‘There have been more US astronauts than BA Concorde pilots’ is written in bright red at the entrance of the new Aerospace Bristol Museum, which opened its doors to the public last month.
The £19 million pound museum showcases more than a century of aviation triumphs and fascinating stories of the pioneers. Visitors are able to discover the step by step advancements of aviation from 1910 to the future of aviation. However, sitting at the centre of the stage is the Alpha Foxtrot - last Concorde that ever flew, set in its own custom hangar, looking still incredibly futuristic, where visitors can explore this supersonic jet and learn what it was like to fly at twice the speed of sound!
The Alpha Foxtrot flew for the last time 14 years ago, flying over the Clifton Suspension Bridge, just 6 miles south of where the Aerospace Bristol Museum is situated. This was also the last BA flight where a flight engineer was part of the crew.
The Concorde’s first successful supersonic flight took place in October 1969. But the first commercial flight was not until 3 months later, where two flights departed, one from London to Bahrain and the other from Paris to Rio de Janeiro via Dakar. The fare from London to Bahrain was not cheap, costing £356 (£5,520 in 2017 values) for a one-way ticket, much more than subsonic first-class flights.
In the history of Concorde, only 20 were ever made with 18 remaining scattered around the world in museums and airports. From the 20 Concordes, just 14 aircraft were flown commercially, servicing around 2.5 million passengers.
Nigel Richard, a travel writer from the Telegraph, wrote about his experience travelling with the Concorde, “To behold in flight she is a thoroughbred among the dobbins of international passenger transport. For the high-rollers of international business who take Concorde to New York, time is money, and supersonic flight delivers them quickly and relatively fresh to Manhattan boardrooms, thanks to Concorde's advantageous cabin pressure compared with subsonic aircraft.”.
“To travel in, however, she is rather like an airborne Tube train - admittedly with a few knobs on. She is cramped; she rattles and roars; apart from take-off (it feels near vertical, like being on a Virtual Reality Apollo mission) there is no particular sensation of the aphrodisiac of speed; there are no films to watch; the ratio of passengers to toilets is 25:1 on a full aircraft, compared to 9:1 First Class on a 747. And for holidaymakers, she is an expensive charabanc.”
The end of Concorde was due to many possible reasons, the maintenance cost and the dreadful attack of 9/11 leading to a drop of commercial passengers. But also the disastrous accident in July 2000, where a flight departing from Paris ran over a titanium part that had fallen from another aircraft, causing the tyre to burst and fuel tank ignite, which lead to the plane crash killing all on board and four on the ground.
Nevertheless, Concorde is still the remarkable invention in the aviation world, still holding the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a civil aircraft. Where the quickest Concorde flight from New York to London took only two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds, even in 2017, our subsonic flights still takes more than 6 hours.
However, our technology is forever advancing, with new and improved supersonic flights in the making and even the concept of the Antipode that could take passengers from New York to London in 11 minutes! We are looking forward to the evolution in commercial flight and supersonic advancements, making our lives easier every day.