The Queen of the Sky always plucks an emotional chord at the heartstrings despite there being an incredible thirteen years since her demise. However, this week marks a significant supersonic anniversary. Mike Humble wipes away a tear and explains…
As the First Officer calls out ‘rotate’ on the flight deck, G-BOAA blurs the background at
Heathrow as she makes the first British commercial supersonic flight – bound for Bahrain.
On the other side of the channel, an Air France fleet member is departing for Rio.
Can it really be 13 years since the demise of undoubtedly the world’s most famous airliner operated by the world’s favourite airline? Yes, it’s true – believe it or not, and many of us who enjoy other modes of transport as well as cars still feel a surreal sensation of loss, akin to losing an old friend despite the fact most people came only as close to her as the TV screen. I say she or her quite simply because she was alive, an aluminium hand-crafted work of art that touched the hearts of millions of people throughout the world… and still does!
However, to look back for a moment or two with a smile, this week marks the 40th anniversary of her world debut in a commercial capacity. On 21 January 1975 at exactly 11.40BST fleet member G-BOAA, looking resplendent in her new British Airways livery, took off from London Heathrow bound for warmer climes in Bahrain. Meanwhile, over in Paris, an Air France Concorde departed for Rio De Janeiro via Dakar at the same time – 12.40CET. For the princely sum of £356 plus taxes (around £2700 in today’s coinage) you could relax with a drop of `69 Dom Perignon, some lobster canapes and complimentary Havana cigar!
SUD Avation’s Chief Test Pilot, Andre Turcat (pictured left), stands alongside our very own
(and SD1 owner) Brian Trubshaw – Chief Test Pilot with BAC. Sadly, both these great men
and war heroes are no longer with us.
With thanks, in part, to a close neighbour of mine called Johnny, a retired Concorde First Officer with 30 years British Airways service under his belt, here are one or two Concorde facts:
- Based on actual flying statistics, in the time taken for a typical subsonic flight to travel to New York JFK from London Heathrow, a Concorde could have theoretically done the same trip both ways… AND head back to the USA by a few hundred miles.
- Her cruising speed of 1350mph at 60,000 feet was considerably faster than a bullet fired from a 50 calibre sniper’s rifle. The typical flight time to the USA was around 3hrs 25 mins but the taps were opened up in 1996 with a recorded 2hrs 53 minutes.
- The stories that were banded around about Concorde only breaking even in a certain year were totally fictitious and nothing more than urban myth. Both Air France and British Airways never published any profit and loss information on their respective Concorde fleet. However, considering only 14 were built and during development costs rose by over six times the original budget, it would be fair to say in pure commercial terms she was a flop.
- In a cruel twist of fate, both English and French Chief Test Pilots never lived to see significant Concorde milestones or anniversaries. Our own Brian Trubshaw, who worked for BAC, died in 2001 – two years before Concorde’s last commercial flight. Andre Turcat of SUD Aviation passed away just a couple of weeks ago.
Happy anniversary Concorde… Gone, but certainly never to be forgotten!