March 2nd 1969: Concorde flies for the first time

The supersonic airliner, Concorde, has made a “faultless” maiden flight.The Anglo-French plane took off from Toulouse and was in the air for just 27 minutes before the pilot made the decision to land.
The first pilot, Andre Turcat, said on his return to the airport: “Finally the big bird flies, and I can say now that it flies pretty well.”
The test flight reached 10,000ft (3,000m), but Concorde’s speed never rose above 300mph (480kph).Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years. It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially; the other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-144, which was operated for a much shorter period.

Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. Twenty aircraft were built, including six prototypes and development aircraft. Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) were the only airlines to purchase and fly Concorde. The aircraft was primarily used by wealthy passengers who could afford to pay a high price in exchange for Concorde’s speed and luxury service. Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London’s Heathrow Airport and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport and Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners.

The type was retired in 2003 after the crash of Air France Flight 4590, in which all passengers and crew were killed. The general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the September 11 attacks in 2001, and the ceasing of maintenance support for Concorde by Airbus (the successor company of both Aérospatiale and BAC), also contributed.

The memory of Concorde lives on; I had the privilege of watching it take off and land; it really was – and still is – a thing of majestic beauty. Here is a short video showing the final Concorde take-off from the USA.

 

 

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