Aircraft

The last Concorde makes its final journey

The last Concorde makes its fi...
British Airways’ Concorde Alpha Foxtrot was the last Concorde to be built and the last to fly
British Airways’ Concorde Alpha Foxtrot was the last Concorde to be built and the last to fly
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British Airways’ Concorde Alpha Foxtrot was the last Concorde to be built and the last to fly
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British Airways’ Concorde Alpha Foxtrot was the last Concorde to be built and the last to fly
A hangar wall had to be removed to get Alpha Foxtrot into its new home
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A hangar wall had to be removed to get Alpha Foxtrot into its new home

After sitting on the tarmac for over 13 years, the last Concorde supersonic passenger airplane has made its final journey. At Bristol Filton Airport, UK, British Airways' Concorde Alpha Foxtrot or No. 216 was towed along the runway from its old home to a purpose-built hangar that's part of the Aerospace Bristol museum, which is scheduled to open later this year. Alpha Foxtrot was not only the last Concorde to be built, it was also the last to enter service in 1979 and the last to fly in 2003.

According to Aerospace Bristol, today's move to the £19 million (US$23 million) museum was carried out by engineers from British Airways and Airbus. Using a standard runway towing vehicle, the aircraft traveled to a specially built hangar that had to have one wall removed to allow the supersonic passenger plane to get inside with only a meter (3.3 ft) to spare on each wingtip.

Alpha Foxtrot is the last of the 18 surviving Concordes to find a permanent home. At the time of its development in the 1960s by BAC and Sud Aviation, the Anglo-French supersonic airliner was regarded as a project comparable to the Apollo Moon landings. The first Concorde prototype made its maiden flight in 1969 and the first production model entered service in 1976.

A hangar wall had to be removed to get Alpha Foxtrot into its new home
A hangar wall had to be removed to get Alpha Foxtrot into its new home

Unlike conventional airliners, Concorde could cruise at over twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h) and carried up to 128 passengers in first class comfort. Though it was seen as the harbinger of a new era of supersonic passenger travel, its high operating costs, the rocketing fuel prices of the 1970s, and environmental regulations that prohibited it from operating over land restricted it to only a few intercontinental air routes. The result was high praise, but empty order books.

In the end, only 20 Concordes were built with 14 going into service with Air France and British Airways – and those only because they were national airlines subject to government orders. Despite this, Concorde remained a favorite with the "jet set" and remained in service until 2003 when the post 9/11 downturn in commercial air travel and a fiery crash of No. 203 outside Charles De Gaulle Airport in 2000 led to the decision to retire the fleet.

Alpha Foxtrot was the 20th and last Concorde to be built. It entered service in April 1979 and was the last Concorde to fly, landing at Filton on November 26, 2003. Since then, it has been maintained by Airbus UK.

"We couldn't be more delighted to welcome Concorde 216 into her new purpose-built home at Aerospace Bristol," says Iain Gray, Chairman of Aerospace Bristol. "With such enthusiasm for Concorde in this country, and particularly in Bristol where she was designed, built and landed for the final time, it is only fitting that this magnificent aircraft should have a permanent home at Filton. I would like to thank all of our donors for helping to make Aerospace Bristol a reality and look forward to welcoming our first visitors on board this summer."

Source: Aerospace Bristol

4 comments
Mzungu_Mkubwa
It is a shame that this beautiful aircraft couldn't be reworked with modern/updated tech (particularly in the propulsion systems) to make it viable. It truly is an inspiring accomplishment that provided real-world benefits with a lot of class. Can't we do this (take it to the next level), humanity?
Rustin Lee Haase
I'm glad they have made a home for this fine plane, but I thought the Alfa-Foxtrot was left on an asteroid somewhere during an old Doctor Who episode. :-)
WillWohler
Following on with Mzungu’s EXCELLENT comment, our lifetimes (the TIME (duration) of our lives) are among our most precious resources – and commercial SST service would provide humanity with a significant saving of this precious resource. This is even more so for the trans-Pacific routes, which are quite a bit longer than the few trans-Atlantic ones the fabulous Concorde used to serve. Since Concorde’s design was essentially complete by 1965, the huge technological advances since then, would surely permit us to overcome the tech hurdles of a next-gen SST (and as Mzungu says, chief among these are the aircraft’s engines). One non-tech factor that seems to have impeded most of the next-gen SST efforts, has been the questionable assumption that a future aircraft needs to have a much greater passenger capacity. Much of that assumption seems based on airport / air traffic congestion concerns. Those concerns are of course valid, but should not necessarily dictate a significantly larger SST pax capacity – alternative airports, as well as eliminating international route / schedule restrictions could greatly relieve that congestion. Due mainly to the vastly different constraints of ~Mach 2-3 supersonic flight – and presently-available structural materials – optimum aircraft size (payload capacity) for an SST is necessarily much different than for a subsonic aircraft. And there are significant operational advantages (in terms of route & schedule flexibility) that a Concorde-size aircraft has, over a larger-capacity one. It doesn’t appear that these advantages have been accounted for in design studies/ analyses. But, there seems to be another, much less legitimate impediment to development of the next generation SST: masquerading as nothing more than (legitimate) environmental concerns, there seems to have been a deep-rooted opposition among many “hard-core” environmental activists, to allowing those who are fortunate enough to afford SST service, to actually have such service at all. Recall that Concorde served as a ‘lightning rod’ of the nascent environmental movement in the early-to-mid 1970s. And buried under much of the highly emotional opposition to Concorde in those days, was a jealousy of the ‘jet-set’, fomented and furthered by some people of a strongly leftist/ socialist persuasion. Alas, that jealousy seems just as virulent now as it was some forty years ago. Humanity will probably have to outgrow some of its (juvenile) jealousy, before we can enjoy more large-scale technological achievements like Concorde. Will Wohler
JimFox
@WillWohler-- very good rational analysis of both Concorde and human nature! I myself suspected [& still do] that SST's would be common today, had the USA developed them and not the Europeans. I know there were SST designs from Boeing but perhaps they were too ambitious? It is truly amazing and disappointing that no progress has been made outside the theoretical realm. The market for high-cost aviation must be orders of magnitude greater than Concorde had. Perhaps China's rise and the 'Pivot to Asia' might give the incentives to get SST's flying again, on trans- Pacific routes?