The scientific tourist #341 — the Concorde

Here, you’ve got an excellent example of the Concorde, on display with some friends at the National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia:

Concorde and friends

The Concorde began life as parallel supersonic transport (SST) studies in the United Kingdom and France in the mid- and late-1950s, respectively. By 1960, both teams were looking for a partnership as a way to share costs, and as no U.S. company was interested in such an arrangement, they formed a joint venture (with the backing of government subsidies and an international treaty) in 1962.

Various aspects of the Concorde saw flight within months, as existing aircraft were modified to test the craft’s engines and wing design. But due to technological challenges and a fairly soft market for the comparatively expensive plane’s seats, the Concorde didn’t get to work until Air France and British Airways jointly initiated service with it in January of 1976.

The world’s first supersonic airliner, the Concorde could carry up to 100 passengers and cross the Atlantic (at twice the speed of sound) in less than four hours — twice as fast as a conventional jetliner. But its high operating costs resulted in very high fares, and noise concerns about its sonic boom limited available routes — so even in its best days, Concorde was an option for only very affluent travellers. Escalating fuel prices only worsened its competitive position, and as a result, service gradually tapered off until all Concordes were retired in 2003.

On June 12, 2003, Air France donated Concorde F-BVFA to the museum upon completion of its last flight. This was the Air France Concorde that opened supersonic passenger service to the western hemisphere — flying to Rio de Janeiro, Washington, and New York City.

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