Celebrating a Concorde anniversary

At precisely 11:40 GMT on 21 January 2016, a group of people who had designed, built or flown Concorde raised their champagne glasses to the 40th anniversary of the type’s first take-off for a commercial flight.

Plural take-offs to be precise. At 11:40 GMT British Airways’ aircraft began its take-off roll at London Heathrow for Bahrain and, simultaneously – perfectly choreographed via an HF radio link – Air France’s Concorde crew also engaged reheat bound for Rio de Janeiro.

It has been 12 years since, in 2003, the last Concorde flights took place, and all the experts and afficionados gathered at Brooklands last Thursday confirmed – despite many expressed wishes that at least one airframe could be made flyable at some time in the future – it will never get airborne again for air shows, let alone with commercial passengers on board.

Forty years is a long time. The Concorde on show at Brooklands may have still gleamed in the pale winter sun, but the passage of time shows on the faces of those who took part in the Concorde commercial operations story, especially from its very beginning in 1976.

Concorde with Charlie 2

G-BBDG at Brooklands on the 40th anniversary of the type’s first commercial departures

Capt John Eames (below), one of the first batch of BA’s Concorde commanders, was there to raise a glass of champagne, along with Concorde fleet senior stewardess Jeannette Hartley, both dressed in uniforms from that period. Hartley served as Concorde cabin crew from 1977 to 1998, spinning that magic that made everybody who flew on the machine feel special from the moment of check-in.

Jeannette Hartley & Capt John Eames

An event like this serves to remind aviation people – and ordinary souls – just how special Concorde was.

It was an amazing technical achievement and the ultimate adventure in commercial air transport.

Just one of the proofs is that it has no successor.

It’s extraordinary, in this world of breakneck technological advance, that I can tell my six-year-old granddaughter I flew as an airline passenger at twice the speed of sound, then add reluctantly that she can’t do that even if she chooses a career as an RAF fastjet pilot.

This reminder of a historic event was, itself, surrounded by history at Brookands Museum, the home of of both British motor sport and British aviation. The gathering was in the Vickers room (below), complete with the forward end of a Vickers Vimy embedded in the wall. The airscrew on the left was one of those that propelled Alcock and Brown’s first flight across the Atlantic.

Vickers Vimy room at Brooklands

A presentation by Capt Eames entitled Concorde – a pilot’s perspective, drew reminiscences from several of his peers about the event in their supersonic career that they found most memorable.

One such pilot recalled a training flight to Gander, Newfoundland, during a single 24h period. Outbound and return flights each took little more than 2h, but the phenomenon that stopped him in his tracks was seeing two sunrises and two sunsets on that day, and one of the sunrises was in the west.

Work that one out!

The first sunset was in UK before take-off. The “sunrise” in the west occurred as Concorde overtook the sun flying westbound, then after landing the sun set once more. Then, on the eastbound leg back to UK, the sun rose as one would expect it to, except that, at nearly 60,000ft above sea level, it rises incredibly early while the earth beneath the aircraft is still in darkness.

And we can’t do that any more.

4 thoughts on “Celebrating a Concorde anniversary

  1. Richard the Concorde was 2.5% effectively lighter than its stationary weight when flying at M2 in an easterly direction at the equator.. The designers relied on this “slingshot effect” when planning the aircraft’s payload-range performance.

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  2. Great story Richard.

    I think the Concorde was one of the greatest aircraft of all time.

    The Concorde was 2.5% effectively lighter than its stationary weight when flying at M2 in an easterly direction at the equator.. The designers relied on this “slingshot effect” when planning the aircraft’s payload-range performance.

    The digital computer controlled intakes were revolutionary for their time.

    Thanks also to Captain Christopher Orlebar and the Brooklands teams that present their Concorde so well for public tours.

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  3. Subsonic sub-me @ B-777 Mach 0.84, QED! …On the evening of Monday, Jan 27 1986 @ approx. 18:00Z, I was in the Mary Rose Café in Cork’s Queen’s Old Castle in the then, Direland, perusing the Flight International physical magazine, illustrating a Concorde quartet formation on its cover for its compelling 10th anniversary of service. Actually, the most compelling and inspiring Flight magazine cover, I can remember, ever. I was drinking coffee with cream-disgracefully polluting it, the cream.
    Alas, not Cork’s Uber creamy Stout, Beamish – even more disgracefully, non-polluting, due to my lack of imbibing intelligence then. I have reformed to black and black in the 30 year interim, without any pollution, except for my imbibing company of the unfortunate on my periphery. After all, being born into the Irish subsidiary of the Church of Rome gave me a lot to recover from. I recovered continued and sustained flight attitude. As Oscar Wilde said, “Work is the curse of the drinking classes”.
    Time flies, memory stands still, in general and in particular of the next day’s Florida morning and GMT afternoon’s CDR Scobee’s “Go at throttle up !” to eternity.
    Am I wrong in my Flight(Non-IT)-Concorde recollection ?, just curious to test my pre-IT Pornographic memory ?. I was on final approach for the Irish DOE Leaving Certificate, known in the UK as GCE A-Levels that year. No US “Major” system nor cheerleaders-alas, but a minor-major, nonetheless.
    http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/places/grandparade/queensoldcastle/
    Of course this Concorde aerial formation was the commercial inverse square root of PR, being BS at 20 tonnes -per plane- an hour, Jet A1 burn-off. The A-380 today, burns 15 tonnes an hour, the B-773ER-8 and the B-748-10, like the B-744. But still, we need inspirational BS that is tangible to add meaning to our life’s existence. Learmount adds a lot to it(without PC-BS), with a heart of passion, one could not but salute. Indeed with a Neil Armstrong winning smile of modesty-smile harder David- such a compelling political-commercial air force Concorde formation in the face of the dismal science of abject economics was always refreshingly inspirational. And it still is. Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery. Today is a gift, which is why it is a present. That is Learmount.com.
    Not to mention the great Franco-British Concorde-Concordial duo of Brian Trubshaw, who flew West on Jan 25 2001 and André Turcat who flew West on Jan 4 2016. They exceeded the Entente Cordiale, by being actual “Bon Amis”, in effect, without political BS equivocation. In Concorde throttle-up, “3,2,1 NOW!, the past is a different analogue, non-PFD country.
    Yet, the Concorde and Shuttle had a De facto Entente Cordiale-Concorde, it really was high performance and low redundancy toleration De jure. Still, mankind is richer for them both and their illustrious pioneering passing. Still waters run deep from the learning of triumph over tragedy and deeper again in perpetuity of always failing better in future, in compliance with Samuel Beckett, the Parisian Paddy, par excellence, without peer.

    TRANSCRIPT OF THE CHALLENGER CREW COMMENTS FROM THE OPERATIONAL RECORDER, Tuesday Jan 28 1986
    ________________________________________
    CDR……….Scobee
    PLT……….Smith
    MS 1………Onizuka
    MS 2………Resnik
    (The references to “NASA” indicate explanatory references NASA provided to the Presidential Commission.)
    Time Crew Crew
    (Min:Sec)………Position Comment
    T-2:05…………MS 2….. Would you give that back to me?
    T-2:03…………MS 2….. Security blanket.
    T-2:02…………MS 2….. Hmm.
    T-1:58…………CDR….. Two minutes downstairs; you gotta watch running down there?
    (NASA: Two minutes till launch.)
    T-1:47…………PLT….. OK there goes the lox arm.
    (NASA: Liquid oxygen supply arm to ET.)
    T-1:46…………CDR….. Goes the beanie cap.
    (NASA: Liquid oxygen vent cap.)
    T-1:44…………MS 1….. Doesn’t it go the other way?
    T-1:42………… Laughter.
    T-1:39…………MS 1….. Now I see it; I see it.
    T-1:39…………PLT….. God I hope not Ellison.
    T-1:38…………MS 1….. I couldn’t see it moving; it was behind the center screen.
    (NASA: Obstructed view of liquid oxygen supply arm.)
    T-1:33. ………MS 2….. Got your harnesses locked?
    (NASA: Seat restraints.)
    T-1:29…………PLT….. What for?
    T-1:28…………CDR….. I won’t lock mine; I might have to reach something.
    T-1:24…………PLT….. Ooh kaaaay.
    T-1:04…………MS 1….. Dick’s thinking of somebody there.
    T-1:03…………CDR….. Unhuh.
    T-59…………..CDR….. One minute downstairs.
    (NASA: One minute till launch.)
    T-52…………..MS 2….. Cabin Pressure is probably going to give us an alarm.
    (NASA: Caution and warning alarm. Routine occurrence during prelaunch).
    T-50…………..CDR….. OK.
    T-47…………..CDR….. OK there.
    T-43…………..PLT….. Alarm looks good.
    (NASA: Cabin pressure is acceptable.)
    T-42…………..CDR….. OK.
    T-40…………..PLT….. Ullage pressures are up.
    (NASA: External tank ullage pressure.)
    T-34…………..PLT….. Right engine helium tank is just a little bit low.
    (NASA: SSME supply helium pressure.)
    T-32…………..CDR….. It was yesterday, too.
    T-31…………..PLT….. OK.
    T-30…………..CDR….. Thirty seconds down there.
    (NASA: 30 seconds till launch.)
    T-25…………PLT….. Remember the red button when you make a roll call.
    (NASA: Precautionary reminder for communications configuration.)
    T-23…………CDR….. I won’t do that; thanks a lot.
    T-15…………..CDR….. Fifteen.
    (NASA: 15 seconds till launch.)
    T-6……………CDR….. There they go guys.
    (NASA: SSME Ignition.)
    MS 2….. All right.
    CDR….. Three at a hundred.
    (NASA: SSME thrust level at 100% for all 3 engines.)
    T+O……………MS 2….. Aaall riiight.
    T+1……………PLT….. Here we go.
    (NASA: Vehicle motion.)
    T+7……………CDR………….Houston, Challenger roll program.
    (NASA: Initiation of vehicle roll program.)
    T+11…………..PLT….. Go you Mother.
    T+14…………..MS 1….. LVLH.
    (NASA: Reminder for cockpit switch configuration change. Local vertical/local horizontal).
    T+15…………..MS 2….. (Expletive) hot.
    T+16…………..CDR….. Ooohh-kaaay.
    T+19…………..PLT….. Looks like we’ve got a lotta wind here today.
    T+20…………..CDR….. Yeah.
    T+22…………..CDR….. It’s a little hard to see out my window here.
    T+28…………..PLT….. There’s ten thousand feet and Mach point five.
    (NASA: Altitude and velocity report.)
    T+30………… Garble.
    T+35…………..CDR….. Point nine.
    (NASA: Velocity report, 0.9 Mach).
    T+40…………..PLT….. There’s Mach one.
    (NASA: Velocity report, 1.0 Mach).
    T+41…………..CDR….. Going through nineteen thousand.
    (NASA: Altitude report, 19,000 ft.)
    T+43…………..CDR….. OK we’re throttling down.
    (NASA: Normal SSME thrust reduction during maximum dynamic pressure region.)
    T+57…………..CDR….. Throttling up.
    (NASA: Throttle up to 104% after maximum dynamic pressure.)
    T+58…………..PLT….. Throttle up.
    T+59…………..CDR….. Roger.
    T+60…………..PLT….. Feel that mother go.
    T+60………… Woooohoooo.
    T+1:02…………PLT….. Thirty-five thousand going through one point five
    (NASA: Altitude and velocity report, 35,000 ft., 1.5 Mach).
    T+1:05…………CDR….. Reading four eighty six on mine.
    (NASA: Routine airspeed indicator check.)
    T+1:07…………PLT….. Yep, that’s what I’ve got, too.
    T+1:10…………CDR….. Roger, go at throttle up.
    (NASA: SSME at 104 percent.)
    T+1:13…………PLT….. Uhoh.
    T+1:13…………………..LOSS OF ALL DATA.

    Time (UTC) (hr:min:sec) Mission Elapsed Time (MET) (sec) Event Source
    16:37:53.444 -6.566 SSME-3 ignition command. GPC
    16:37:53.564 -6.446 SSME-2 ignition command. GPC
    16:37:53.684 -6.326 SSME-1 ignition command. GPC
    16:37:54 -6 CDR: “There they go guys!”
    MS2: “All right!”
    CDR: “Three at a hundred.” CVR
    16:38:00.010 0.000 SRB ignition command. GPC
    16:38:00.018 0.008 Holddown Post 2 PIC firing. E8 Camera
    16:38:00 0 MS2: “Aall riight!” CVR
    16:38:00.260 0.250 First continuous vertical motion. E9 Camera
    The O-rings in the right-hand SRB field joint fail.
    16:38:00.688 0.678 First confirmed puff of smoke appears above SRB/ET attachment ring field joint on right-hand SRB. E60 Camera
    16:38:00.846 0.836 Eight puffs of smoke appear above field joint, lasting from T+0.836 to T+2.5 seconds MET. E63 Camera
    16:38:00.900 0.890 Ground launch sequence computers begin post-liftoff “safing” of launch pad structures and equipment. GLS
    16:38:01 1 PLT: “Here we go.” CVR
    16:38:02.743 2.733 Last evidence of smoke from field joint. CZR-1 Camera
    16:38:03 3 PAO: “Liftoff of the 25th space shuttle mission, and it has cleared the tower.” NASA TV
    A solid-fuel ‘plug’ seals the gap formed by the O-ring ‘blow-by’.
    16:38:03.385 3.375 Last evidence of smoke. E60 camera
    16:38:04.349 4.339 SSMEs throttled up to 104% E41M2076D
    16:38:05 5 DPS: “Liftoff confirmed.”
    Flight Director: “Liftoff…” MCC
    16:38:05.684 5.674 Right-hand SRB pressure 11.8 psi above normal. B47P2302C
    16:38:07 7 CDR: “Houston, Challenger – Roll program.” CVR
    16:38:07.734 7.724 Roll program initiated. V90R5301C
    16:38:10 10 CAPCOM: “Roger roll, Challenger.”
    FIDO: “Good roll, flight.” Flight Director: “Rog, good roll.” MCC
    16:38:11 11 PLT: “Go you Mother!” CVR
    16:38:14 14 MS1: “LVLH” CVR
    16:38:15 15 MS2: “(Expletive) hot!”
    CDR: “OK.” CVR
    16:38:16 16 PAO: “Good roll program confirmed. Challenger now heading downrange.” NASA TV
    16:38:19 19 PLT: “Looks like we’ve got a lotta wind here today.” CVR
    16:38:19.869 19.859 SSMEs throttled back to 94% E41M2076D
    16:38:20 20 CDR: “Yeah.” CVR
    16:38:21.134 21.124 Roll program completed. VP0R5301C
    16:38:22 22 CDR: “It’s a little hard to see out my window here.” CVR
    16:38:27 27 BOOSTER: “Throttle down to 94.”
    Flight Director: “Ninety four…” MCC
    16:38:28 28 PLT: “There’s ten thousand feet and Mach point five.” CVR
    16:38:28 28 PAO: “Engines beginning throttling down, now at 94 percent. Normal throttle for most of the flight is 104 percent. We’ll throttle down to 65 percent shortly.” NASA TV
    16:38:30 30 [Garble] CVR
    16:38:35 35 CDR: “Point nine.” CVR
    16:38:35.389 35.379 SSMEs throttled back to 65% E41M2076D
    16:38:37.000 36.990 Roll and Yaw Attitude Response to wind shear (36.990 to 62.990 sec). V95H352nC
    The solid fuel ‘plug’ is dislodged.
    16:38:40 40 PLT: “There’s Mach one.” CVR
    16:38:41 41 CDR: “Going through nineteen thousand.” CVR
    16:38:43 43 CDR: “OK, we’re throttling down.” CVR
    16:38:45.227 45.217 A flash is observed downstream of the shuttle’s right wing.
    16:38:48.128 48.118 A second flash is seen trailing the right wing.
    16:38:48.428 48.418 A third unexplained flash is seen downstream of the shuttle’s right-hand wing – a brilliant orange ball of flame appears to emerge from under the right wing and quickly merges with the plume of the solid rocket boosters, a phenomenon noted on previous flights. 70mm Camera
    16:38:49 49 BOOSTER: “Three at 65.”
    PAO: “…Three good fuel cells. Three good APUs…” Flight Director: “Sixty-five, FIDO…” FIDO: “T-del confirms throttles.” Flight Director: “…Thank you.” MCC & NASA TV
    16:38:51.870 51.860 SSMEs throttled up to 104% E41M2076D
    16:38:52 52 PAO: “Velocity 2,257 feet per second (1,539 mph), altitude 4.3 nautical miles, downrange distance 3 nautical miles…” NASA TV
    16:38:57 57 CDR: “Throttling up.” CVR
    16:38:58 58 PLT: “Throttle up.” CVR
    16:38:58.798 58.788 First evidence of flame on right-hand SRB. E207 Camera
    16:38:59 59 CDR: “Roger.” CVR
    16:38:59.010 59.000 Reconstructed Max Q (720 psf) Best estimated trajectory
    16:38:59.272 59.262 Continuous well-defined plume of flame on right-hand SRB. E207 Camera
    16:38:59.763 59.753 Flame from right-hand SRB in downwards direction (seen from south side of vehicle). E204 Camera
    16:38:60 60 PLT: “Feel that mother go!”
    “Woooohoooo!” CVR
    16:39:00.014 60.238 Pressures in right- and left-hand SRBs begin to diverge. B47P2302
    16:39:00.248 60.238 First evidence of intermittent plume deflection. E207 Camera
    16:39:00.258 60.248 First evidence of SRB plume attaching to ET ring frame. E203 Camera
    16:39:00.998 60.988 First evidence of continuous plume deflection. E207 Camera
    16:39:01.734 61.724 Peak roll rate in response to wind shear. V90R5301C
    16:39:02 62 PLT: “Thirty-five thousand going through one point five.” CVR
    16:39:02.094 62.084 Peak TVC response to wind shear. B58H1150C
    16:39:02.414 62.404 Peak yaw response to wind shear. V90R5341C
    16:39:02.494 62.484 Right-hand outboard elevon actuator hinge moment spike. V58P0966C
    16:39:03.934 63.924 RH outboard elevon actuator delta pressure change. V58P0966C
    16:39:03.974 63.964 Start of planned pitch rate manoeuvre. V90R5321C
    The plume of flame burns through the LH2 tank in the ET.
    16:39:04.670 64.660 Change in anomalous plume shape (LH2 tank leak near 2058 ring frame). E204 Camera
    16:39:04.715 64.705 Bright sustained glow on sides of ET E204 Camera
    16:39:04.947 64.937 Start SSME gimbal angle large pitch variations V58H1100A
    16:39:05 65 CDR: “Reading four eighty six on mine.” CVR
    16:39:05.174 65.164 Beginning of transient motion due to changes in aero forces due to plume. V90R5321C
    16:39:06 66 BOOSTER: “Throttle up, three at 104.”
    Flight Director: “CAPCOM, go at throttle up.” MCC
    16:39:06.774 66.764 Start ET LH2 ullage pressure deviations. T41P1700C
    16:39:07 67 PLT: “Yep, that’s what I’ve got, too.” CVR
    16:39:08 68 PAO: “Engines are throttling up. Three engines now at 104 percent.”
    CAPCOM: “Challenger, go at throttle up.” NASA TV & MCC
    16:39:10 70 CDR: “Roger, go at throttle up.” (Last transmission on air-to-ground voice loop). CVR
    The flame burns through the lower attachment strut on the right-hand SRB, causing the SRB to move away from the ET.
    16:39:12.214 72.204 Left- and right-hand SRB yaw rates begin to diverge. V90R2528C
    16:39:12.294 72.284 Left- and right-hand SRB pitch rates begin to diverge. V90R2525C
    16:39:12.488 72.478 SRB major high-rate actuator command. V79H2111A
    16:39:12.507 72.497 SSME roll gimbal rates 5 deg/sec. V58H1100A
    16:39:12.535 72.525 Vehicle max +Y lateral acceleration (+.227 g). V98A1581C
    16:39:12.574 72.564 SRB major high-rate actuator motion. B58H1151C
    16:39:12.574 72.564 Start of H2 tank pressure decrease with 2 flow control valves open. T41P1700C
    16:39:12.634 72.624 Last state vector downlinked. Data reduction
    16:39:12.974 72.964 Start of sharp MPS LOX inlet pressure drop. V41P1330C
    16:39:13 73 PLT: “Uh-oh…” CVR
    16:39:13.020 73.010 Last full computer frame of TDRS data. Data reduction
    16:39:13.054 73.044 Start of sharp MPS LH2 inlet pressure drop. V41P1100C
    16:39:13.055 73.045 Vehicle max -Y lateral acceleration (-.254 g). V98A1581C
    Challenger begins to disintegrate.
    16:39:13.134 73.124 Circumferential white pattern on ET aft dome (LH2 tank failure). The bottom of the ET is open and liquid hydrogen spills. E204 Camera
    16:39:13.134 73.124 Right-hand SRB pressure 19 psi lower than left-hand SRB B47P2302C
    16:39:13.147 73.137 First hint of vapour at intertank. E207 Camera
    16:39:13.153 73.143 All engine systems start responding to loss of fuel and LOX inlet pressure. SSME team
    16:39:13.172 73.162 Sudden cloud along ET between intertank and aft dome. The right booster slams into the ET just as the LH2 tank is thrust into the oxygen tank. E207 Camera
    16:39:13.201 73.191 Flash between Orbiter & LH2 tank. E204 Camera
    16:39:13.221 73.211 SSME telemetry data interference from 73.211 to 73.303. Data reduction
    16:39:13.223 73.213 Flash near SRB forward attachment strut and brightening of flash between Orbiter and ET E204 Camera
    16:39:13.292 73.282 First indication intense white flash at SRB fwd attach point. E204 Camera
    16:39:13.337 73.327 Greatly increased intensity of white flash. E204 Camera
    16:39:13.387 73.377 Start of RCS jet chamber pressure fluctuations. V42P1552A
    16:39:13.393 73.383 All engines approaching HPFT discharge temp redline limits. E41Tn010D
    16:39:13.492 73.482 ME-2 HPFT discharge temperature. Channel A votes for shutdown; 2 strikes on Channel B. MEC data
    16:39:13.492 73.482 SSME-2 controller last time word update. MEC data
    16:39:13.513 73.503 SSME-3 in shutdown due to HPFT discharge temperature redline exceedance. MEC data
    16:39:13.513 73.503 SSME-3 controller last time word update. MEC data
    16:39:13.533 73.523 SSME-1 in shutdown due to HPFT discharge temperature redline exceedance. Calculation
    16:39:13.553 73.543 SSME-1 last telemetered data point. Calculation
    16:39:13.628 73.618 Last validated Orbiter telemetry measurement. V46P0120A
    16:39:13.641 73.631 End of last reconstructured data frame with valid synchronization and frame count. Data reduction
    16:39:14.140 74.130 Last radio frequency signal from Orbiter. Data reduction
    Loss of downlink – Challenger is lost.
    16:39:14.597 74.587 Bright flash in vicinity of Orbiter nose. E204 Camera
    16:39:16.447 76.437 Right-hand SRB nose cap separation & parachute deployment. E207 Camera
    16:39:17 77 PAO: “One minute fifteen seconds. Velocity: 2,900 feet per second (1977 mph). Altitude: 9 nautical miles. Downrange distance: 7 nautical miles.” NASA TV & MCC
    16:39:29 89 Flight Director: “FIDO, trajectories…”
    FIDO: “Go ahead.”
    Flight Director: “Trajectory, FIDO.”
    FIDO: “Flight, FIDO, filters got discreting sources. We’re go.”
    GC: “Flight, GC, we’ve had negative contact, loss of downlink.”
    Flight Director: “OK, all operators, watch your data carefully.”
    FIDO: “Flight, FIDO, till we get stuff back he’s on his cue card for abort modes.”
    Flight Director: “Procedures, any help?”
    Unknown: “Negative, flight, no data.” MCC
    16:39:50.260 110.250 Destruction of right-hand SRB via Range Safety System. E202 Camera.
    16:39:50.262 110.252 Destruction of left-hand SRB via Range Safety System.

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