The iconic Concorde was the "aircraft of the future" - until it wasn't. For 27 years the Concorde was perhaps the most curious (and even loved) passenger jet flying but it was plagued with issues that saw it ultimately get axed and not replaced - although new Supersonic jets are in the works now and United has even placed an order for 15 of them hoping to fly them by 2029.
For all the fanfare, the Concorde was not a particularly comfortable aircraft to fly in. Passengers would pay more than first-class tickets in the conventional aircraft for the privilege of shaving around 3 hours off their flight times.
What It Was Like To Fly On The Concorde
"Concorde was seen as a luxurious way to travel with tickets costing more than a first class seat on a regular jet."
"The flight attendants loved being on it; the passengers loved being on it. You were aware of being part of a very small group of people that were privileged enough to be on Concorde."
- CNN's Richard Quest (Who flew Concorde five times)
The Concorde was only a small aircraft with only around 100 seats. Instead of a big comfy seat, they had a cramped seat in a very noisy cabin. And those seats were more like office chairs and bucket seats. The windows were also very small.
- Windows: Very Small
- Seats: 100 Seats
- Conditions: Cramped And Noisy
The interior of the fuselage was around 8.5 feet wide and the plane was laid out in two sections. There was the front section, a middle lavatory, and then the rear section. While the two sections were identical, there was still First Class and Business Class.
People would pay for the status symbol of being able to sit in the front section.
The quality, as well as the style of the airplane food service, was exceptional on these flights and it was not unheard of for people to be given a signed certificate as evidence of their flight.
The Life and Demise of The Concorde
The dawn of the supersonic age started just after the end of World War Two on October 14, 1947. On that day, Chuck Yeager rocketed his way through the sound barrier on the experimental rocket-powered Bell X-1 over the Mojave Desert.
Later on, the first passenger jet nosed its way through the barrier (a Douglas DC-8) on a test flight in 1961.
The Concorde was of varying success but much more successful than its contemporary Soviet counterpart. Because of the impact of the sonic boom, the Concorde was forbidden to fly over land and so was mostly restricted to flying trans-Atlantic routes.
But it was loved. According to the New York Times, these flights cost around about $6,000 to $7,000 per ticket. But while the conditions were cramped and noisy, they were also considered glamorous complete with Champagne-and-caviar.
- Crash: The Concorde Suffered on Crash In 2000 The Killed 113 People
The Future of Supersonic Travel
Since its retirement, there have been no supersonic passenger flights, but the possibility of a Concorde 2.0 was on the cards even as it went out of service. Today the supersonic renaissance is seeking to reintroduce the Concorde 2.0 (or more accurately Boom's Overture among others).
Today engineers are hard at work testing and tweaking the Concorde's successor in a virtual environment. United has already ordered these futuristic jets even though none have actually been test-flown yet. Time will tell just how much more comfortable, affordable, and quiet the new aircraft will be (quiet both inside the cabin, and outside with the boom).
The long-term vision of Boom Supersonic's chief executive, Blake Scholl is to be able to fly anywhere in the world within four hours for only a pittance - $100.00. If that can ever happen, then flying will really be for everyone and not the wealthy elite of the past.
The Other Concorde - The Soviet Tupolev Tu-144
The first supersonic passenger jet was actually not the Concorde, but the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144. It had its prototype's maiden flight two months before the Concorde in 1968 and went supersonic four months before the Concorde.
But this similar-looking Soviet aircraft was even more plagued with issues than the Concorde. Some 16 of these aircraft were built in Voronezh in Russia. In the end, the Tu-144 only flew some 102 commercial flights and only 55 of these had passengers.
- Number Built: 16 Aircraft
- Cruising Speed: Mach 2 (1,400 mph)
Two of these Tu-144's crashed, one at the 1973 Paris Air Show and another in 1978. It was briefly introduced into passenger service with Aeroflot between Moscow and Almaty (in Kazakhstan) but was withdrawn three years later. After that, it remained in service as a cargo aircraft until the program was canceled in 1983 - long before the Concorde.
- Canceled: As A Passenger Aircraft in 1978 and Cargo in 1983