For 27 years, the Concorde shuttled passengers at a speed up to twice the speed of sound. Tidbits invites you to check out the facts on this supersonic passenger jet.

The word supersonic merely means that the jet could fly faster than the speed of sound. In fact, the Concorde had a take-off speed of 250 mph (402 km/hr) and a cruising speed of 1,340 mph (2,158 km/hr). Depending on the temperature of the atmosphere, the speed of sound is about 760 mph, (1,223 km/hr), or 1100 feet (335 m) per second.

    The Concorde was designed and built by a team of British and French engineers in the late 1960s. The plane was named as such because the word “Concorde” means “agreement.” It was built with powerful Rolls Royce engines and a nose cone that could move up and down, which reduced drag and enhanced top aerodynamic efficiency, as well as giving pilots a clear view during taxiing, take-off, and landing.

The craft was painted with a specially-developed white paint that reflected the intense heat creating during the flight.    The extreme speeds caused such heat that the plane would expand 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm) during flight. Even the windows were hot during flight, unlike the cold of a normal jet plane.

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    There were 20 original Concorde jets, 18 of which remain, scattered around the world’s aerospace museums   

•    The first flights took off    in January, 1976, with a British Airways jet flying from London to Bahrain, and an Air France plane flying from Paris to Rio de Janeiro. The jets flew at an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,288 m), over 11 miles (17.7 km) high! It was high enough that passengers could see the curvature of the Earth. 

    A nine-member crew was on board – two pilots, a flight engineer and six flight attendants. While the usual training time for pilots on a regular jet was 8 weeks, Concorde pilots’ training lasted 28 weeks. Seating capacity for the Concorde ranged from 92 to 128, but it wasn’t just people the airliner carrier – it was also used to carry commodities such as diamonds and human organs destined for transplants.

The aircraft was not for those of moderate income. Passengers paid dearly for the speed and luxury, more than 30 times the price of a regular ticket. In 1997, those flying from New York to London paid $7,995 for a round-trip ticket.

    In 1996, the Concorde shattered all records for commercial transatlantic crossing, when the flight from New York to London was completed in two hours and 53 minutes.   

•    The oldest person ever to fly on the Concorde was 105-year-old Eva Woodman, a nursing home resident who had never been in a plane. For her birthday in 1998, Eva (who was 11 years old when the Wright Brothers made the first powered flight in 1903) was treated to a 90-minute flight aboard the plane. She arrived back at the nursing home to a party complete with a Concorde-shaped cake.

    In July, 2000, a Concorde flight bound for New York from Paris crashed and burned on take-off from the Paris airport. The crash, which killed all 109 people aboard plus another four on the ground, was caused by a titanium shard on the runway, bursting one of the craft’s tires, which sent fragments into one of the Concorde’s engines, igniting a fuel tank.   

•    Several factors contributed to the end of the Concorde – the Paris crash, rising fuel prices, aging planes, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The supersonic jet’s last commercial flight was in October, 2003, from New York to London. There had been 50,000 flights and 2.5 million passengers.