The maiden flight of the de Havilland Mosquito took place 25 November 1940.The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft with a two-man crew that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. The Mosquito was one of the few operational front-line aircraft of the World War II era to be constructed almost entirely of wood and, as such, was nicknamed “The Wooden Wonder” and was known affectionately as the “Mossie” to its crews. Originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, the Mosquito was adapted to many other roles during the air war, including low- to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter,fighter-bomber, intruder, maritime strike aircraft, and fast photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) as a transport.When the Mosquito entered production in 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. Entering widespread service in 1942, the Mosquito first operated as a high-speed, high-altitude photo-reconnaissance aircraft, and continued to operate in this role throughout the war.
From mid-1942 to mid-1943 Mosquito bombers were used in high-speed, medium- or low-altitude missions, attacking factories, railways and other pinpoint targets within Germany and German-occupied Europe. From late 1943, Mosquito bomber units were formed into the Light Night Strike Force and used as pathfinders for RAF Bomber Command’s heavy-bomber raids. They were also used as “nuisance” bombers, often dropping 4,000 lb (1,812 kg) “cookies”, in high-altitude, high-speed raids that German night fighters were almost powerless to intercept.As a night fighter, from mid-1942, the Mosquito was used to interceptLuftwaffe raids on the United Kingdom, most notably defeating the German aerial offensive, Operation Steinbock, in 1944. Offensively, starting in July 1942, some Mosquito night-fighter units conducted intruder raids overLuftwaffe airfields and, as part of 100 Group, the Mosquito was used as a night fighter and intruder in support of RAF Bomber Command’s heavy bombers, and played an important role in reducing bomber losses during 1944 and 1945.
As a fighter-bomber in the Second Tactical Air Force, the Mosquito took part in “special raids”, such as the attack on Amiens Prison in early 1944, and in other precision attacks against Gestapo or German intelligence and security forces. Second Tactical Air Force Mosquitos also played an important role operating in tactical support of the British Army during the 1944 Normandy Campaign. From 1943 Mosquitos were used by RAF Coastal Command strike squadrons, attacking Kriegsmarine U-boats(particularly in the 1943 Bay of Biscay offensive, where significant numbers of U-boats were sunk or damaged) and intercepting transport ship concentrations.The Mosquito saw service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and many other air forces in the European theatre, and the Mediterraneanand Italian theatres. The Mosquito was also used by the RAF in the South East Asian theatre, and by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) based in the Halmaheras and Borneo during the Pacific War.
The Martin B-26 Marauder Also made it’s maiden flight 25 November 1940. This twin-engined medium bomber was built by the Glenn L. Martin Company and was First used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and inWestern Europe. After entering service with the U.S. Army, the aircraft received the reputation of a “Widowmaker” due to the early models’ high rate of accidents during takeoff and landings. The Marauder had to be flown at exact airspeeds, particularly on final runway approach and when one engine was out. The 150 mph (241 km/h) speed on short final runway approach was intimidating to pilots who were used to much slower speeds, and whenever they slowed down below what the manual stated, the aircraft would stall and crash.
The B-26 became a safer aircraft once crews were re-trained, and after aerodynamics modifications (an increase of wingspan and wing angle-of-incidence to give better takeoff performance, and a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder).After aerodynamic and design changes, the aircraft distinguished itself as “the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front” according to a United States Army Air Forces dispatch from 1946. The Marauder ended World War II with the lowest loss rate of any USAAF bomber.A total of 5,288 were produced between February 1941 and March 1945; 522 of these were flown by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. By the time the United States Air Force was created as an independent service separate from the Army in 1947, all Martin B-26s had been retired from US service. The Douglas A-26 Invader then assumed the B-26 designation.
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) AV-8B Harrier II made its maiden flight 9 November 1981. The Harrier AV-8B is a single-engine ground-attack aircraft that constitutes the second generation of the Harrier Jump Jet family. Capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL), the aircraft was designed in the late 1970s as an Anglo-American development of the British Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first operational V/STOL aircraft. Named after a bird of prey, it is primarily employed on light attack or multi-role missions, ranging from close air support of ground troops to armed reconnaissance. The AV-8B is used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Spanish Navy, and the Italian Navy. A variant of the AV-8B, the British Aerospace Harrier II, was developed for the British military, while another, the TAV-8B, is a dedicated two-seat trainer. The AV-8B project started in the early 1970s as a cooperative effort between the United States and United Kingdom (UK), aimed at addressing the operational inadequacies of the first-generation Harrier. Early efforts centered on a powerful revamped Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine to dramatically improve the capabilities of the Harrier. Due to budgetary constraints, the United Kingdom abandoned the project in 1975.
Following the withdrawal of the UK, McDonnell Douglas extensively redesigned the earlier AV-8A Harrier to create the AV-8B. While retaining the general layout of its predecessor, the aircraft incorporates a new wing, an elevated cockpit, a redesigned fuselage, one extra hardpoint per wing, and other structural and aerodynamic refinements. The aircraft is powered by an upgraded version of the Pegasus, which gives the aircraft its V/STOL ability. TheAV8B entered service with the USMC in January 1985. Later upgrades added a night-attack capability and radar, resulting in the AV-8B(NA) and AV-8B Harrier II Plus, respectively. An enlarged version named Harrier III was also studied, but not pursued. The UK, through British Aerospace, re-joined the improved Harrier project as a partner in 1981, giving it a significant work-share in the project. After corporate mergers in the 1990s, Boeing and BAE Systems have jointly supported the program. Approximately 340 aircraft were produced in a 22-year production program that ended in 2003.
Typically operated from small aircraft carriers, large amphibious assault ships and simple forward operating bases, AV-8Bs have participated in numerous military and humanitarian operations, proving themselves versatile assets. US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf named the USMC Harrier II as one of the seven most important weapons of the Gulf War. The aircraft took part in combat during the Iraq War beginning in 2003. The Harrier II has served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan since 2001, and was used in Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya in 2011. Italian and Spanish Harrier IIs have taken part in overseas conflicts in conjunction with NATO coalitions. During its service history, the AV-8B has had a high accident rate, related to the percentage of time spent in critical take-off and landing phases. USMC and Italian Navy AV-8Bs are to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, with the former expected to operate its Harriers until 2025.
The Prototype Hawker Hurricane K5083 made it’s debut flight 6 November 1935 in the hands of Hawker’s chief test pilot, Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) George Bulman. The Hawker Hurricane Was a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Bulman was later assisted by two other pilots in subsequent flight testing .Philip Lucas flew some of the experimental test flights, while John Hindmarsh conducted the firm’s production flight trials.RAF trials of the aircraft at Martlesham Heath began in February 1936. Sammy Wroath, later to be the founding Commandant of the Empire Test Pilot School, was the RAF test pilot for the Hurricane: his report was favorable, stating “The aircraft is simple and easy to fly and has no apparent vices” and going on to praise its control response. The type name “Hurricane” proposed by Hawkers was approved by the Air Ministry on 26 June; an informal christening ceremony was carried out the next month when King George VI paid a visit to Martlesham Heath.
Although largely overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire, the aircraft became renowned during the Battle of Britain, accounting for 60% of the RAF’s air victories in the battle, and served in all the major theatres of the Second World War.The 1930s design evolved through several versions and adaptations, resulting in a series of aircraft which acted as interceptor-fighters, fighter-bombers (also called “Hurribombers”), and ground support aircraft. Further versions known as the Sea Hurricane had modifications which enabled operation from ships. Some were converted as catapult-launched convoy escorts, known as “Hurricats”. More than 14,000 Hurricanes were built by the end of 1944 (including at least 800 converted to Sea Hurricanes and some 1,400 built in Canada by Canadian Car and Foundry).The first 50 Hurricanes had reached squadrons by the middle of 1938.
At that time, production was slightly greater than the RAF’s capacity to introduce the new aircraft and the government gave Hawkers the clearance to sell the excess to nations likely to oppose German expansion. As a result, there were some modest sales to other countries. Production was then increased with a plan to create a reserve of aircraft as well as re-equip existing squadrons and newly formed ones such as those of the Auxiliary Air Force. Expansion scheme E included a target of 500 fighters of all types by the start of 1938. By the time of the Munich Crisis there were only two fully operational squadrons of the planned 12 with Hurricanes. By the time of the German invasion of Poland there were 18 operational Hurricane squadrons and three more converting.
The Boeing/ Hughes AH-64 Apache helicopter first flew on 30 September 1975. The Boeing AH-64 Apache is a four-blade, twin-engine attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement, and a tandem cockpit for a two-man crew. Originally, the Apache started life as the Model 77 developed by Hughes Helicopters for the United States Army’s Advanced Attack Helicopter program to replace the AH-1 Cobra, and was first flown on 30 September 1975. The AH-64 was introduced to U.S. Army service in April 1986.The AH-64 Apache features a nose-mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. It is armed with a 30-millimeter (1.2 in) M230 Chain Gun carried between the main landing gear, under the aircraft’s forward fuselage. It has four hardpoints mounted on stub-wing pylons, typically carrying a mixture of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 rocket pods.
The AH-64 has a large amount of systems redundancy to improve combat survivability. The U.S. Army selected the YAH-64, by Hughes Helicopters, over the Bell YAH-63 in 1976, and later approved full production in 1982. McDonnell Douglascontinued production and development after purchasing Hughes Helicopters from Summa Corporation in 1984. The first production AH-64D Apache Longbow, an upgraded version of the original Apache, was delivered to the Army in March 1997. Production has been continued by Boeing Defense, Space & Security; over 1,000 AH-64s have been produced to date. The U.S. Army is the primary operator of the AH-64; it has also become the primary attack helicopter of multiple nations, including Greece, Japan, Israel, the Netherlands and Singapore; as well as being produced under license in theUnited Kingdom as the AgustaWestland Apache. U.S. AH-64s have served in conflicts in Panama, the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Israel used the Apache in its military conflicts in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip; both British and U.S. Apaches have seen deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have also seen some impressive demonstrations of theApache’s awesome capabilities at Cosford Air Show.
The British TSR-2 aircraft XR219 made its maiden flight from Boscombe Down in Wiltshire 27 September 1964. The British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 was a cancelled Cold War strike andreconnaissance aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The TSR-2 was designed to penetrate a well-defended forward battle area at low altitudes and very high speeds, and then attack high-value targets in the rear with nuclear or conventional weapons. Another intended combat role was to provide high-altitude, high-speed photo reconnaissance. Some of the most advanced aviation technology of the period was incorporated in order to make it the highest-performing aircraft in the world in its projected missions. Only one airframe flew and test flights and weight rise during design indicated that the aircraft would be unable to meet its original stringent design specifications which had been reduced as the results of flight testing became available.
Prior to the TSR-2, Britain’s Royal Air Force had deployed the English Electric Canberra bomber, capable of flying at high altitudes and subsonic speeds. Like the de Havilland Mosquito before it, as originally conceived, the Canberra carried no defensive weapons and relied on its high performance to allow it to avoid defences. The introduction of the radar-guided surface-to-air missile (SAM) was a significant threat to this tactic. SAMs had speed and altitude performance much greater than any contemporary aircraft; the Canberra, and other high-altitude aircraft like the V bombers or United States’ B-52 Stratofortress, were extremely vulnerable to these weapons. The first aircraft to fall victim to the Soviet S-75 Dvina (NATO name “SA-2 Guideline”) SAM was a Taiwanese RB-57, a reconnaissance version of the Canberra, shot down in 1959.
The solution was to fly lower; since radar operates in line-of-sight, detection of an aircraft flying at low altitudes is significantly hindered, thereby reducing time for enemy counter measures. In practice, trees, hills, valleys and any other obstructions reduce this range even more, making a ground-based interception extremely difficult. The Canberra was designed for medium- to high-altitude flight and was not suitable for continuous terrain-hugging flight; this would require a completely different aircraft.Low-level strike aircraft, or “interdictors”, grew into a new class of their own during the late 1950s. They generally featured high wing loading to reduce the effects of turbulence and cross-wind, some form of high-performance navigational radar to allow very low flight at high speeds, and large fuel loads to offset the higher fuel use at low altitudes. So the Ministry of Supply started work with English Electric in 1955, to create A new light bomber to replace the Canberra. These early studies eventually settled on an aircraft with a 2,000 nmi (3,700 km) ferry range, Mach 1.5 speed “at altitude” and 600 nmi (1,100 km) low-level range. A crew of two was required, one being the operator of the advanced navigational and attack equipment. The bombload was to be four 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs.
The envisioned “standard mission” for the TSR-2 was to carry a 2,000 lb (900 kg) weapon internally for a combat radius of 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km). Of that mission 100 nautical miles (190 km) was to be flown at higher altitudes at Mach 1.7 and the 200 nmi (370 km) into and out of the target area was to be flown as low as 200 ft (60 m) at a speed of Mach 0.95. The remainder of the mission was to be flown at Mach 0.92. If the entire mission were to be flown at the low 200 ft (61 m) altitude, the mission radius was reduced to 700 nmi (1,300 km). Heavier weapons loads could be carried with further reductions in range. Plans for increasing the TSR-2’s range included fitting external tanks: one 450 Imperial gallon (2,000 L) tank under each wing or one 1,000-Imperial gallon (4,500-L) tank carried centrally below the fuselage. If no internal weapons were carried, a further 570 Imperial gallons (2,600 L) could be carried in a tank in the weapons bay. Later variants would have been fitted with variable-geometry wings
Sadly The TSR-2 was the victim of ever rising costs and inter-service squabbling over Britain’s future defence needs, which led to the controversial decision to scrap the programme in 1965. With the election of a new government, the TSR-2 was cancelled due to rising costs, in favour of purchasing an adapted version of the General Dynamics F-111, a decision that itself was later rescinded as costs and development times again skyrocketed. A replacement for the TSR 2 was eventually found in the Blackburn Buccaneer and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, both types being previously considered and rejected early in the TSR-2 procurement process. Eventually, the smaller Swing-wing Panavia Tornado was also developed and was adopted by a European consortium to fulfill broadly similar requirements to the TSR-2.
On 28 September 1956 USAF Captain Milburn G. Apt becomes the first man to exceed Mach 3 while flying the Bell X-2. The Bell X-2 was a research aircraft built to investigate flight characteristics in the Mach 2–3 range. The X-2 was a rocket-powered, swept-wing research aircraft developed jointly in 1945 by Bell Aircraft Corporation, the U.S. Air Force and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to explore aerodynamic problems of supersonic flight and to expand the speed and altitude regimes obtained with the earlier X-1 series of research aircraft.The Bell X-2 was developed to provide a vehicle for researching flight characteristics in excess of the limits of the Bell X-1 and D-558 II, while investigating aerodynamic heating problems in what was then called the “thermal thicket”.The Bell X-2 had a prolonged development period due to the advances needed in aerodynamic design, control systems, high-temperature resistant materials to be used, and other technologies that had to be developed.
Not only did the X-2 push the envelope of manned flight to speeds, altitudes and temperatures beyond any other aircraft at the time, it pioneered throttleable rocket motors in U.S. aircraft (previously demonstrated on the Me 163B during World War II) and digital flight simulation. The XLR25 rocket engine, built by Curtiss-Wright, was based on the smoothly variable-thrust JATO engine built by Robert Goddard in 1942 for the Navy. Providing adequate stability and control for aircraft flying at high supersonic speeds was only one of the major difficulties facing flight researchers as they approached Mach 3. For, at speeds in that region, they knew they would also begin to encounter a “thermal barrier”, severe heating effects caused by aerodynamic friction. Constructed of stainless steel and a copper-nickel alloy, K-Monel, and powered by a liquid propellant (alcohol and oxygen) two-chamber XLR25 2,500 to 15,000 lbf (11 to 67 kN) sea level thrust, continuouslythrottleable rocket engine, the swept-wing Bell X-2 was designed to probe the supersonic region.
Following a drop launch from a modified B-50 bomber, Bell test pilot Jean “Skip” Ziegler completed the first unpowered glide flight of an X-2 at Edwards Air Force Base on 27 June 1952. Ziegler and aircraft #2 (46-675) were subsequently lost on 12 May 1953, in an inflight explosion during a captive flight intended to check the aircraft’s liquid oxygen system. X-2, crew, and support equipmentLt. Col. Frank K. “Pete” Everest completed the first powered flight in the #1 airplane (46-674) on 18 November 1955. By the time of his ninth and final flight in late July 1956 the project was years behind schedule, but he had established a new speed record of Mach 2.87 (1,900 mph, 3050 km/h). About this time, the YF-104A was demonstrating speeds of M = 2.2 or 2.3 in a fighter configuration. The X-2 was living up to its promise, but not without difficulties. At high speeds, Everest reported its flight controls were only marginally effective. High speed center of pressure shifts along with fin aeroelasticity were major factors. Moreover, simulation and wind tunnel studies, combined with data from his flights, suggested the airplane would encounter very severe stability problems as it approached Mach 3
A pair of less experienced but excellent pilots, Captains Iven C. Kincheloe and Milburn G. “Mel” Apt, were assigned the job of further expanding the envelope and, on 7 September 1956, Kincheloe became the first pilot ever to climb above 100,000 ft (30,500 m) as he flew the X-2 to a peak altitude of 126,200 ft (38,466 m). Just 20 days later, on the morning of 27 September, Apt was launched from the B-50 for his first flight in a rocket airplane. He had been instructed to follow the “optimum maximum energy flight path” and to avoid any rapid control movements beyond Mach 2.7. With nozzle extenders and a longer than normal motor run, Apt flew an extraordinarily precise profile; he became the first man to exceed Mach 3, reaching Mach 3.2 (2,094 mph, 3,370 km/h) at 65,500 ft (19,960 m). The flight had been flawless to this point, but, for some reason, shortly after attaining top speed, Apt attempted a banking turn while the aircraft was still above Mach 3 (lagging instrumentation may have indicated he was flying at a slower speed or perhaps he feared he was straying too far from the safety of his landing site on Rogers Dry Lake). The X-2 tumbled violently out of control and he found himself struggling with the same problem of “inertia coupling” which had overtaken Chuck Yeager in the X-1A nearly three years before.
Yeager, although exposed to much higher vehicle inertial forces, as a result of extensive experience flying the X-1 was very familiar with its character, was able to recover. Apt attempted to recover from a spin, but could not, and fired the ejection capsule, which was itself only equipped with a relatively small drogue parachute. Apt was probably disabled by the severe release forces. As the capsule fell for several minutes to the desert floor, he did not emerge so that he could use his personal parachute. While the X-2 had delivered valuable research data on high-speed aerodynamic heat build-up and extreme high-altitude flight conditions, this tragic event terminated the program before the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics could commence detailed flight research with the aircraft. The search for answers to many of the riddles of high-Mach flight had to be postponed until the arrival three years later of the most advanced of all the experimental rocket aircraft, the North American X-15.
On 26 September 1973, Concorde, the iconic retired turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner made its first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in record-breaking time. It is one of only two Supersonic planes to have entered commercial service; the other being the Tupolev Tu-144. Concorde was jointly developed and produced by Aérospatiale and theBritish Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years.Among other destinations, Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights fromLondon Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York JFK andWashington Dulles; it profitably flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners. With only 20 aircraft built, the development of Concorde was a substantial economic loss; Air France and British Airways also received considerable government subsidies to purchase them. Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the aviation industry after the type’s only crash in 2000, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and a decision by Airbus, the successor firm of Aérospatiale and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support. Concorde’s name reflects the development agreement between the United Kingdom and France. In the UK, any or all of the type—unusual for an aircraft—are known simply as “Concorde”, without an article. The aircraft is regarded by many people as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel.
Scheduled flights began on 21 January 1976 on the London–Bahrain and Paris–Rio (viaDakar) routes, with BA flights using the “Speedbird Concorde” call sign to notify air traffic control of the aircraft’s unique abilities and restrictions, but the French using their normal callsigns. The Paris-Caracas route (via Azores) began on 10 April. The US Congress had just banned Concorde landings in the US, mainly due to citizen protest over sonic booms, preventing launch on the coveted North Atlantic routes. The US Secretary of Transportation,William Coleman, gave permission for Concorde service to Washington Dulles International Airport, and Air France and British Airways simultaneously began service to Dulles on 24 May 1976. When the US ban on JFK Concorde operations was lifted in February 1977, New York banned Concorde locally. The ban came to an end on 17 October 1977 when the Supreme Court of the United States declined to overturn a lower court’s ruling rejecting efforts by the Port Authority and a grass-roots campaign led by Carol Berman to continue the ban. In spite of complaints about noise, the noise report noted that Air Force One, at the time a Boeing VC-137, was louder than Concorde at subsonic speeds and during takeoff and landing. Scheduled service from Paris and London to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport began on 22 November 1977.in 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines shared a Concorde for flights between London and Singapore International Airport at Paya Lebar via Bahrain. The aircraft, BA’s Concorde G-BOAD, was painted in Singapore Airlines livery on the port side and British Airways livery on the starboard side. The service was discontinued after three return flights because of noise complaints from the Malaysian government; it could only be reinstated on a new route bypassing Malaysian airspace in 1979. A dispute with India prevented Concorde from reaching supersonic speeds in Indian airspace, so the route was eventually declared not viable and discontinued in 1980.
During the Mexican oil boom, Air France flew Concorde twice weekly to Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport via Washington, DC, or New York City, from September 1978 to November 1982. However The worldwide economic crisis during that period resulted in this route’s cancellation; the last flights were almost empty. The routing between Washington or New York and Mexico City included a deceleration, from Mach 2.02 to Mach 0.95, to cross Florida subsonically and avoid creating a sonic boom over the state; Concorde then re-accelerated back to high speed while crossing the Gulf of Mexico. On 1 April 1989, on an around-the-world luxury tour charter, British Airways implemented changes to this routing that allowed G-BOAF to maintain Mach 2.02 by passing around Florida to the east and south. Periodically Concorde visited the region on similar chartered flights to Mexico City and Acapulco. From 1978 to 1980, Braniff International Airways leased 10 Concordes, five each from Air France and British Airways. These were used on subsonic flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Washington Dulles International Airport, flown by Braniff flight crews. Air France and British Airways crews then took over for the continuing supersonic flights to London and Paris. The aircraft were registered in both the United States and their home countries; the European registration as covered while being operated by Braniff, retaining full AF/BA liveries. The flights were not profitable and typically less than 50% booked, forcing Braniff to end its tenure as the only US Concorde operator in May 1980
The fastest transatlantic airliner flight was from New York JFK to London Heathrow on 7 February 1996 by British Airways’ G-BOAD in 2 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds from takeoff to touchdown. Concorde also set other records, including the official FAI “Westbound Around the World” and “Eastbound Around the World” world air speed records.On 12–13 October 1992, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first New World landing, Concorde Spirit Tours (USA) chartered Air France Concorde F-BTSD and circumnavigated the world in 32 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds, from Lisbon, Portugal, including six refuelling stops at Santo Domingo, Acapulco, Honolulu, Guam, Bangkok, and Bahrain. The eastbound record was set by the same Air France Concorde (F-BTSD) under charter to Concorde Spirit Tours in the USA on 15–16 August 1995. This promotional flight circumnavigated the world from New York/JFK International Airport in 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds, including six refuelling stops at Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Andersen AFB in Guam, Honolulu, and Acapulco. By its 30th flight anniversary on 2 March 1999 Concorde had clocked up 920,000 flight hours, with more than 600,000 supersonic, much more than all of the other supersonic aircraft in the Western world combined.On its way to the Museum of Flight in November 2003, G-BOAG set a New York City-to-Seattle speed record of 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 12 seconds.
By around 1981 in the UK, the future for Concorde looked bleak. The British government had lost money operating Concorde every year, and moves were afoot to cancel the service entirely. A cost projection came back with greatly reduced metallurgical testing costs because the test rig for the wings had built up enough data to last for 30 years and could be shut down. Despite this, the government was not keen to continue. In 1983, BA’s managing director, Sir John King, convinced the government to sell the aircraft outright to British Airways for £16.5 million plus the first year’s profits. King recognised that, in Concorde, BA had a premier product that was underpriced. Market research had revealed that many customers thought Concorde was more expensive than it actually was; thus ticket prices were progressively raised to match these perceptions. It is reported that British Airways then ran Concorde at a profit, unlike their French counterpart. Between 1984 and 1991, British Airways flew a thrice-weekly Concorde service between London and Miami, stopping at Washington Dulles International Airport.Until 2003, Air France and British Airways continued to operate the New York services daily. Concorde routinely flew to Grantley Adams International Airport, Barbados, during the winter holiday season. Prior to the Air France Paris crash, several UK and French tour operators operated charter flights to European destinations on a regular basis; the charter business was viewed as lucrative by British Airways and Air France.In 1997, British Airways held a promotional contest to mark 10th anniversary of airline’s move into the private sector. The promotion was lottery to fly to New York held for 190 tickets valued at £5,400 each, to be offered at £10. Contestants had to call a special hotline to compete with up to 20 million people.
Unfortunately On 25 July 2000, Air France Flight 4590, registration F-BTSC, crashed in Gonesse, France after departing from Paris Charles de Gaulleen route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, killing all 100 passengers and nine crew members on board the flight, and four people on the ground. It was the only fatal accident involving Concorde.According to the official investigation conducted by the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile (BEA), the crash was caused by a titanium strip that fell from a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off minutes earlier. This metal fragment punctured a tyre on Concorde’s left main wheel bogie during takeoff. The tyre exploded, a piece of rubber hit the fuel tank, and while the fuel tank was not punctured, the impact caused a shock-wave which caused one of the fuel valves in the wing to burst open. This caused a major fuel leak from the tank, which then ignited due to sparking electrical landing gear wiring severed by another piece of the same tyre. The crew shut down engine number 2 in response to a fire warning, and with engine number 1 surging and producing little power, the aircraft was unable to gain height or speed. The aircraft entered a rapid pitch-up then a violent descent, rolling left and crashing tail-low into the Hôtelissimo Les Relais Bleus Hotel in Gonesse. On 6 December 2010, Continental Airlines and John Taylor, one of their mechanics, were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but on 30 November 2012 a French court overturned the conviction, saying mistakes by Continental and Taylor did not make them criminally responsible. Prior to the accident, Concorde had been arguably the safest operational passenger airliner in the world in terms of passenger deaths-per-kilometres travelled with zero, but had a rate of tyre damage some 30 times higher than subsonic airliners from 1995 to 2000. Safety improvements were made in the wake of the crash, including more secure electrical controls, Kevlar lining on the fuel tanks and specially developed burst-resistant tyres.
The first flight after the modifications departed from London Heathrow on 17 July 2001, piloted by BA Chief Concorde Pilot Mike Bannister. During the 3-hour 20-minute flight over the mid-Atlantic towards Iceland, Bannister attained Mach 2.02 and 60,000 ft (18,000 m) before returning to RAF Brize Norton. The test flight, intended to resemble the London–New York route, was declared a success and was watched on live TV, and by crowds on the ground at both locations. The first flight with passengers after the accident took place on 11 September 2001, landing shortly before the World Trade Center attacks in the United States. This was not a revenue flight, as all the passengers were BA employees.Normal commercial operations resumed on 7 November 2001 by BA and AF (aircraft G-BOAE and F-BTSD), with service to New York JFK, where passengers were welcomed by then mayor Rudy Giuliani.. This aircraft flew for 22,296 hours between its first flight in 1976 and its final flight in 2000.On 10 April 2003, Air France and British Airways simultaneously announced that they would retire Concorde later that year. They cited low passenger numbers following the 25 July 2000 crash, the slump in air travel following 11 September 2001, and rising maintenance costs. Although Concorde was technologically advanced when introduced in the 1970s, 30 years later its analogue cockpit was dated. There had been little commercial pressure to upgrade Concorde due to a lack of competing aircraft, unlike other airliners of the same era such as the Boeing 747. By its retirement, it was the last aircraft in British Airways’ fleet that had a flight engineer; other aircraft, such as the modernised 747-400, had eliminated the role.
On 11 April 2003, Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson announced that the company was interested in purchasing British Airways’ Concorde fleet for their nominal original price of £1 (US$1.57 in April 2003) each. British Airways dismissed the idea, prompting Virgin to increase their offer to £1 million each. Branson claimed that when BA was privatised, a clause in the agreement required them to allow another British airline to operate Concorde if BA ceased to do so, but the Government denied the existence of such a clause. In October 2003, Branson wrote in The Economist that his final offer was “over £5 million” and that he had intended to operate the fleet “for many years to come”. The chances for keeping Concorde in service were stifled by Airbus’s lack of support for continued maintenance. It has also been suggested that Concorde was grounded because airlines could make more profit carrying first class passengers subsonically and that the Air France retirement of its Concorde fleet was the result of a conspiracy between Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta and Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard, In addition A lack of commitment to Concorde was cited as having undermined BA’s resolve to continue operating Concorde.