ON BOARD: Concorde

Just a warning, this is an on-board reportage about a museum example of Concorde. 🙂

If you are a real avgeek, then you surely know all the locations of the museum examples of perhaps the most magnificent aircraft ever – the Concorde. Also, you probably know that when visiting Paris, a must-see is the Air and Space Museum at LeBourget Airport, just half an hour away from the Eiffel Tower by public transport.

The museum is truly an amusement park for people like us, with exhibited aircraft such as the prototype Rafale, Airbus A380, and even 2 copies of Concorde, Boeing 747-100. If you are interested in space exploration, you will not be disappointed as you can see exhibits such as the Soyuz T-6 capsule, the Vostok capsule or the lunar rover Lunakhod 1.

But what was it like to see the Concorde?

Although the author of these lines did not have the honor of flying in the Concorde, entering that plane awakened something in me that I had not believed I could experience until then. When you listen, read, and research so much about the technical and every other superiority of that aircraft, and finally have the chance to step into it, the feeling that comes over you is incredible.

The Concorde is displayed in the museum in its own hangar, and the Concorde 001 prototype and Air France’s Sierra Delta are displayed “eye to eye”. The museum display is designed so that you first enter through the tail of Concorde 001. By the way, Concorde 001, the first prototype, left the factory on December 11, 1967. After fifteen months of ground testing, Concorde 001 took off from Toulouse on March 2, 1969. Captain was André Turcat with a crew of Jacques Guignard, Henri Perrier and Jacques Rétif. F-WTSS (production number 001) was the first Concorde to fly on 2 March 1969, and was retired on arrival at the French Aviation Museum at Le Bourget Airport on 19 October 1973, having completed 397 flights, a total of 812 hours, of which 255 hours were at supersonic speeds. It was once modified for the 1973 solar eclipse observation mission, with skylights on the nose and observation equipment. The flight over Africa became the longest observation of a solar eclipse lasting 74 minutes. The aircraft remained in its Solar Eclipse mission livery along with the windows on the roof. If you’ve ever watched videos of the first takeoff of 001 on YouTube, you surely remember the narrator’s statements that you can hear while passing by the plane: “There, at the bottom of the runway is Concorde 001…The crescendo of fans from the four 593 Olympuses.. .She rolls, 45 knots, 90, 135, nose come up to 20 degrees, she’s airborne…She flies!” Listening to that narrative while passing through the cabin of such an aircraft, could not help but cause serious goosebumps and flashbacks to times that I have not lived through, but I have heard many testify to the same as the golden age of aviation.

After passing through the cabin of Concorde 001, you pass through the open bridge to Air France’s F-BTSD. The bridge is connected in such a way that it resembles a passenger air bridge at an airport and gives you the feeling that you are boarding a Concorde flight. I suggest that you stop on that bridge and absorb the view of this truly beautiful aircraft. Just by looking at the plane’s still bright colour, Air France and SkyTeam logo, it dawned on me that not so long ago the plane was still flying and connecting Paris and London with New York.

I couldn’t resist entering the cabin as soon as possible. Concorde first greeted me with its low cabin where, even though I’m 1.75m tall, I managed to hit my head. My avgeek urge first made me poke my head into the cockpit, which is unfortunately blocked off by a glass partition and not accessible for viewing. Nevertheless, even with a view from a distance of 2-3 meters, I could not stop admiring this, even for today’s time, a marvel of aeronautical engineering. It is interesting to see the detail we see on Airbus aircraft today throughout the Concorde cabin.

The aircraft remained as it was on its last passenger flight on 07 November 2001. Incidentally, following the disaster on 25 July 2000, which resulted in the loss of F-BTSC, the third production aircraft, and the death of 113 people, including four on the ground, the Sierra Delta was used to test the new NZG tires and then made its last passenger flight on the Paris – New York route on November 7, 2001. On May 31, 2003, the aircraft performed a supersonic return operation from America by landing in Roissy. She landed at LeBourget on June 14 2003, with 12,976 accumulated flight hours since June 26 1978, spread over 4,282 flights.

As you pass through the cabin, you can hear the captain announcing the flight, supersonic speed and arrival in New York. The tail part of the aircraft is fenced off from viewing with a glass partition, but that is why it has been kept in its original version.

After exiting the plane and going down the stairs, you can view the plane from the outside. Take a moment to look at the landing gear, and the Rolls Royce Snecma Olympus engines or watch the aircraft’s “beak”. Although the cabin is quite small and cramped, from the outside you can see how the aircraft dominates with its appearance, delta wings and elegance. I dare to say that we will not see an aircraft of such beauty in the air again.

The story of Concorde is a story that not only deserves a separate article, but much more. Let’s just say that for me, from the point of view of an engineer and a pilot, it is very sad to realize that it was the first time that we retired a superior (albeit extremely expensive in terms of fuel consumption and maintenance) technology without an adequate replacement on the market. Concord, along with its speed and flight comfort, was also recognized for its inflight service, which British Airways tried to replace with the all-business-class Airbus A318 flying from London to New York via Shannon.


Only today, some 20 years after the last Concorde flight, we can say that we are within a visible distance of commercial supersonic flight again, even though the most advanced program (Boom Overture) is still officially 6 years away from entering into use (and unofficially, probably twice as long).

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