On this day in history : 11th December 1967 – Concorde is rolled out of its hanger for its first public appearance….

Prototype Concorde 001 was revealed in Toulouse amid much pomp and ceremony, in front of some 1,100 guests from organisations such as the British Aircraft Corporation, Sud-Aviation, representatives of airlines who had already placed orders for the aircraft and ministers of state….

Concorde 001 first flight, 1969 – Andre Cros CC BY-SA 4.0

Concorde’s first test flight was on the 2nd of March 1969…. Applause and cheers broke out from those watching as the Anglo-French supersonic airliner took off from Toulouse, at around 3.30pm, for the first time – piloted by test pilot Andre Turcat…. During the test flight the speed did not exceed 300 mph – and it stayed at a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet…. During commercial flights it would reach speeds of 1,350 mph – twice the speed of conventional aircraft – and would fly at a height of 60,000 feet….

British Airways Concorde, 1986 – Eduard Marmet CC BY-SA 3.0

The first flight of the British prototype was made from Filton Airfield, near to Bristol – to RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire on the 9th of April 1969 and was piloted by Brian Trubshaw…. It was also in 1969 – on the 10th of October – that Concorde completed its first supersonic flight….

Landing at Farnborough, September 1974 – Steve Fitzgerald GFDL 1.2

On the 21st of January 1976 Britain and France began their first regularly scheduled Concorde flights – with British Airways operating between London and Bahrain and Air France between Paris and Rio de Janeiro…. The London to New York service began on the 22nd of November 1977…. Concorde set itself a record on the 16th of December 1979 by completing the flight between New York and London in less than three hours….

It was on the 25th of July 2000 that Air France flight 4590 took off from Riossy Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris….bound for New York…. Two minutes later it crashed – killing all 109 passengers and crew on board and 4 people on the ground…. As Concorde had reached take off speed it had struck a piece of metal debris on the runway – that had fallen from a plane that had taken off five minutes previously…. The metal strip caused one of Concorde’s tyres to burst….fragments of tyre hit the aircraft’s wing with such force that the fuel tank punctured…. Gases from the engines ignited the leaking fuel, causing a massive fire…. Concorde crashed into the Hotelissimo Les Relais Bleus Hotel, close to the airport….

France Concorde Crash
Flight 4590 during takeoff – Toshihiko Sato – Fair use

This was the first crash in Concorde’s 31 year history….it was considered to be among the safest of planes…. As a result of the crash all Concordes, both French and British, were grounded pending further investigations…. Commercial services were resumed in November 2001, after £71m being spent on safety improvements….

Parade flight at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, June 2002 – Bleiglass CC BY-SA 3.0

However, on the 10th of April 2003 British Airways and Air France announced the retirement of their Concorde fleets…. Higher maintenance and running costs – combined with lower passenger numbers, after loss of confidence following the 2000 crash – were blamed…. The final Air France flight took place on the 27th of June – whilst British Airways put on a farewell tour…. The last flight was made on the 24th of October 2003….

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