“Arrive Before You Leave”
UPERSONIC FLIGHT was the preserve of military aircraft for many years. Then Concorde set out to prove that airliners too could safely operate beyond the sound barrier.
This sleek, beautiful and ultimately doomed aircraft (known simply as “Concorde” without an article) was a technological marvel born out of the Anglo-French Supersonic Aircraft agreement of November 1962. Britain and France (never the best of friends) resorted to this forced marriage to steal a march over the Soviet Union and the United States in designing and developing a supersonic transport (SST). Concorde’s designers often had to grope in the dark because the science of compressibility and its effects on aircraft handling and structures was not well known. When the project began, aviation fuel was cheap and plentiful and fuel guzzlers were everywhere.
What of the competition? The world’s dominant technological power, the US, spent over $1 billion on its ambitious Boeing B2707 SST, but the project had to be shelved before a single plane was built. The Soviet Union fared slightly better. Its Tupolev Tu-144 first flew on December 31, 1968, becoming the world’s first SST. On June 15, 1969, it became the first commercial aircraft to cross the sound barrier and ten days later the first to exceed