The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> Aircraft and Aircraft Companies, A-Z

the first, and to date only, supersonic passenger jet

Concorde coming in for a landing

The Concorde was developed by French and British companies, and was in service from 1976 to 2003. In addition to being supersonic, the Concorde is also the only passenger jet to date to have a "titlting nose," which was lowered during take-offs and landings so the flight crew could see the runway.


Total Height (ground to top of tail) 37 feet 24 inches
Length 204 feet 6 inches
Cabin Width 8 feet 7 inches
Cabin Length 129 feet

Seating Capacity 100
Flight Crew 2 pilots, 1 flight engineer
Cabin Crew 9 flight attendants

Empty Weight 203,000 pounds
Maximum Take-Off Weight 408,000 pounds

Engines 4 Rolls-Royce-Snecma Olympus 593 Mark 610 Turbojets
Total Engine Thrust 38,050 pounds

Fuel Capacity 26,400 gallons

Take-Off Speed 201 miles per hour
Landing Speed 187 miles per hour

Cruising Speed ~1,350 mph (twice the speed of sound)
Maximum Cruising Altitude 60,000 feet (~11 miles)
Range ~4,500 miles

Average Duration of Transatlantic Flight 3 hours 30 minutes (compared to 7-8 hours for other commercial jet aircraft)
Record Flight 2 hours 59 minutes 59 seconds (flown on February 7, 1996, by Captain Leslie Scott and crew)


In June of 1962, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and French President Charles de Gaulle reached an agreement wherein the two nations would work together to develop a supersonic passenger jet within eight years, with each nation contributing $28 million a year to the project. British research was done by British Aircraft Corporation, and French research by Aérospatiale; both companies were owned by their respective nations. The hope of both nations was that once the plane was developed sales to airlines would more than cover the costs of development.

The first experimental plane flew on March 2, 1969, and the first supersonic flight took place on October 1, 1969; both were highly successful. The plane was ready for service by 1972, but no airlines were willing to buy an aircraft that was so expensive to operate. With a maximum capacity of only 100 passengers (compared to over 200 for a Boeing 747) and fuel consumption rate of 5,638 gallons per hour, airline operators knew they would have to charge exorbitant fares compared to subsonic flights in order to break even; each plane would have to fly at full capacity on every single flight if the airline hoped to make any profit. Eventually the French and British governments both agreed to subsidize the purchases of Concordes by their respective state-owned airlines -- Air France and British Airways, respectively; each airline purchased 7 Concordes, and once those 14 planes went into service no other Concordes were ever built.

The first commercial Concorde flights took off on January 21, 1976 -- a British Airways London-to-Bahrain flight and an Air France flight from Paris to Rio de Janeiro. Flights from London and Paris to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., began on May 24, 1976, and flights to New York City began November 22, 1977. Both airlines continued to operate transatlantic flights aboard Concordes for the next 25 years, as well as short-lived regular flights to other destinations; in addition to regularly scheduled flights, the Concorde was also available for chartered flights, and by the time the aircraft was retired it had visited over 150 different airports around the world.

On July 25, 2000, an Air France Concorde crashed soon after take-off in Gonesse, France, killing all 100 passengers and 12 crew members aboard and 4 people on the ground. The investigation into the first (and only) Concorde crash took a year, during which time both British Airways and Air France kept their Concorde fleets grounded. The investigation ultimately determined that the crash was caused when the Concorde ran over a strip of titanium that had been dropped on the runway by another plane. The metal shredded one of the Concorde's tires, and debris from the tire hit the underside of the wing, causing a massive shockwave inside the full fuel tank that damaged a fuel valve. A loss in fuel pressure caused two engines to fail, and the pilot was unable to gain altitude, causing the plane to literally "fall from the sky." Although no fault with any Concorde system was found, it took time for passengers to feel confident enough to begin buying tickets again.

Revenue lost while the Concordes were grounded proved all but impossible to recover, and both airlines began talking about selling off their fleets. No buyers could be found, however, as the Concordes were by now in need of cockpit and other upgrades that would have added millions of dollars to their cost. The last scheduled flight of a Concorde came on November 26, 2003, from London Heathrow Airport to Bristol (England) Airport.

See Also

Harold Macmillan
Charles de Gaulle

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Aircraft and Aircraft Companies, A-Z

This page was last updated on 01/08/2019.