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The Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde or the Concorde as it is known to aero enthusiasts was one of the fastest aircraft to ever fly passengers commercialy. The Concorde was one of just two supersonic commercial jets that actually carried passengers with the other being the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144.
Let's take a look at some the crazy facts about the Concorde including why no photos of it doing Mach 2 exist...
The Story Of The Concorde
Studies regarding a supersonic passenger airliner began in 1954 with the UK and France signing an agreement 8 years later to to share costs and risks in producing the aircraft. Construction on the prototypes of the Concorde began in February 1965.
The first Concorde prototype took to the skies from Toulouse on the 2nd of March 1969 and went supersonic a few months later in October. However, it was beaten to both flight and supersonic firsts by the Tupolev Tu-144 which achieved the marks a few months before its Anglo-French rial. The Tupolev was also the first commercial aircraft to hit Mach 2, achieving the speed on the 26th of May 1970.
The first commercial passenger Concorde flights started flying on the London-Bahrain and the Paris-Rio de Janeiro routes on the 21st of January 1976 less than a month after the Tupolev carried its first passengers. However, after the Soviet jet was taken out of passenger service in 1978 following a crash, the Concorde was left as the world's only commercial supersonic passenger aircraft.
Concorde continued flying into the new millennium but were halted after Air France Flight 4590 crashed after takeoff from Paris. The crash, the only one in Concorde's 27 year commercial flying history, killed all 109 on board and 4 people on the ground and led to all Concorde's being grounded for a while. While flights did resume in November 2001, the Concorde stopped flying altogether two years later with the final flights landing at Heathrow airport in London on the 24th of October 2003.
The Stats & The Facts
The Concorde Was quite a large plane measuring 61.66 metres (202 feet, 4 inches) long, 12.2 metres (40 feet) tall and featured a wingspan of 25.6 metres (84 feet). The maximum taxiing weight of the Concorde was 187 tonnes, the maximum takeoff weight for the supersonic jet was 185.070 tonnes.
The Concorde was powered by 4 Rolls-Royce Olympus 593 Mk 610 turbojet engines with afterburners. These engines produced 140 kilonewtons (31,000lbf) of thrust when flying normally but when the afterburners were engaged, these engines pushed out 169.02kN (38,050lbf) of thrust.
Speed, High Altitude and Crazy Stories
These powerful turbojet engines allowed the Concorde to hit a maximum cruising speed of Mach 2.04 (2,179km/h). The Concorde had a service ceiling of 60,000 feet (18,000 metres), which is a lot higher than what regular planes currently fly. The Concorde could carry 95,680 kilogrammes of fuel (about 119,600 litres of jet fuel) and when cruising at Mach 2 at 60,000 feet, the supersonic aircraft consumed 18,000 litres of fuel every hour.
The Concorde's cruising speed of Mach 2.04 is also the reason why we have no images of the airplane doing that speed. Writing on Quora, Andrei Kucharavy explains why the Concorde was an absolute beast in the sky.
While operational, it was effectively impossible to intercept to all the jet fighters of its generation barring a stripped Electric Lightning pushed to the limit - including F-15, F-16 or F-104. Just to take the only known supersonic picture of Concorde, a completely stripped RAF Tornado had to be pushed to its limit to be able to rendez-vous with a super-cruising Concorde. And yet in the end Concorde had to slow down to Mach 1.5 to allow for a good picture to be taken."
He stated that even modern stealth fighter like the F22 Raptor would find it hard to photograph the Concorde if the passenger jet was still flying above our skies today.
While the Blackbird SR-71 spy plane could have photographed the Concorde thanks to its cruisng speed of Mach 3.2, the American spy plane never did take any shots of the Concorde that we know of. The Anglo-French supersonic passenger jet is the only plane that told a mighty Blackbird on a secret mission to get out of its way to avoid a collision.
All right, one final set of crazy facts about the Concorde before we wrap this story up. While the Concorde cruised at a speed of Mach 2.04, this was not the fastest the plane could go. When orders for the Concorde were opened up, American airline Pan Am was one of the first on board. And while the American airliner did back out of the deal due to high costs and American laws about supersonic flight, its test pilots did push the Concorde prototype to a top speed of Mach 2.6 in 1971.Two years later, the first Concorde prototype was modified with rooftop portholes to observe the solar eclipse of June 30, 1973. It performed the longest observation of a solar eclipse to date - around 74 minutes.
Thoughts About The Concorde
The Concorde was the highlight moment in the history of human flight that we are once again trying to emulate. With many companies planning to come go supersonic in the near future, a return to to the days of hyperfast transoceanic travel seems to be on the cards, if it happens. Till then, the Concorde remains the standard to which we'll hold every other fast flying passenger jet to and shake our heads in dismay, when they fail to get close.