Concorde Origins in 1956
The formal origins of Concorde started in 1956 at a meeting of the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee (STAC) which made over 400 detailed studies around the possibility of flying at Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. Following the development of various high-speed military aircraft and the foundations of space exploration, four G-8 nations competed to build the world’s first supersonic commercial airliner in the 1960s and 1970s: USA, Russia, UK and France.
Supersonic Treaty in 1962
Realising they couldn’t afford to go it alone, a joint international treaty was formed between the British and French over 50 years ago on 29th November 1962 to combine their individual projects and co-develop an aircraft. This was the same year as the Rolling Stones formed and the first James Bond movie was shown in cinemas. It was also a time long before desktop pcs, the mobile phone and internet. Aircraft designers still used drawing boards, pencils and the slide rule.
The Anglo-French agreement was signed in the Music Room of Lancaster House, opposite Buckingham Palace in London. The treaty saw these former adversaries put aside their differences and troubled history that had seen them go to war on numerous occasions. The unique nature of the partnership resulted in the aircraft being called Concorde, a word meaning unity, harmony and agreement.
A Project of Huge Complexity
Visionary leadership to create Concorde was only the beginning. The engineers and designers had to overcome every known technical barrier to make this challenging project work. They also spoke two different languages, used different units of weights and measures (metric and imperial) and had to create an aircraft that would be light, fast and comfortable.
Above all, the people behind Concorde had to trust each other and make the partnership work at all levels. The result was a supersonic masterpiece of engineering, design and technology. It also showcased the combined efforts and best achievements of many different industries such as metals, composites, glass, plastics, electronics, navigation and safety systems.
Maiden Flight in 1969
Concorde’s maiden flight was in 1969. Since then, it has become a symbol of thought leadership and scientific advancement for the 20th Century. It was also the same year as Boeing 747’s first flight. Although the Americans did not succeed in building supersonic commercial jets, they were busy creating another very special chapter in human history in 1969 when two men first stepped on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Concorde would provide a quantum leap in aviation, cut flight journey times in half and bring the world’s people closer together. Mach 2 capabilities would give us the ability to fly between continents at supersonic speeds and faster than a bullet. At 1,350mph, this equates to 23 miles every minute!
Flight Operations in 1976
Concorde’s commercial operations by British Airways and Air France would begin in 1976 and last for 27 years until 2003. It was frequently used by the most powerful and influential people in the world as their favourite mode of transport. Charter flights also put the Concorde experience within reach of many ordinary people who fulfilled their supersonic dreams.
Concorde went on to become a true global star, a technology legend and a design icon that has never been beaten, especially in terms of speed. It stirred the imagination from the moment it was announced and forever changed the face of aviation, transport and global mobility.
Retirement in 2003
Concorde retired in October 2003 without a successor, 100 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight. Ten years on, the void continues. In terms of mankind’s development, progress is ultimately inevitable and the wait for something equal or better than Concorde still continues. The Concorde Story Exhibition can act as a catalyst to return to supersonic flight and the legacy it left can stimulate and inspire a better way forward for our future journeys over land, sea, air and space.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” … and “Study the past, if you would define the future.”- Confucious
Aim Higher, Fly Supersonic!