The first UK- built turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet Concorde 002 flew from Filton to RAF Fairford on 9 April 1969, piloted by Brian Trubshaw. . Construction of two prototypes began in February 1965: 001, built by Aérospatiale at Toulouse, and 002, by BAC at Filton, Bristol. Concorde 001 made its first test flight from Toulouse on 2 March 1969, piloted by André Turcat,and first went supersonic on 1 October. Both prototypes were presented to the public for the first time on 7–8 June 1969 at the Paris Air Show. As the flight programme progressed, 001 embarked on a sales and demonstration tour on 4 September 1971, which was also the first transatlantic crossing of Concorde. Concorde 002 followed suit on 2 June 1972 with a tour of the Middle and Far East.Concorde 002 made the first visit to the United States in 1973, landing at the new Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport to mark that airport’s opening.
Concorde was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. Concorde’s name, meaning harmony or union, reflects the cooperation on the project between the United Kingdom and France. In the UK, any or all of the type are known simply as “Concorde”, without an article. Twenty aircraft were built including six prototypes and development aircraft. Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) each received seven aircraft. The research and development failed to make a profit and the two then state-owned airlines bought the aircraft at a huge discount.
Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York-JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners. Over time, the aircraft became profitable when it found a customer base willing to pay for flights on what was for most of its career the fastest commercial airliner in the world. The aircraft is regarded by many as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel. While Concorde had initially held a great deal of customer interest, the project was hit by a large number of order cancellations. The Paris Le Bourget air show crash of the competing Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 had shocked potential buyers, and public concern over the environmental issues presented by a supersonic aircraft – the sonic boom, take-off noise and pollution – had produced a shift in public opinion of SSTs. By 1976 four nations remained as prospective buyers: Britain, France, China, and Iran. Only Air France and British Airways (the successor to BOAC) took up their orders, with the two governments taking a cut of any profits made.
The United States cancelled the Boeing 2707, its rival supersonic transport programme, in 1971. Observers have suggested that opposition to Concorde on grounds of noise pollution had been encouraged by the United States Government, as it lacked its own competitor. The US, India, and Malaysia all ruled out Concorde supersonic flights over the noise concern, although some of these restrictions were later relaxed. Professor Douglas Ross characterised restrictions placed upon Concorde operations by President Jimmy Carter’s administration as having been an act of protectionism of American aircraft manufacturers. Concorde flew to an altitude of 68,000 ft (20,700 m) during a test flight in June 1973.
Sadly Concorde had considerable difficulties that led to its dismal sales performance. Costs had spiralled during development to more than six times the original projections, arriving at a unit cost of £23 million in 1977. World events had also dampened Concorde sales prospects, the 1973 oil crisis made many airlines think twice about aircraft with high fuel consumption rates; and new wide-body aircraft, such as the Boeing 747, had recently made subsonic aircraft significantly more efficient and presented a low-risk option for airlines. While carrying a full load, Concorde achieved 15.8 passenger miles per gallon of fuel, while the Boeing 707 reached 33.3 pm/g, the Boeing 747 46.4 pm/g, and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 53.6 pm/g. An emerging trend in the industry in favour of cheaper airline tickets had also caused airlines such as Qantas to question Concorde’s market suitability.
Concorde operated until 2003. It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h at cruise altitude), with seating for 92 to 128 passengers. First flown in 1969, 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 of time.Concorde retired due to a general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the September 11 attacks in 2001, and a decision by Airbus, the successor to Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support.