The Arrival and Departure of Concorde. Part 2

If you have not read Part 1 yet, please do so here:  part1 With everything set in stone, it seemed like the first ever Super Sonic Transport aircraft was ready for take-off in a few years down the line. The engineers set the deadline – the long-range Concorde was going to make its maiden voyage in 1970. The primary deadline of 1968 got canceled because nobody was interested in it.

Oui!

While the Brits were busy working on their own plans, the French government asked three aircraft manufacturers to come up with early designs of their own SST. The state-owned Sud Aviation Super-Caravelle design won. What is interesting is that they presented a medium-range aircraft, as they already thought other countries were already making transatlantic SST’s. So Sud deliberately tried to avoid competition in the long-range market and gain a monopoly in the medium-range one. Engineers working on the Concorde designs. Engineers working on the Concorde designs. When the design was complete, Sud’s technical director Pierre Satre visited Bristol. Bristol was an aviation manufacturing company, building both airframes and engines at the time. They also won the contract to build the Concorde. When the two teams met, they realized they had a lot in common in terms of design and its issues. They agreed on the same engines, the maximum speed of Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), and the same aircraft wings. The only disagreements were the size and range of the new SST. The Brits wanted a transatlantic version, while the French were avoiding this design. After lengthy discussions, both parties drew a conclusion that common components could be used in both variants. Then both teams decided to stick with one design, with the medium-range being different in just fuel load.

Politics

Whenever you have 2 nations collaborating on such a huge economic and political project, politics had to come into play. One way or another. When STAC (Supersonic Transport Advisory Committee) proposed the plan to build an SST to politicians, they had very negative reactions. The development costs had already risen to £150 million. The Treasury Ministry suggested that the project would not return profits. A separate investigation by the Committee on Civil Scientific Research and Development concluded that the financial arguments are nonsense and that Concorde would support the aviation industry in Britain. It would also guarantee that British aviation would not be locked out of the coming supersonic market, as supposedly everyone else was building their own SST’s. They were both right and wrong – Boeing only started making their own SST plans after two years after the Concorde was officially announced. Soviet engineers started developing their own SST, the Tupolev Tu-144 a year earlier than the Americans. But Concorde was also used as a political weapon. The United Kingdom at the time was not in the European Common Market and they desperately wanted to get in (or Britin). France with Charles De Gaulle controlled the Common Market and did not want Britain anywhere near it. British politicians thought that signing a deal to build Concorde together with Sud would let Britain get in. De Gaulle was having none of it and the United Kingdom only joined the ECU in 1973. The deal to build a common SST interestingly enough was made as an international treaty rather than a commercial agreement.

From an SST to a Concorde flying

To showcase that a signed treaty between the Brits and the French, both countries settled for the name Concord. Concorde was a French word, while Concord was the English variant. Both words mean the same – agreement. On a bitter morning in December 1967, Concorde showed off its face to the world with the prototype chassis 001. That same morning, the British Minister of Technology at the time Tony Benn announced the official name of the aircraft - Concorde. Watch the official TV footage of the first ever public appearance of Concorde:

It took 2 more grueling years of testing and checking for any flaws. On 1st of March, 1969 Concorde should have taken off. But bad weather conditions had forced it to stay on the ground. The next day, on an even mistier morning, the people were anxiously waiting to witness history. And they did. Before the mist cleared, the crew were already onboard Concorde. They were doing pre-flight checks that would become routine for them. Then the four Olympus engines came to life and let out a loud rumble. It taxied to the runway, where soon it will depart. The brakes were let loose, the engines let out an even louder boom and Concorde lifted off. Quickly the aircraft disappeared in the sky. Everyone – from the crowd to the engineers who have worked on Concorde for the past few years were amazed. After a short 40 minute flight, Concorde landed.

In the next part read about the eventual downfall of Concorde, exploring its operating history and what caused the aircraft to never see the clouds after 2003. Stay tuned! Read part 3 right here:  part 3 Source: 2