Aircraft of the Month: Concorde

Concorde

The Concorde was well-known as a supersonic passenger aircraft that operated from the mid 1970’s to the early 2000’s. The aircraft cut flight times in half and provided luxurious accommodations (such as caviar and Cuban cigars). In its prime, the Concorde was a symbol of national pride for co-creators British Aircraft Corporation and Aerospatiale France and technological innovation. Multiple issues involving high operating costs, environmental concerns, and safety led to the retirement of the aircraft. The Concorde is often referred to as “one of the most innovative aircraft ever built”, what made this aircraft stand apart from the rest?

Development

Interest for supersonic flight began in the early 1950’s in Europe. Research determined that triangle shaped (delta) wings were the answer. The core difficulty that remained was high angle (high nose) take-off and landing, requiring low speed maneuverability and long landing gear.

Key Features

The ogival delta wings were used for the Concorde. This design allowed for high vortex lift and enabled landing at an acceptable slower speed. The design of the aircraft places the wing behind the shock-wave boundary. The ogival delta wing allows for maximum lift.

The sloped nose is a memorable feature of the Concorde. The nose shape was created to reduce drag without impeding the pilots view. The nose was adjusted downward for taxiing, landing, and take-off.  A moving visor was developed to act as a windscreen when the nose was moved to a horizontal position. The material used in the nose had the ability to withstand 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit).

The aircraft had a unique braking system and undercarriage. Due to the high angle of take-off, the undercarriage needed additional strength to withstand increased stress. Pieces of the undercarriage were developed with the ability to retract. The anti-skid braking system needed to hold up to high temperatures and quickly stop the aircraft if needed (take-off speeds were over 200 miles per hour). A carbon-based brake system was developed for the Concorde, which also saved on weight.

Commercial Career

The Concorde was introduced commercially for two flights. The first flight was between London and Bahrain, the second between Paris and Rio de Janeiro on 21 January 1976. The aircraft was quickly banned in the US due to protests over sonic booms. Similar concerns arose in Malaysia, Singapore, and India.