16 08 2011

The Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde was the world’s first and only supersonic airliner, which cut travel times down to half that of a normal airliner. It served a short 27 years in the airline business before being famously retired after the only crash its type ever experienced – which wasn’t even the plane’s fault!

Concorde boasted a whopping 2170 km/h top speed, or Mach 2.04, and was incredibly lightweight to give it that extra speed. Only 26 were built, 20 of which served in airlines British Airways and Air France. It was seen as an aviation icon, and still is.

Air France Flight 4590 was the only fatal crash of a Concorde, killing everybody on board, and 4 people on the ground. It was caused by a metal strip that had fallen from another plan prior the Concorde’s take off, which slashed a tyre that flung upwards and burst a fuel tank, igniting the plane in seconds before crashing shortly after.

This incident was the first in the bring down of the Concorde. The plane cost far too much to produce and also needed severe upgrades which neither government was willing to pay for, and so the program was shut down and the Concorde grounded for ever.

The controversy surrounding the retirement was quite large. It was such a big decision to close the program after a successful 24 years before the crash, and to close it after one crash. If they hadn’t made that decision, we would still be travelling by Concorde today, and there would be many more, so fast travel would be available on quite a large basis, reducing flight times the world round.

I am particularly saddened by the decision to ground the Concorde because I would love to fly in one and experience what it is like to fly so quick. I think the decision to ground them was wrong, as the crash was not even caused by the fault of aircraft, but from the fault of a different aircraft. Even if the governments didn’t have enough money to keep the whole program running, I think it would be awesome for them to run at least one quarter of the program until they had sufficient funds to fund the whole thing and even expand it, because today we would have a large network of Concordes to travel in and reduce long distance travel times. I wish they could have kept the Concorde program running, but I have no doubt that with the advances of aviation we are witnessing each day, a new, similar, and better program to the Concorde will be designed and hopefully we can have supersonic, short travel available on a large basis again soon.