We are delighted to welcome a new Contributor to Aestheticons, Dominic Baker, who is an artist and writer based in Devon (UK) – and a massive fan of great design. This is Dominic’s first piece for us.
Concorde was an Anglo-French masterpiece that dominated the skies for 27 years after its first commercial flight in 1976. It has won many design awards even after its retirement from service in October 2003.
When I think of the two countries Great Britain and France, they have never seemed friendly, always having some sort of disagreement dating back to the 10th Century culminating in the Battle of Waterloo. In 1855 Queen Victoria bridged the gap visited Paris and signed the Entente Cordiale.
A British Minister wanted to drop the ‘e’ in “Concorde” as it sounded too French! It’s widely agreed that the ‘E’ stood for ‘Entente Cordiale’, so it was reinstated. The word ‘Concord’ meaning ‘harmonious’ or ‘to be in agreement’ was the most fitting name for such a beautiful work of art and an instantly recognisable icon and acknowledgment of two nations being joined to realise this project.
Concorde was only the second of two commercial airliners ever to be ‘supersonic’ – being Mach 2, over 1500 miles an hour. The first was the less successful Soviet built, Tupolev Tu-144, which looked like a carbon copy of the Anglo – French invention yet only completed fifty-five passenger flights. It was slower and less reliable than Concorde. It also beat Concorde in being the first commercial aircraft to break Mach 2 in June 1969, Concorde only achieving the same on 1st October 1969.
Concorde was made primarily of aluminum for lightness and strength. It was restricted to Mach 2.4 as any faster and the metal would become pliable and deform as it heated up in the fast flowing air around it. The aircraft would expand from anything from 5 to 10 inches in places during flight due to the heat. Concorde had over 5000 hours of testing before it was certified for passenger flight. It flew at 60,000 feet (over 11 miles) and the passengers could see the curvature of the earth. It flew around the World in just under 30 hours.
From 21st January 1976 Concorde undertook its first commercial flights with a capacity for 100 passengers. First passengers on the inaugural flight to Bahrain paid £356 for a single which price had risen for a round trip to New York (typically, a three and a half hour journey) by the late 1990’s to over £8200. During its lifetime of more than 50,000 flights Concorde carried over 2.5 m passengers.
It wasn’t all roses for the partnership, after the last New York flight had landed in 2003 figures pointed towards that they had run at a loss. Also not forgetting the horrendous Air France crash of 2000 to New York which killed everyone a board – partly contributing to its demise – also 9/11 attacks in 2001 also made numbers dwindle from fear of flying to New York.
As a child I can still remember standing in my garden hearing the Sonic Booms as they broke the sound barrier not once but twice over head and feeling a little twinge of pride mixed with awe that there was such a fantastic mode of transport out there. Exotic and romantic destinations such as New York & Paris were only a couple of clicks away.
Only the rock star jet set super elite used Concorde. It really was the ultimate commercial supersonic flying machine, not bad for an old bird designed in the 50s !
Rumour has it, that Club Concorde, a collective of aviation enthusiasts and former Concorde pilots have the funding to return Concorde to supersonic service by 2019.
Ed – my two clear recollections of this magnificent plane are watching test flights in the late 1960’s over the Thames at Lechlade in Gloucestershire. When my family moved to Surrey in the late 1970’s sitting in the garden – pre the building of the M25 – around 9.30 pm there would be an amazing rumble and light show of the New York Concorde preparing to land at Heathrow.
Featured Image by British Airways