54 years since the first flight of the Concorde

March 2 is the first time Concorde has taken to the skies.

Yesterday marks 54 years since the Concorde took to the skies from its manufacturing site in the French city of Toulouse for the first time.

Aircraft No. 001 embarked on the first of dozens of test flights to demonstrate the supersonic aircraft's airworthiness, as well as serve as a sales pitch for the flagship delta-winged aircraft.

the first flight of the Concorde

Here's a look back at the test flight and what happened to this iconic plane.

the test

More than eight years after the British Ministry of Supply formed the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee (STAC) in October 1965, Sud Aviation and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) began making two Concorde prototypes in February 1965.

These flagship aircraft were built in the respective manufacturers' home countries, designated 001 at Toulouse and 002 at Filton.

After more than four years of intense work, the first Concorde was certified for test flights in 1969, paving the way for the first step in airplane flight.

001 was ready first and became the first aircraft to fly and bear the F-WTSS registration.

The first Concorde flight took place on March 2, 1969, from Toulouse Airport.

The fuselage had a single stripe and the words "Sud Aviation - British Aircraft Corporation" in the middle, with "Concorde" at the front of the fuselage.

From the start, this was a distinctive aircraft unlike anything else that was flying at the time.

The only exception was its Soviet rival, the Tupolev Tu-144, which started flying a few months before Concorde.

the journey

  • A BBC report at the time discussed the first flight.

  • After two days of bad weather conditions were finally permitted enough to take off on the second day.

  • This came after a year of delays in testing, which surprised some people.

  • The flight lasted 27 minutes without major problems, described by the pilot as "no actual problems, just a few minor instrument malfunctions, which is inevitable".

  • The flight was not supersonic, as the aircraft only flew at 10,000 feet and 300 mph (483 km/h), and was nowhere near its peak airworthiness.

  • The first pilot on this flight was Major André-Edouard Turcat, a former French Air Force pilot best known for this widely celebrated pioneering test flight.

  • Other achievements emerged later that year.

  • For example, the Chicago Tribune reports that April 1969 saw the British-made prototype, No. 002, take to the skies for the first time.

  • Then, in October of that year, The New York Times reported that the French prototype had flown supersonic for the first time, flying faster than the speed of sound for nine minutes.

  • It finally entered commercial service in 1976.

What happened to this plane?

  • While today's experimental aircraft are usually sent to customers after approval, this was not the case with the Concorde.

  • While today's experimental aircraft are usually sent to customers after approval, this was not the case with the Concorde.

  • In fact, the F-WTSS (001) was introduced instead at the Paris Air Show in June 1969, which was its first major commercial display.

  • The aircraft has also been instrumental in training the crew and flown for induction flights for pilots at Pan Am, BOAC, and more.

  • After exceeding the speed of sound Mach 2 in 1970, the aircraft embarked on a world tour demonstrating its capabilities, flying to destinations such as South America before enthusiastic crowds and potential customers.

  • Concorde 001 was finally retired in 1973, after only four years of flying.

  • It has been preserved in the Air and Space Museum in Le Bourget, Paris, where the public can view the aircraft to delve into its history.


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