20 years ago, the last commercial flight of the legendary Concorde passenger airliner took place. Thus, the ultra-modern and fast supersonic, after decades of struggle for survival, still lost to the cheaper and more primitive Boeings and Airbuses.
The history of Concorde began in 1962, when French and English engineers decided to join forces to create a supersonic passenger aircraft. Four companies worked on the breakthrough airliner at once: Sud Aviation and BAC worked on the airframe, Rolls-Royce and SNECMA developed the engine.
The first flight of the supersonic aircraft prototype took place in 1969 and was successful. Just seven years later, the first commercial flights started. Concorde was head and shoulders faster than its subsonic competitors. The flight from London to New York took only 3 hours instead of 8-10 on a regular passenger airliner. Upset by the success of their European colleagues, the Americans at first did not want to let Concorde into the states, but after six months of confrontation they nevertheless opened regular flights across the Atlantic.
Customers planned to purchase 74 cars, but eventually abandoned the purchase due to inflation. Fourteen assembled production Concordes went to British Airways and Air France, which became the main explants of the airliner.
Flying on a supersonic airliner was also not cheap. A round-trip ticket between London and New York cost over $10,000. By compensating for the high cost of the flight with the quality of service, the airlines provided passengers with the highest possible level of comfort.
Queen Elizabeth II flew on Concorde several times, and was used by British Prime Ministers, as well as French Presidents Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and François Mitterrand.
Despite the super-technological image and the highest level of prestige and service, maintaining the aircraft turned out to be too expensive, and it mostly brought losses. In 1973, while the airliner was still being developed, due to the war in the Middle East and the global oil crisis, prices for aviation fuel increased several times, which hit all sectors of the world economy.
The position of Concorde was finally shaken by the plane crash. On July 25, 2000, Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde 101 crashed after taking off from Paris to New York. The crash of flight AFR 4590 killed 113 people.
As a result of the investigation, experts found that the cause of the plane’s fall was a titanium part that had previously fallen off from the American DC-10 passenger aircraft. During the Concorde’s takeoff, a plate pierced its chassis, which ignited the fuel in the balancing tank, and then in the engine. Despite the fact that the supersonic aircraft was not directly to blame for the crash, the reputation of the flagship of European aviation was undermined.
In 2003, Air France, and then British Airways, stopped flying the aircraft. In just 27 years of commercial operation, Concordes carried more than 3 million passengers.