The Concorde was a type of
passenger plane that was able to travel over twice the speed of sound (1,370
mph or 2.04 Mach). To put it in perspective, most commercial flights cruise at
a speed of 500 to 600 mph. A normal commercial flight from New York City to
London would take 7 hours and 27 minutes. On the Concorde, this flight time
would be shortened to just under 3 hours and 30 minutes. Each flight on the
Concorde would hold about 100 passengers and 9 crew members.
There were only two airlines that
purchased the supersonic passenger jet airliner, British Airways and Air France.
Only 20 Concorde planes were manufactured and only 14 of these planes were
flown commercially. The first commercial flight flown was on January 21, 1976.
The main routes the plane flew was from Paris and London to Washington DC and
The engineering of the Concorde was
not trivial. The design of the Concorde had to be “streamline” so that the
plane could fly at high speeds with ease. The body of the plane was long and
thin while the wing had a triangular shape, also called a “delta wing design”.
These designs insured that the drag on the plane was minimized. The delta wing
design helped stabilize the plane. Additionally, the plane had a moveable nose.
The nose of the plane would be tilted down by 13 degrees during take-off and
landing so that the pilot could see the runway. The Concorde had four Rolls
Royce turbo jet engines. These engines required a lot of fuel to achieve the
amount of thrust to reach supersonic speeds. For each ton of gas burned, the
Concorde flew 45 miles. In comparison, a normal commercial flight would travel
120 miles for each ton of gas burned.
Who flew on the Concorde? Most of
the customers comprised of members of the upper class. An average one-way
ticket across the Atlantic was about $600 USD. Passengers were willing to pay
this price because of the convenience. They were able to depart around lunch
time and arrive just in time for a late dinner. Though the flight was very
short, passengers were fed an extravagant meal. According to one report,
British Airways had an extensive menu which included “Dom Perignon 1969
champagne, caviar and lobster canapes, grilled fillet steak, palm heart salad
with Roquefort dressing and fresh strawberries with double cream.”
Not everyone was enthused by the
idea of the Concorde. Homeowners that lived around the airports, where the
Concorde would fly in and out of, would often complain of the loud noises that
the plane would make during take-off and landings. Environmentalist were
against the plane due to the large amounts of fuel it consumed. The plane would
use up to about four times as much fuel as a standard passenger airline.
There were many reasons why the
Concorde is no longer in operation. On July 25, 2000, a Concorde plane taking
off from Paris crashed. The crash was due to a piece of titanium from the
runway bursting the tire, setting a chain of events off that eventually
resulted in the fuel tank catching on fire. All passengers and crew members
were killed. Another reason was the economical expenses of the aircraft. During
the early 2000s, oil prices began to skyrocket. The plane became too expensive for
airlines to run. As one expert said, “It takes so much more power and fuel that
it just is not possible for it to be cheaper than subsonic travel, which is why
today we travel at the same speeds as we did in 1957.” Additionally, the
economy started to take a down turn and individuals were less willing to pay
the exorbitant price of a plane ticket. The last flight the Concorde flew was
on October 24, 2003. The Concorde made less than 50,000 flights during its
lifetime and flew about 2.5 million passengers. There is currently talk to
revitalize the supersonic passenger jet airliner but costs seem to be hindering