Concorde: The pride of Britain's air fleet

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The Independent Online

Concorde has been the pride of Britain's air fleet since the first model made its maiden flight more than three decades ago.

Concorde has been the pride of Britain's air fleet since the first model made its maiden flight more than three decades ago.

The supersonic jet took off from the Aerospatiale airfield in Toulouse, France, in March 1969.

Since then the fleet has logged more than 900,000 flying hours, two-thirds of which have been above the speed of sound.

And despite the technical advances that have been achieved, the jet is still considered the premier way to travel - by passengers and pilots alike.

The first Concorde, the '001' prototype, was a joint venture between Britain and France costing an estimated £950 million.

Britain and France started working separately towards a supersonic aircraft in 1956.

They were working along such similar lines that in 1962 they decided todevelop it jointly, a partnership that led to 20 aircraft being built.

The second prototype, the British-built Concorde 002, made a successful maiden voyage from Filton aerodrome, Bristol, on April 9 1969.

By November 1970 both prototypes had flown at Mach 2, twice the speed of sound.

Concorde is powered by four Olympus 593 engines jointly developed by Rolls-Royce and the French company Snecma. Each engine is capable of producing 38,000lb thrust and powering Concorde at Mach 2.

Concorde's first pre-production aircraft flew in December 1971 and the first production aircraft took to the skies two years later.

On January 21 1976 the first commercial Concorde services were flown simultaneously by British Airways to Bahrain and by Air France to Rio de Janeiro.

The aircraft had been subjected to 5,000 hours of testing by the time itwas certificated for passenger flight.

Air France and British Airways each operate a seven-strong fleet of Concorde aeroplanes.

The supersonic aeroplanes can carry 100 passengers and fly at 1,336mph and at an altitude of 55,000 feet.

Cruising at 1,350mph - twice the speed of sound - Concorde's typical New York crossing takes little more than three-and-a-half hours.

The record for a transatlantic crossing stands at two hours 52 minutes 59 seconds - at an average speed of about 1,300mph.

The jet has an enviable safety record but today's crash comes just 24 hours after it was revealed that a British Airways Concorde had been taken out of service after a crack developed in its wings.

BA's other six supersonic jets also had cracks in the rear of their wings, but were been deemed "no risk to safety" by the Civil Aviation Authority and BA.