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Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 21:06 GMT


Happy birthday Concorde

Concorde: The product of Anglo-French co-operation

Concorde, the Anglo-French supersonic airliner, made its maiden flight 30 years ago on Tuesday.

Chris Lockwood: A successor to Concorde is unlikely
Since then, Concorde has clocked up nearly a million flying hours - two thirds of them above the speed of sound.

Regarded by its European designers as one of the great technological achievements of the 20th century, Concorde will never pay back its development costs.

UK test pilot Brian Trubshaw recalls the early development work
Nevertheless, it remains a firm favourite with the public who flock to see the aircraft whenever it appears at international shows.

Concorde is also still the last word in luxury air travel for chief executives, pop stars and politicians.

Engine technology

It was a French-built prototype, called 001, that was the first in the air. It took off from the Aerospatiale airfield in Toulouse on 2 March, 1969.

[ image: The first computer-controlled aeroplane in history]
The first computer-controlled aeroplane in history
The British-built Concorde 002 made its maiden flight on 9 April, 1969, from Filton on the outskirts of Bristol.

However, the first commercial journey was not made until 21 January, 1976, when a British Airways flight travelled from Heathrow to Bahrain - an Air France jet flew simultaneously to Rio de Janeiro.

Concorde is powered by four Olympus 593 engines, developed collaboratively by Rolls-Royce and French aero-engine counterpart Snecma.

Each engine is capable under reheat conditions of producing 38,000lbs of thrust - enough to propel the transatlantic airliner at twice the speed of sound (Mach 2).

Computer control

Today, British Airways and Air France each operate a seven-strong fleet of Concorde aeroplanes. It was built with technology that was "far ahead of its time", says David Learmont of Flight International.

[ image: Will another supersonic airliner be built?]
Will another supersonic airliner be built?
"Not only did it go supersonically, but it was the first computer-controlled aeroplane in history."

The current planes are likely to continue in service for at least another 10 to 15 years, provided they do not fall victim to new noise and emission regulations.

However, the prospects for a "son of Concorde" are not good. Chris Lockwood, a freelance aviation analyst, says a replacement design would cost about $10bn.

"Aerospatiale has an aircraft called the Alliance on its drawing board right now, but it would take total global co-operation to put it into business," he says.

"One of the drawbacks is there is no engine that will power what the industry really wants which is a bigger Concorde with more seats and a longer range."

If you cannot afford a Concorde ticket, one of the best ways to see the aircraft is to visit the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, Cambridgeshire.

Concorde 101 is one of the museum's exhibits. This pre-production model was a record breaker in its day travelling at Mach 2.3 and flying at over 19km (63,000ft).

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