazing.

      Yes it was noisy and small, the windows tiny (but an amazing view at cruise).

      There was a significant feeling of acceleration and the continued acceleration after take off along with the pitch gave me the feeling the thing was climbing much steeper than it was.

      Maybe the Bay of Biscay flights with less fuel and no baggage in the hold made the performance that much more lively, but it was a very different experience to a normal airliner.

      Of course, people on scheduled flights getting from A to B in a very short time was what it was about.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Gorgeous aircraft

        Matches my memories of such a flight - the takeoff performance was unbelievable, to the point where as she rotated and started the climb out, the combination of the climb angle and acceleration made it feel as if I was lying flat on my back in the chair.

        I honestly don't recall it being particularly noisy, certainly not compared to being sat in cattle class behind the engines of any other aircraft I used to fly around that time, though given the party atmosphere onboard (ISTR one of the cabin crew mentioning how much of a buzz they got from working these flights due to how excited all of the passengers were to be on board), including a proposal, combined with the copious amounts of champagne that were served (one wonders just how much of the interior space on Concorde was given over to bottle storage...), and the sheer thrill of not only flying on probably the most iconic airliner ever to grace the skies, but also joining that relatively small number of people who've travelled at supersonic speeds, it's entirely possible that my brain simply filtered out anything like that which would, on a normal flight, have been seen as more of an annoyance.

        And how many other airliners had the ability to make people stop and look on a regular basis... whether it was just because they were so few in number, or because of that unique and still drop dead gorgeous shape, it was simply impossible for one to take off or land without receiving far more admiring looks, even from seasoned watchers, than might be expected. I know there were any number of reasons why keeping Concorde in service wasn't an option, but it doesn't lessen the sadness I feel at knowing we've lost something truly special in the world of civil aviation, and also knowing that my children may never get to experience anything like that in their lifetimes.

      2. Alfie Noakes

        Re: Gorgeous aircraft

        "I flew on one of the Bay of Biscay jolly flights and will never forget it."

        Me too ("Flights of Fantasy"?). I believe that those "charter" flights were actually commercially viable - IF ONLY SOMEONE WOULD MAKE THE SPARE PARTS!

        Memories that spring to mind include...

        - Leaving Heathrow and following the M4 to the Bristol Channel, then once clear of land, accelerating like you were taking off all over again.

        - Looking down out of the window at the tops of clouds that seemed as far away the the land normally does.

        - Looking up out of the window and the sky was BLACK (because it was proper space!).

        Oh, and yes, the (triple glazed) windows were warm ;)

    3. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Gorgeous aircraft

      Watched it coming into land at Manchester a few times, so graceful. And one dark evening I remember it going over our house (a good twenty miles downrange from the airport) with the landing gear stuck and having to fly at low altitude - my goodness! What a noise!

  3. Phil E Succour

    Where does the time go?

    I used to work at Heathrow in the 1980s, and when a Concorde lit the afterburners for take off and rolled down the runway the vibrations used to set off lots of car alarms in the multi-story car parks.

    Never flew on it myself, but my parents went on a day trip to Egypt on Concorde! Happy days.

    1. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: Where does the time go?

      Worked just outside Heathrow (on the Bath Road) in a heavily soundproofed building in the late 1990s. Never noticed a 747 taking off or landing, but we always knew when Concorde took off and many many times I'd race to a window to see her leave the runway. Great stuff.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where does the time go?

      I also remember in the 90s walking from my car in the car park at certain times of the morning, looking across at Concord taking off 1/2 a mile away and car alarms going off everywhere, it was incredibly noisy, extremely impressive.

      1. jeffdyer

        Re: Where does the time go?

        In South Wales Concorde would fly overhead every morning at about 11:07 IIRC? I still miss looking up to see that delta shape

  4. schafdog

    Missed it

    Would have loved to have tried it once. Had a colleague that spend a month of salary (overtime pay) taking one way. Maybe it’s coming back in my lifetime and I will jump

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Missed it

      taking one way

      Did they ever return?

  5. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Pint

    I was fortunate to fly once as I bought a ticket when they announced its withdrawal as I realised it was never going to happen again. It was a marvel of engineering and I feel that BA was rather spiteful in ensuring no flyable craft were left, at the very least it could have flown at air shows like Spitfires, etc, even if not flying commercially due to the withdrawal of manufacturer support.

    Comfort-wise it was fine, and while not as luxurious as first/business class flights today, it was only 3 and bit hours, not the gruelling 8+ hours if cattle class most of us endure if we need to get to the states.

    A toast to the numerous engineers and scientists that made it work, really it was the UK/France equivalent of the Apollo program =>

    1. abend0c4 Silver badge

      I also flew once - as a result of BA cancelling a flight out of JFK and moving some of the passengers to the Concod(e) flight.

      The noise-reduction process (turning off the afterburners over NYC) was pre-announced to prevent panic. The cabin was tiny and extra-narrow trolleys patrolled the miniature aisle. The outside walls got rather warm and the service offering was necessarily reduced by the limited space. However, as you say, the fast journey negated much of the potential criticism, particularly if you hadn't paid the full whack.

      It was a great engineering achievement, but in the end it simply wasn't practical - which is not to say it wasn't worth doing, and it perhaps did not need to be brought to such an abrupt dead end.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Happy

        I was flying from London to the USA a lot, mostly on a Boeing 747 which was a lot slower but a much more comfortable flight. I got put on a Concorde once and it was nice to be so fast but afterwards the slower Boeing 747's made the daily time change easier for me, I would arrive in the USA and didn't have to talk with anyone until the next day, not just as soon as the Concorde arrived - sure the Concorde was a great plane but I was only a worker getting there to fix things.

      2. collinsl Bronze badge

        > The noise-reduction process (turning off the afterburners over NYC) was pre-announced to prevent panic

        The afterburners weren't needed to keep the plane supersonic, which was one of the main features of the engineering. Jet fighters etc can only sustain supersonic flight with afterburners on, Concorde didn't have to, which saved masses of fuel.

        The descent/slowdown you're talking about was achieved by throttling the engines back from "cruise climb" power - Concorde's flight was essentially constantly climbing until it starts descending so the change would have been pronounced enough to notice by the passengers.

    2. Antony Shepherd

      Leave it as a museum piece.

      at the very least it could have flown at air shows like Spitfires, etc

      Even if both Airbus and Rolls Royce both offered their support, the cost of getting one back into an airworthy condition would have been ridiculously high, and even if it was successfully restored and granted a certificate of airworthiness, nobody would be particularly impressed by seeing one wallow around in slow flight trim.

      But that would never happen, there's an immense difference in complexity between Concorde and any WWII warplane and it would be a massive liability.

      1. LogicGate Silver badge

        Re: Leave it as a museum piece.

        And when one inevitably crashed, there would be one less to preserve....

      2. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Leave it as a museum piece.

        "But that would never happen, there's an immense difference in complexity between Concorde and any WWII warplane"

        True, but what you really ought to be comparing it against is the complexity of something like a Vulcan. Because if VTTS were able to operate XH558 privately for 8 years, who knows what could have been achieved if a similarly well funded organisation had been able to take on a Concorde...

        And if you think being limited to subsonic flight would be a turn-off for airshow attendees, ask someone who's experienced a B1 display if they were disappointed that it had to remain subsonic. Also, bearing in mind that Concordes WERE involved in airshows in the past, this idea that people would cease to be impressed by seeing one displayed just because it was being operated by someone other than BA or Air France seems utterly bonkers. I think you fail to appreciate just how much of a head-turner Concorde was even to people without the slightest interest in aviation.

    3. Julian Bradfield

      I still regret that when it was withdrawn I decided that the cost of one of the last flights was too much for me...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bought two of the discounted tickets - one for me and one for my Sister - she absolutely loves the plane. Alas, the 3 hours went by all too quickly.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        I think it was the only flight I have been on that half the passengers didn't really want to get off immediately on landing!

        My ticket was not cheap, but around a month to my flight i looked up alternative first class flights out of curiosity and they cost more.

    5. Atomic Duetto

      +8hrs Gruelling?? Hahahaha!

      Somebody get that man a ticket to Australia with two children under three, said a recovering alcoholic with now largely grown children and an eye twitch.

      I once sashayed through Concorde at Goodwood, was surprised at how small (narrow) the cabin was.

      Would have been an absolute rush to get a go on/in it though :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re. Somebody get that man a ticket to Australia with two children under three

        well, they used to run (perhaps still do) coaches from London Victoria to Kyiv and this took about 40 hrs (before Poland got their motorways). Once, with two drivers, seriously drunk even before they boarded the coach at Victoria.

        ...

        ah well, but when me grandpa sat us kids on a cart and we're off to a Sunday market... good old days. And don't start me on your trek from N. Africa to Europe, that was the trip of a lifetime. Several, actually.

      2. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

        Not so bad now you can get on at Heathrow and get off in Perth.

        Sure it's the same hours in the air, but at least you don't have to stopover with kids. And a great place to get off a plane in, too.

  6. Cruachan

    Never flew in one but was always fascinated by it. I've been to see the one at East Fortune in Scotland and outside it still looks sleek and modern. Inside it's pretty small and cramped (relative to modern planes) and the cockpit is a terrifying array of dials.

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      +1 for the mention of East Fortune. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity, practically in the suburbs of Edinburgh, it's definitely worth a visit.

      -A.

  7. captain veg Silver badge

    Sod the luxury

    "After all, the first-class travel experience was considerably inferior to that on offer from subsonic aircraft once one discounted the glamour of speed."

    Really, who gives a sonic boom when you could get to New York in about the same time as a short-haul to (say) Berlin? Back in the days when I supported a serious nicotine habit, a subsonic transatlantic flight was torture. Even leaving aside the jet lag.

    -A.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Sod the luxury

      Perhaps. But for many people, the difference between, say, New York - Paris at 8 hours in conventional aircraft, or 3 1/2 hours on Concorde, isn't really all that significant. You still lose a day once you include travel to and from airports, waiting in airports, customs & immigration, and so forth. And obviously it doesn't help with jet lag.

      Saving half the time sounds nice, and certainly for smokers, people who are particularly uncomfortable in airline seating, and some others the difference is significant. But for the average traveler it's not going to be worth that much of a price premium.

      That's not a criticism of Concorde's engineering, or indeed of the idea of commercial passenger SST. It's just the economics of the thing. Most air travelers these days are people looking for the cheapest tourist-class tickets they can find. So Concorde was always going to be chasing a luxury market, which is tough in the air-travel business – which these days is mostly a loss leader for a financial-services organization already.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: Sod the luxury

        > obviously it doesn't help with jet lag.

        It certainly does if it makes possible a day trip. Which it does. Our (then) Chief Exec used to do it.

        -A.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Sod the luxury

        "So Concorde was always going to be chasing a luxury market, which is tough in the air-travel business – which these days is mostly a loss leader for a financial-services organization already."

        There isn't the same need for face to face as there used to be either. Communications are so much easier and varied that they can even be done with a mobile while sat on a beach. That takes aways a chunk of business travelers that might have been able to justify a Concorde flight to be across the Atlantic in the least amount of time. Concorde would also need to be able to compete with the super-luxury first class options being offered on some long distance flights in terms of cost. It's hard to say what a Concorde ticket might cost today. The original run of aircraft would be past retirement age and any new craft would be much more expensive to produce.

        The sound barrier is a good demarcation line between affordable and too expensive for most applications. There's a similar breakpoint for trains.

  8. steelpillow Silver badge
    Boffin

    The main issue Concorde ran into was environmental concerns of an unprecedented ferocity. This was the first time anybody had raised such issues outside a few fringe predecessors to Greta Thunberg (Rachel Carson was perhaps the first: checkout her book "Silent Spring"). The US did not want to be upstaged by Europe and seized the environment as its weapon of choice. Supersonic land overflights were banned, and airport flight paths made awkward and inefficient. Other nations followed suit, some went so far as to ban overflights altogether. Concorde lost its transcontinental markets and saw its transoceanic costs rise dramatically, while delays in the air lengthened. The calculated operating costs that had justified its development were left in the dirt, the fast flight times became stretched and less attractive.

    Nobody during its development had foreseen such a sudden global rise in environmental concerns and political backlash, especially not a US who loved researching nuclear-powered bombers among other things, and it remains an oddity of the era that Concorde was singled out for treatment that many long-established and much bigger polluters deserved a great deal more. It may well have been the likes of Boeing behind the Big Money and the professional campaigning, but in the end they brought environmentalism out of the hippie commune and onto the world stage, and have since had to clean up their own acts. Killing Concorde ended up something of a pyrrhic victory for the global politico-industrial machine, and a good thing too. Just a shame they chose such a beautiful bird as the first sacrifice.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Quote

      "The US did not want to be upstaged by Europe and seized the environment as its weapon of choice."

      there was quite a lot of opposition to Concorde landing in New York/Washington due to the noise, according to old and unreliable memory concordes makers turned up at a senate hearing with a couple of recordings and playing them back at full volume as someone standing under the flight path would have experienced, the senators were then asked which one was concorde, the noisy one of course they answered only to be told that was a recording of Airforce 1 taking off (a 707 with standard turbo jet engines) and the quieter one was concorde.

      Someone in New York in an interview a few years later said she preferred concorde to the other jets.... mainly because it cleared off so quickly.

      Only saw one in flight once..... rumbling over Winsor while I was there doing other stuff..... whats that..... look up... beautiful delta shape flying over..

      Now look at us... 10 hrs in a stuffed 767 from Dallas is progress? see icon

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Saw her In flight twice, once in Sidcup hot August Sunday afternoon, just after she resumed service & once from a train coming into Paddington as I recall she was in the sky around the area of GSK House in Brentford she was framed in the twilight skies of the setting sun (Also a Sunday).

        Heard her often enough at 9.05 or thereabouts in the 80's & 90's as she throttled up over the channel, I always found it a strangely comforting sound.

        Also walked through the 002 Prototype at Yeovilton a couple of times.

        Pint for all those who brought her to life.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Not Only But Later...

          Collective gasps of pride, admiration & comments of "Ohhhh look its Concorde" from fellow passengers on the train.

          It's 11.32, time for another beer.

        2. My-Handle

          My granddad was one of the engineers who worked on her. He took me to see the Concorde at Yeovilton as well when I was still a child (probably 25 years ago now).

      2. de-em

        The shame of it all is that leading up to the withdrawal being announced, there were already advanced plans in place to apply upgrades to the Concorde fleet with improved interior, and most importantly modifications to the engines to make them a lot quieter. These would have brought the Concorde experience right into modern standards (of the time), and opened up new routes, but sadly they never got to see the light of day.

        I noticed in a previous comment BA were blamed for Concorde's demise. Whilst there may have been some elements within BA who weren't supportive, I think it's Air France with the most blood on their hands. See Mike Bannister's excellent 'Concorde' book for the full background.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      [USA] Supersonic land overflights were banned,

      Supersonic overflights were banned in UK and France too. The flightpath out of LHR was down to the Bristol Channel and then accelerate, people in South Wales or Cornwall might hear a boom.

      French Concorde accelerated once it was overhead La Manche.

      But yes, the BA service started to Bahrain if I recall. This was subsonic over the continent and supersonic over the med. Air France went to Rio via Dakar.

      1. gotes

        I could hear the boom in South Devon, although it was fairly muted. No broken windows.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Wikipedia notes that on the DC-to-Mexico-City route, Concorde slowed to Mach 0.95 over Florida, then accelerated back up to supersonic over the Gulf.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      This was the first time anybody had raised such issues outside a few fringe predecessors

      Rubbish. The first Earth Day observance in the US was 1970, and ~20 million people participated in demonstrations. That's a rather large value for "few".

      The US conservation movement is generally held to have started in the 1860s and gained major Federal-government support under Teddy Roosevelt.

      Anti-Concorde protests in the US were primarily organized by Carol Berman in the mid-70s. They were roughly contemporaneous with the outcry over Love Canal, so not even the biggest environmental-protest issue in New York State at the time.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "especially not a US who loved researching nuclear-powered bombers among other things"

      It turns out that the research was just a way for Alvin Weinberg to get funding to look into MSR's. The scientists and engineers knew that powering a plane with a reactor was a non-starter without even having to get out their slide rules.

  9. munnoch Bronze badge
    Alert

    Twice!

    When the service was reintroduced after the crash, BA offered one-way upgrades for business class tickets to either Concorde or First. I was flying London/NY about every 6 weeks at that time, so, yeah, Concorde, lets do it!

    First time was uneventful. Left LHR at 9am, landed JFK at 9am, in the office by 10am. "Oh did you fly in last night?", nah, Concorde... Like you do...

    Second was much more interesting ... Having done a bit of homework I now knew that take-off speed was approaching 200mph. So we were barreling down the runway but it didn't feel like no 200 mph. Then the brakes came on, hard, very very hard. Like face on seat in front of you hard. Momentary feeling of panic, what's happening, are we all going to die? Once we'd stopped the pilot came on the intercom in his best Biggles accent and apologised as there had been a technical issue. Apparently one of the reheats hadn't lit up so we weren't going to make it hence the emergency stop.

    We then taxied for a while, a really long while. Again Biggles explained, the technicians want us to go to the edge of the air field and try running the engines up to full power to see if it does it again. What???!! This is how you problem solve? We parked up and sure enough the dodgy engine was run up, presumably with the pilot standing on the brake pedal with all his weight. The whole airframe shook and jiggled as it tried very hard to pirouette round in circles. After a few seconds it stopped. "Its definitely broken", said Biggles, "But, good news! We always have a spare Concorde ready to go". Now, that inspires confidence...

    We were then de-planed back at the terminal where the BA ground crew clustered around all the proper paying passengers fawning and apologising profusely. I was pretty much ignored since I was on a freebie. True to their word they had us on their spare fairly quickly and we arrived in NY around about the same time that a conventional flight would have. The weird steep approach angle really freaked me out on landing. I wasn't quite so elated by that experience.

    I went First next time. Still have the boarding pass for seat 1A.

    Yes, the exterior walls did get notably warm to the touch. The toilets were very warm too. Wish it had been during the era of smart phones because I have nothing to remember the experience by except my own unreliable memory.

    Also remember being parked on a taxi way at LHR waiting to take-off with a view down the runway when a Concorde took off. The jet wash really rattled the side of our aircraft as Concorde disappeared in a yellow haze of its own fumes. That's the other reason it couldn't be in service today.

    I've seen 3 of the stuffed and mounted ones, been inside two, wonder if one of them was one of "mine"..

    Ah, the days when we actually could claim to be World Leaders (at some things).

    1. munnoch Bronze badge

      Re: Twice!

      But wait, there's more, memory has been jolted.

      When Concorde was being introduced they did pilot training at Prestwick near where I grew up. Touch and go, or whatever they call those landings where you don't stop, you just take off again.

      It passed over several times a day for a while one summer, early 70's I suppose.

      So my Concorde experiences spanned pretty much its entire operational lifetime.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Twice!

        "It passed over several times a day for a while one summer, early 70's I suppose."

        We had a few sonic booms in Belfast when they were flying along the Irish Sea. Later sitting in the queue for a runway at Heathrow and there was one several places in front of us taking off. Our own pilot over the PA was quite enthusiastic about it. My flight, of course was just a hop back to Belfast.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Twice!

      and try running the engines up to full power to see if it does it again. What???!! This is how you problem solve?

      Don't want to sound like a twit, but has anyone suggested to the pilot if they could just try turn it off and on again?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Twice!

        Don't want to sound like a twit, but has anyone suggested to the pilot if they could just try turn it off and on again?

        I've been on a 787 flight waiting to push back, where there was a problem and a complete power down and restart was the actual solution.

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Twice!

        Oh well. I was on a flight from Germany to London (not Concorde). It was the second flight of that airplane and it didn’t take off. Some computer problem. The pilot turned it off and on again. Never before or after have I been in an airplane that was turned off. Completely. No lights, no sound, nothing.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 experiences with Concorde

    1. Most recently at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford - you must go if you haven't already - walked through Concorde. Surprisingly small.

    2. That said, prior to that by some years, walking along the river at Richmond in London, turned the bend and Concorde was lying on a barge floating on the river - this was post retirement and apparently awaiting being shipped to Scotland. It was small.

    3. Prior to that, living along the Thames in London, frequently disturbed by the roar of Concorde coming in to land at Heathrow. It was notably louder than all planes, and presumably, it was being quiet as it came over London.

    Question is, what's gonna replace it and when? I trust you're working on that Richard?

    1. Lurko

      Re: 3 experiences with Concorde

      "Question is, what's gonna replace it and when? I trust you're working on that Richard?"

      Beardo works on nothing but his image and his wine cellar. NASA however have been paying Lockheed Martin to develop the X59 (I hope US taxpayers don't mind), which has flown, but looks like on of the X-planes most air forces were paying with in the 1960s, such as the Fairey Delta, the Avro 707 and a range of US equivalents. So there will be a lot of knowledge learned (or relearned) but they're a long, long way from any sort of airliner. The big sell of the X59 is "no sonic boom", but I have to say that it seems a tad expensive for that modest benefit.

      Maybe this is about a replacement for the Rockwell B1B. Do the research for a putative civilian jet, admit nobody wants it, but then use the R&D as free issue to update the supersonic bomber concept, thus avoiding quite the level of scrutiny it might attract. In theory cruise missiles and stealth bombers have supplanted the need, in reality will the US military want to forgo the speed of force projection the B1B offers?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: 3 experiences with Concorde

        In theory cruise missiles and stealth bombers have supplanted the need, in reality will the US military want to forgo the speed of force projection the B1B offers?

        The US has a thing called 'show of force', where it flies an aircraft like an F-15 over a recalcitrant enemy position, pulls into a climb and lets them check their fillings in the jetwash. Sometimes, it'd do this with a B-1B going transonic or supersonic, prompting 'squirters'. Which is possibly dual-use miltary jargon for enemies running away, or leaking from every available orifice.

        I kinda miss seeing Concorde flying over Reading though, a magnificent looking aircraft.

        1. eldel

          Re: 3 experiences with Concorde

          A couple of summers ago I was visiting the museum at Ellsworth AFB. Didn't know it at the time but that's where they do all the flight training for the B1B. The day I was there they were doing scramble practice. When that sucker goes off with full after burners it makes one hell of a noise. The docent I was talking to assured me that it's the loudest plane that's ever been in the USAF inventory. I have no reason to doubt her.

          As an aside - if you're ever in South Dakota - they have a trip round an old Titan missile silo as well. That's "different" to say the least.

    2. Blue Pumpkin

      Re: 3 experiences with Concorde

      As a kid I remember the Concorde maiden flight from Tolouse. Followed not much later by the humungous - at the time - launch of the 747. It was a great time for planes :-)

      There is also a Concorde at the Seattle Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, that you can walk through. And as you say it's tiny. In addition there is also a walk through of a previous version of Air Force One - maybe 707 based - I don't remember - someone will tell me.

      All in all a great place to go - a whole day will not be enough.

      And if you're there, the visit to Boeing at Everett is just awesome, a cathedral of engineering prowess.

      Though I guess there are no more 747s

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: 3 experiences with Concorde

        I regret due to the previous years organisational debacle at a convention, I did not expect to get a chance to tour Boeing or Microsoft with the Fifth & Seventh Doctors the following day.

        My flight home was already booked.

      2. Bubba Von Braun

        Re: 3 experiences with Concorde

        Concorde G-BOAG can be found on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. It's quite an experience to walk through the cabin, although the seats are encased in plexiglass. What's truly remarkable is how narrow it feels inside. I had the privilege of visiting the cockpit, and it's a tight fit for the crew.

        The museum is also home to other iconic aircraft, such as 747 Serial 001, 737 Serial 001, 727 Serial 001, and 787 Serial 003. Another fascinating exhibit is the 707 ex-Airforce One, which you can also explore, much like Concorde.

        I had the opportunity to meet some of the curators, and their passion and dedication to preserving this collection is akin to caring for their own children. If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. Even sitting outside the museum near Boeing Field, you'll be treated to the sight of a variety of aircraft coming and going, which is sure to satisfy the curiosity of any aviation enthusiast.

    3. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

      Re: 3 experiences with Concorde

      My three:

      1) My aunt knew a pilot of Concorde, so she managed to acquire a set of flight charts and other documents for the day of my 16th birthday as a present. +20 geek points

      2) Roll forwards a couple of decades to when I was brewing my own beer. I gave a couple of bottles of one of the better recipes to a friend who shared one with his father in law (a BA steward who flew Concorde). His verdict "we could serve that on board". + 50 geek points

      3) mid 2003. My then boss and his wife flew Concorde to the States on their anniversary, then had a Caribbean cruise and returned 747. His verdict "done it once, don't need to again". Lost all my geek points just for knowing him

  11. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Amazing how so many people still dont understnd they are slaves to the stupidity that is commuting.

    1. munnoch Bronze badge

      Read the headline.

      We're talking about stuff that happened at least 20 years ago...

  12. Bubba Von Braun
    Thumb Up

    Visited G-BOAG

    I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the flight deck of G-BOAG (the record-setting Concorde bound for Seattle). It was immaculate and appeared ready to take flight at a moment's notice, with just a few additional lights added by the museum for illumination.

    The accomplishments of Concorde are a source of pride for both Britain and France. While it may not have achieved the same quantity of sales as a plane like the 747, it unquestionably demonstrated that innovation was thriving, and ambitious "moonshot" endeavors can succeed with unwavering determination.

    Innovation should transcend the limitations of strict financial calculations. Remarkable achievements are possible when we have the audacity to dream big.

  13. wilme2

    During the two-year run that the Concorde flew into Dallas via Braniff Airlines, I had a chance to walk under one parked at a terminal at DFW. A relative was a Braniff pilot, and took several of us, including myself at 7 or 8 years old, out to see the Concorde.

    https://www.heritageconcorde.com/braniff-airways-concorde-operations

    https://airwaysmag.com/braniff-concorde-foray/

  14. EatsRootsAndLeaves

    No, not a reminder

    "A reminder for passengers staring out of the window of a subsonic aircraft, faced with a lengthy long-haul flight, that things weren't always this way."

    No, for the vast majority of people on that subsonic aircraft, it is not a reminder that "things weren't always this way."

    For that vast majority, the plane they're on is and even when Concorde flew the only way.

  15. Tim99 Silver badge

    Different Days

    On a trip from the UK to Australia on holiday in 1987, I won 2nd prize in a BA "Spot the Concorde" competition. It was a bit like "Spot the ball" as there was a grid; but instead of putting a cross where the ball was supposed to be, it was a map grid for the aircrafts position at a particular time. You were give its rate of acceleration to take off, its directions and acceleration to supersonic and its final speed - As I was stuck at Heathrow for 8 hours (terrorist alert) I sat down and did the necessary calculations long-hand, and put my three crosses in one small square. The prize was 12 days in the Doral Miami Beach Hotel, return flight on Concorde via Washington.

    In those days there was a special Concorde Lounge at Heathrow which was entered after passing the hoi polloi who were stuck in the normal First Class lounge. The aircraft was small and fitted with low but comfortable grey leather seats. The cabin staff and food were excellent. Mrs Tim99 and I both had excellent Burgundies - A bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges with the main courses and an un-oaked Chablis with the other courses.

    After we landed at Washington, the aircraft was refuelled and we all had to get out. Some passengers disembarked onto a bus that could raise itself to the level of the door, we then got onto a similar raised bus that had seats and refreshments until the aircraft was serviced, and then were returned to the aircraft. Just before take off to Miami the pilot told us that because of the short distance, low fuel loading, and fewer passengers, the aircraft was expected to travel at its fasted scheduled speed over the Atlantic (it did). We were also warned that we would have an unusual take off (because of noise abatement?) and that we may experience some mild disorientation (He meant feeling that we we all going to crash and die). Total time including stop-over was 6 and a half hours. The next day the aircraft flew by the hotel and did a wing waggle - Unlikely, but maybe it was for us, as I didn't see it do it again. The noise was incredible.

    For some people, the aircraft may have been an everyday experience. We were sat opposite Robin Gibb (and his wife?). The stewardess asked him if he would like lunch, he said "could they make him a plain chicken sandwich" (of course they could). Mrs Tim99 and I had everything that was going, I still have the silver and grey enamel Concorde propelling pencil that was in my goodie bag.

  16. Diogenes

    London Sydney 17 hours - sigh !

    I took a half day off work to go watch the Concorde on its one and only flight to Sydney, my boss, his boss and a few of my team did as well.

    I am more a train 'nut' than a plane nut, but it was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.

  17. Winkypop Silver badge

    Manchester airport static display

    We did the Concorde Experience on a very recent trip to the UK.

    Brilliant, well worth the £40 (includes champagne).

    She is a thing of great beauty. So tall, so long and sleek.

    London to New York was on sale in winter 1982, just £500 one way.

    I simply couldn’t afford it at the time.

    Regrets.

  18. Dolvaran

    I remember the sound of the engines in test at Filton in the late 60's - my school was 5 miles away in Thornbury!

    1. Frogmaster

      I worked at BAe in the late 80s and remember when the Concorde needed to take off. They would push her right back to the start of the runway which had the A38 dual carriageway just behind. The A38 then had to be closed as when the Olympus engines were spooled up for full take-off thrust they would have blasted the cars away. It was a wonderful sight seeing her accelerate down the runway and into the blue yonder.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The German Sinsheim museum is spectacular as you drive past. The two aircraft are right next to the autobahn and they look like they are flying.

  20. andy 103
    Pint

    Treasures from a 1991 flight

    My grandparents did a 1 way trip on it from London to Canada in 1991. Returned on a jumbo jet.

    They passed away over the last few years and when clearing out their house I found a number of things they'd kept from the flight. Including - stationary (A5 paper, envelopes) with Concorde embossed logos, a branded note pad, the menus from the in flight service, luggage tags (actually just cardboard but nonetheless with the BA World Traveller / Concorde logo) and 2 small models of the plane.

    The best thing I found though was a signed certificate from the pilot, which I believe was given to every passenger. Hand signed with a pen, not printed!

    I find it mind blowing that 30+ years ago they could make a trip in 3 hours which nowadays is impossible to do in such a time. Especially for... people who were born at a time when nobody flew at all. Mind boggling really.

    I've kept it all as it holds a lot of sentimental value to me.

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Treasures from a 1991 flight

      Similar to ours (see above), but ours had a propelling pencil or ball-point instead of the models. They came in a large grey vinyl folder, between us we had four (two people, return flights). We have just kept the one, as the others were passed on to young relatives etc.

      1. andy 103

        Re: Treasures from a 1991 flight

        @Tim99 great stuff. We also have the aforementioned grey vinyl folder!

    2. NerryTutkins
      Happy

      Re: Treasures from a 1991 flight

      It is indeed mind-boggling.

      One of the common arguments by moon landing conspiricists is that technology doesn't disappear or go backwards, so the fact we cannot at present go to the moon (and have not since the 1970s) means it must have been faked.

      Presumably the fact you could supposedly travel the atlantic at mach2 in the 1970s but now in the 2020s you cannot even do it at mach1 means they think concorde is actually CGI. And that your grandparents were in on the deception, like 10s of 1000s who worked on the moon landings.

      1. juice

        Re: Treasures from a 1991 flight

        > One of the common arguments by moon landing conspiricists is that technology doesn't disappear or go backwards

        They've obviously never heard of greek fire, Antikythera mechanism, or even some of the 19th century steel manufacturing processes which were invented in Sheffield.

        Stuff gets lost all of the time.

        Beyond that, it's not so much that technology has disappeared, but that the priorities have changed.

        Back in the 1960s, energy - especially oil-based fuels - was incredibly cheap, there was a huge amount of excitement about using technology to do previously impossible things, and many of the first-world countries were engaged in a technological prestige competition, driven in part by the underlying need to develop and maintain military capabilities as part of the cold war.

        Since then, energy prices have hugely shot up, and government budgets are increasingly focused on dealing with an ever aging population and the pension/healthcare/workforce issues that entails. And up until Russia invaded the Ukraine, there wasn't really much of a cold war going on; China may have been rattling it's sabre, but the USA felt secure in it's technological advantages.

        Then too, it also turned out that most people will take a lower cost over a faster service. And that's why we all keep trudging onto Ryanair and Wizz flights...

        1. Andytug

          Re: Treasures from a 1991 flight

          Technology goes backwards once the bean counters get hold of it. See also: concrete, Roman concrete roof, nearly 2000 years old, fine UK schools etc built in the 1960s, falling down........

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Treasures from a 1991 flight

      "Especially for... people who were born at a time when nobody flew at all. Mind boggling really."

      Oh yes! I never flew Concord, but Grandad did. He was SO excited about and reminded me that he remembered the news breaking over here in the UK of Wilbur and Orvilles first powered flight. Naturally, he also watched the Moon landing. Triple whammy in terms of aerospace :-)

      (And many other "firsts" too, of course, having lived through two World Wars and witnessed both Zeppelin air raids and Luftwaffe air raids.)

  21. JimC

    but without Airbus's support,

    > Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson offered to snap up the retired aircraft, but without Airbus's support, it is difficult to see how long Concorde could have continued operating.

    Au contraire. Its very easy to see. Without manufacturer support it wouldn't be allowed to fly *at all*. Full stop. Branson was just publicity hunting.

    AIUI BA were still making a profit on Concorde, and didn't want to stop flying it. Air France were not, so it doesn't take much of a conspiracy theorist to suggest that Gallic pride would provide a motive for Airbus to remove support. I imagine, too, now I think of it, that if BA would have been required to pick up Air France's half of the support costs then the economics of continuing to fly the aircraft would have been severely compromised at the very least.

  22. RobDog

    Luton Airport

    It landed there I think 1983-84, I could see the final approach and most of the landing run for rwy 26 from my bedroom window, so that was pretty thrilling.

    Saw it several times taking off from LHR, Many years later on holiday in Barbados, I remember seeing banking in the approach, I was like whaaaa? And then remembered where it flew to.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    first-class travel experience was considerably inferior

    that experience can be recreated faithfully for anyone willing (or having to) board one of the glamours ryanair-class airframe. And this unforgettable experience can be yours for a tenner or so (plus 30 quid to get to the airport on 'public' transport)

    1. R Soul Silver badge

      Re: first-class travel experience was considerably inferior

      Not quite. Any Ryanair "flight" would be far noisier. And AFAIK nobody ever sold scratchcards or dodgy sandwiches on Concorde. I'm fairly sure Concorde didn't operate from the shit-hole sheds Ryanair uses for its glorified buses either.

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: first-class travel experience was considerably inferior

      As someone fortunate enough to have had first-hand experience of what flying on Concorde was like, and unfortunate enough to have first-hand experience of what flying on RyanAir et al is like, I can say with 100% confidence that attempting to recreate the former by subjecting yourself to the latter will give you a very, VERY, inaccurate impression of just how sublime the experience of flying on Concorde was actually like.

      Because it's not just about how wide your seat is or how far out you can stretch your legs (you don't even have to splurge on a business/first class ticket to better that aspect of the Concorde experience, even just a premium economy seat on BA or Virgin Atlantic will give you a more comfortable seating position than Concorde was able to provide), it's the WHOLE package - how you're treated by the airline pre, mid and post flight, and how you react physically and mentally to the stresses of the flight. And without any shadow of doubt, Concorde was in a class of its own there.

  24. Chris Evans

    Goosebumps! The only aircraft that looks like it should fly!

    Reading the comments has given me Goosebumps and brought a tear to my eye. I fondly remember going to Heathrow with a friend who helped design Concorde on 24th October 2003 to watch the three Concordes land.

    A few years before that I was in the grounds of Windsor Castle when it flew over, after looking at it I happened to look down and noticed that everyone in the grounds had stopped walking to look up at it.

    I've always thought it is the only aircraft that looks like it should fly! I regret not flying in it.

  25. stiine Silver badge

    Just wait until your local SpaceX joint venture purchases 400 hectares of ocean-front property in your country. Then you'll know that one day you'll be able to travel anywhere civilized on earth in less than an hour.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1
      Meh

      Ain't got time for that

      > Just wait until {SF pipe dream}

      How long shall we have to wait, d'ye think?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Ain't got time for that

        "How long shall we have to wait, d'ye think?"

        Forever. It's never made any sense and most major long distance travel pairs won't work with a rocket.

  26. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

    Worked under the usual departure for Concorde Kingston on Thames for 6 months, funny none of the locals seemed to not mind too much at the noise :-)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazing, beautiful aircraft

    Flew two LHR-JFK trips on Staff Duty tickets, amazing experience and a highlight of my time at BA. Was also on the Waterside roof along with 99% of the WTS staff to watch the final two landings, with hardly a dry eye to be seen. Just a beautiful, ambitious, crazy aircraft which I first saw as a teenager in the early 1970s flying low overhead the Ilse of Eigg on an early flight test - rather surreal when walking up the main (only) street followed by a gaggle of small children shouting at our visiting yacht crew in impenetrable Scots accents.

    That said, and with massive regret, they did probably have to go. Apart from the mounting difficulty of keeping them maintained (EVERTHING was a custom part - even the hydraulic fluid was a unique blend only used by Concorde) they apparently had a significant impact on the ozone layer due to the high, 50,000ft cruise altitude which would, rightly, have become impossible to justify. At least they're celebrated as static exhibits around the world rather than destroyed like the Brabazon and Saunders Roe Princess.

  28. MachDiamond Silver badge

    A bit of a fuel hog

    How many tons of fuel did it take to taxi from the terminal to the end of the runway?

  29. darklord

    Boscombe down

    They flew concorde finally from Boscombe Down on circular flights after official retirement. I lived right next door to the base and had the chance to fly it, Sadly too skint for the 200 quid a ticket at the time.

    The one in heathrow is now a storeroom for paper and old leaflets to keep it on the ground as apparently in high winds it decides to try and go airborne despite being tethered.

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