40 years ago today: Concorde makes its first commercial flight.
On 21st January 1976, at 11:40am, Concorde made its first commercial flight, unbeknown that only 27 years later it would be pulled from passenger service. In the short amount of time, Concorde made a large, and lasting impact on travellers who would be reminiscing about their flight (or inability to get a flight) on the iconic aircraft.
That first flight took passengers from London Heathrow to Bahrain, and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro. The appeal to frequent flyers being that flying on this high-speed aircraft would minimise your flight time by up to two-thirds. The four Rolls-Royce SNECMA Olympus 593 engines with reheat technology (otherwise known as the afterburner) produced the thrust required to reach supersonic air travel.
The fastest ever crossing from New York to London was completed in only 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds; hardly enough time to have a meal and watch a movie, but perfect for those business passengers.
However, having this luxury of a minuscule flight time meant a costly bill, costing anything up to five-times the price of a normal ticket. In 2003, a ticket from New York to Europe cost nearly £7,000.
Commercial flights began in 1976. However, after multiple noise complaints, the aircraft were banned in the USA. This ban was later overthrown by the Supreme Court, and the European-American flights resumed in 1977.
After the industry took a downturn in the late 1990s and early 2000s, combined with the crash of an Air France Concorde Paris, this prompted both Air France and British Airways to retire the jets in 2003.
Should you want to see the famous supersonic aircraft, several are still available on display around the world:
- The Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil, Somerset
- The Imperial War Museum Duxford in Cambridgeshire
- Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey
- Runway Visitor Park at Manchester Airport
- The National Museum of Flight in East Lothian, Scotland
- Heathrow Airport
- Filton Airport, Bristol - (not currently available for visits)
- Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York
- Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados
- The Museum of Flight, Seattle
Main photo courtesy of Florent Peraudeau