40 years ago supersonic Concorde opened London — New York route

Anastasia Dagaeva
November 22, 2017
On 22 November 1977 the Anglo-French Concorde, a supersonic passenger airplane performed it’s first commercial flight from London to New York. Several companies are now trying to “reinvent” the Concorde but her speed records haven’t yet been beaten. 

A typical cross-Atlantics jump en-route London-New York would take about three and a half hours, compared to eight subsonic hours in a seat of Boeing-747, for example. Flying the Concorde, a passenger actually travelled in time, landing in one city before he had taken off in another, according to the time difference.  

Concorde still holds the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a civil aircraft. The quickest Concorde flight from NY to London, on February 7 1996, took just two hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds. Thanks to the East-bound winds. 

Return tickets were selling for $10,500. But for top-level passengers — CEOs, stars, entrepreneurs — the flight time could save hundred of thousands while they were flying the route themselves to sign multi-million contracts, deliver sensitive cargo, attend at the meetings between the two destinations. The aircraft had a range of 6,667 kms. Air France had Concorde on the same route from Paris. 

Passengers rarely spent more than 4 hours onboard, still they enjoyed a great service. The menu on British Airways’ first commercial flight included Dom Perignon 1969 champagne, caviar and lobster canapes, grilled fillet steak, palm heart salad with Roquefort dressing and fresh strawberries with double cream. 

The history of creating the Concorde goes back in the 50-s. Several countries —  USA, France, Great Britain and Soviet Union — came to idea of developing a commercial supersonic transport (SST). The Americans left the “battle for speed” after counting all the expenses and perspectives. Another reason was introduction of the Boeing-747. USSR continued the works, developing Tupolev Tu-144, a project that only carried passengers during a short 7-month period. 

The Concorde’s maiden flight took place on 2 march 1969. A total amount of 20 airframes were built, six for test flights, then BA and Air France divided the rest of the fleet, operating seven SSTs each. During the 27 years of operations about 3 million people were flown supersonically. Concorde made just under 50,000 flights during its lifepan with a speed of 2440 km/h on the altitude of 18 km. 

Concorde still inspires. At least three start-ups — Aerion Corporation, Boom and Spike Aerospace — are trying to return supersonic commercial airplane to the skies. Now it’s going to be a business jet. The Concorde’s main lesson was — the supersonic flight was really expensive. None of them own a full-scale model even. Aerion and Boom are talking about the hybrid scheme: subsonic over the ground and supersonic over the water. Spike represents itself as a ‘quiet supersonic’ start-up. Another project — Quiet Spike — developing by US-origin Gulfstream Aerospace, has a big chance to win the supersonic race. Last year, the manufacturer reserved two patent rights for supersonic’s noise reduction which would open doors to fly not only over the water but over the ground too.
Photo: British Airways