Concorde: Final Landings of Supersonic Jet Occurred 10 Years Ago

Image: Concorde: Final Landings of Supersonic Jet Occurred 10 Years Ago Left, last British Airways Concorde flight approaches Heathrow airport Oct. 24, 2003. Right, Concorde at the National Museum of Flight in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Thursday, 24 Oct 2013 03:07 PM

By David Ogul

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The Concorde supersonic passenger jet made its final flight to New York 10 years ago Thursday, prompting a wave of nostalgia among aviation buffs who wonder if it is time for an updated version of the revolutionary aircraft to return.

Jointly produced by the British Aircraft Corp. and French-owned aerospace manufacturer Aerospatiale, the Concorde went on its maiden voyage in 1969. Commercially, it began ferrying passengers seven years later. It has been described by some as more advanced than Apollo spacecraft, and it could fly from Europe to Washington, D.C., in half the time a standard commercial aircraft could in the '70s.

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But the Concorde was reportedly an unprofitable venture. The beginning of the end came with an Air France crash on a flight that was en route from Paris to New York in 2000. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks contributed to a drop in air travel, and Airbus, Aerospatiale’s successor, later decided to discontinue maintenance support.

“It was probably more advanced than Apollo 11, which put the first man on the moon,” Jock Lowe, a former president of the Royal Aeronautical Society and Concorde’s longest-serving pilot, told the BBC. “No military plane came anywhere close. It was so maneuverable and there was so much spare power, even ex-fighter pilots weren’t used to it.”

The Concorde was the first jet to have technological advancements like computer-controlled engine airtakes and carbon-fiber brakes.

Twitter was abuzz with comments about the 10-year anniversary.

Despite the nostalgia, British Airways told the BBC the plane will not be resurrected.

“We firmly believe that the technical and safety challenges of returning a Concorde to the skies are absolutely prohibitive,” it said.

But Richard Branson, whose space plane Virgin Galactic is on track to carry passengers as early as next year, is promising to fly a new revolutionary spacecraft that can take passengers from London to Sydney in two and a half hours.

Virgin Galactic’s space planes work by using a mothership to hoist them 50,000 feet high before dropping them and then using a rocket to blast them off into the lower atmosphere, according to The Huffington Post.

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