Flight of the Concordes




I love Concorde, despite living under its flight path for three years. Beautiful, but damn, it was noisy.


Allegedly there was a plan at one point to fit Concorde with up to three Blue Steel nuclear standoff missiles in RAF service. Possibly the work even got as far as test fitting a mounting point on the test aircraft (now at Duxford).
Probably a good thing really, Blue Steel was woefully unreliable.
Concorde also pops up in RAF service in one of Charlie Stross’s Laundry novels, but I won’t ruin that surprise further.


The article does hedge its bets by calling Concorde ‘luxury’. The Tu-144 might have been first, but it was anything but luxurious - so noisy in the cabin that you couldn’t hear the person next to you even when they were shouting. Concorde could also be called the only successful SST, the TU-144 was pulled from service after a very small number of commercial flights.

It was always a small thing to be proud of when the PM of the day turned up at an international conference or on a trip to the US in Concorde. The President might have Air Force One, but our plane looked so much better.

I still miss hearing the ba-DOOM of Air France’s Concorde passing over Cornwall about 9pm every day. And yep, the plane was noisy - the only time I’ve heard the engines of another plane over those of the airliner I was in was when Concorde started its takeoff right in front of me at Heathrow - but by god that thing could accelerate. Fighter pilots must have been envious when they saw that plane’s perspective.

Eeeeh I must be getting old, when I were a kid you could fly to New York in less than four hours.




Still a bit sad that this:

Turned into this:


It’s a bit sad that Aerospace is utterly dominated by bean counters and bureaucrats now. In the early days you had all kinds of crazy things being tried because nobody was sure what was going to pan out in the end. Now you get slight variations on the same design over and over because it is what people know. Plus many of the other designs died out for good reasons.

But really commercial air travel is already a fuel inefficient way to travel, SSTs just compound that problem.

An interesting side note: The Boeing 747 has that weird double decker design because Boeing at the time thought that SSTs were going to be the wave of the future and they were expecting to have to mass convert fleets of passenger planes to cargo haulers. The entire plane was designed to open up into a smooth tube you could stuff things into, and the pilots would be up in the loft on top away from the cargo. Instead SSTs were basically stillborn and the 747 became the iconic heavy peoplehauler of the jet age.

Oh, and if you want to ride on the top deck of a 747 you had better hurry. Most of them are retired or soon to retire.


The Concorde was a pet project of Labour party stalwart Tony Benn. He was minister of technology and pushed the project, weirdly enough, as every man’s plan. The book on British technology, The Back Room Boys, talks a lot about Benn’s involvement and the triumphant shop workers’ flight celebrating its certification.
The plane was a great piece of technology, but it really lacked range. There were only a handful of routes for it that made any sense, especially as more conventional jets were flying farther and farther. I’ve only known a few people who’ve flown it. I was told that they liked the speed, but the seats were small compared to first class and the cabin was warm from the air friction.
The SST was the atmospheric railroad of the 20th century. The atmospheric railroad was a 19th century idea for a suction powered underground line. Only one was ever operated, in Paris, and it only lasted so long.

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Concorde (and I also love the way it’s referred to, never a Concorde or the Concorde) is still only the second best looking aircraft to use Olympus engines…


Wish I wasn’t a poor college student in '87 when they had a Concorde dinner cruise over Lake Superior…
(crappy VHS video of the news story)

I remember an interview on BBC Radio 4 with Benn and some of the designers of Concorde. He was proud as punch to recount that he ensured the workers who built Concorde in Bristol had a chance of flying on the plane before it went into service. Benn made many, many bad decisions, but this one really showed he cared about the people who put this extraordinary machine together.

While the industry is more focused on efficiency than anything else, there is at least one dreamer still out there.

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I hear they were a bit cramped on the Lunar Module too. I think there’s a Rod Tidwell/Cuba Gooding Jr. quote that applies to those people’s comments.

I saw Concorde on the ground at CDG, looking surprisingly small next to a wide-body but so so cool. I want to ride on that one.

There are a few more than that:

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VULCAN! there is one out at the castle air museum in central california. impressive machine.

Aww, Concorde always makes me sad. My dad worked on the design team and frequently waxes nostalgic about it.

I love how it’s never looked dated. It looks as modern now as it did then.

Sadly, like the Space Shuttle, it was a technical marvel kiboshed by commercial unviability.

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As opposed to the “Avro Atlantic” a proposed passenger version of the Vulcan bomber

alas , burt rutan is retired ~
AND the skylon has not yet been built , let alone flown ~