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  • Writer's pictureMarc Pulisci

Concorde: Reminiscing Supersonic

The following is an article “Concorde: Reminiscing Supersonic” by Marc Pulisci.

It has been 15 years since Concorde, the world’s first and most successful supersonic passenger jet, was retired for good after four decades of serving society’s creme de la creme and elite jet setters.

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Concorde: A brief history

Reserved for the privileged few, Concorde was operated by just two carriers—British Airways and Air France—during its tenure as the fastest and most luxurious jetliner on earth. A British-French collaboration developed by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), only 20 aircraft were built, with both airlines primarily serving the London-New York and Paris-New York transatlantic routes.

Due to its high R&D and maintenance costs, Concorde’s clientele was limited to the rich and famous who could afford its otherwise prohibitive fares. Five years before Concorde was retired, the Heathrow-JFK round-trip ticket price was $7,995, more than 30 times the cost of an economy class ticket on a standard jetliner. However, instead of a 6 to 7-hour flight, Concorde could whisk you across the “pond” in just under 3 hours at Mach 2.04 (1,300 mph at a cruising altitude of 65,000 feet), over twice the speed of sound.

The demise of “The White Bird”

Affectionately called “The White Bird” (l'oiseau blanc) by the French, it was really just a matter of time before rising costs would ground Concorde forever. While part of its novelty allowed rock stars to celebrate New Year’s Eve in London, board a supersonic Concorde flight to New York, and touchdown at JFK 3 hours later in time to celebrate NYE a second time, the bottom line is that it simply became too expensive for both British Airways and Air France to keep in the skies.

Despite an incredibly impressive safety record during its 27 years in operation, Concorde was not spared from the inevitable accident in 2000 in which all passengers and crew perished during a chartered flight from Paris. This proved to be the nail in the coffin for Concorde, and on May 31, 2003, Air France called it quits for its fleet of Concorde, with British Airways following suit five months later.

Concorde’s legacy

Even though 15 years have gone by since Concorde’s sonic boom echoed in the skies (noise pollution, another issue that contributed to its demise), its memory continues to live on as the surviving fleet have found retirement homes in various museums around the world, or their parts auctioned off by Christie’s with wealthy collectors bidding astronomical amounts, just so they may proudly keep a piece of aviation history in their display shelves forever.

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