Saturday, April 14, 2018

British Airways Concorde - 1975

Today's "Anything Goes Saturday" photos should be fun for fans of airplanes - I have some neat shots of a "Concorde" - a British Airways Supersonic transport ("SST"), on display for curious onlookers at some unnamed airport; the slides are date-stamped "August 1975". One website states that this particular aircraft (the F-WTSA) appeared at the Paris air show in May of 1975, I suppose it is possible that these photos were taken there. 

Or, if the photographer was really lazy about taking his film to the Photomat, this could have been taken in October of 1974, when this SST embarked on a sales tour of the U.S. Pacific coast, which included Mexico City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Palmas. Somehow this seems more likely to me.

This was the fourth Concorde to be built (out of an eventual total of 20). In 1973, several trial flights were done, such as Toulouse to Iceland - 3,728 miles in 3 hours, 27 minutes. Concorde entered service in 1976 (though they had been testing them since 1969), achieving speeds of just over Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), cutting travel time in half compared to standard jets. Plus they LOOKED COOL!

As many of you know, Concorde (no "the" article in front of it!) was a joint venture between British Airways and Air France (the Soviets developed their suspiciously-similar "Tupolev Tu-144" at around the same time). You had to have deep pockets to fly Concorde - a round-trip ticket would cost roughly $12,500 (adjusted for inflation). The aircraft could carry about 100 passengers.

All was not perfect, though; the aircraft were very expensive to build, very heavy, cost a lot to maintain, used lots of fuel, and the sonic booms restricted the number of airports willing to deal with the disturbance. 

In July of 2000, Air France flight 4590 crashed on takeoff after running over some runway debris (which punctured a fuel tank and blew a tyre), killing everyone aboard. It was the only Concorde accident with fatalities - until then it was considered one of the safest planes in the world.

The crash, the 9-11 attack in 2001, and the general economic downturn all contributed toward the eventual retirement of all Concorde aircraft on October 24, 2003.

I believe that the F-WTSA is currently on display at Orly airport Paris. It sits outside exposed to the elements, and has been vandalized by taggers at least twice; and of course it is showing the effects of water and age. I hope that it will be preserved for people to admire for years to come!


Nanook said...


"... and blew a tyre..." Oh, Major - you're so continental-! This is undoubtedly the most streamlined jet plane ever built. - and certainly no more so than as seen in the last image, sharing the frame with those two, rather 'dowdy-looking' Ford Maverick's parked on the tarmac.

Thanks, Major.

Patrick Devlin said...

Golly, I might have been there. I went to LAX to see Concorde when it was on its 1974 tour. Quite the amazing aircraft.

Melissa said...

Is that Mario or Luigi in the blue hat and white shoes in the first picture?

Melissa said...

I have such fond memories of flying from New York to London on British Airways in April 2001. We were in the cheapest coach seats, but they treated us like royalty. It didn't hurt that the plane was only about two-thirds full, but it was an endless parade of blankets and slippers and ice cream and really great Indian food and booze and Cadbury eggs and hot towels, and the worst thing at the airport was having our shoes sprayed for hoof-and-mouth disease on the way back.

K. Martinez said...

Nice pics of the SST which I remember always hearing about in the news back in the day. Thanks, Major.

dean finder said...

Looking at the cars, I'd guess that the pictures were from the US.
Also interesting that it's a British Airways plane, but the registration is F- (France) rather than GB-

Jonathan said...

Now you are in my world. I was in aviation all of my adult life. I was a pilot and served in Flight Safety in the USAF. Lets take a look at Concord. It had an appallingly bad thrust to weight ratio, making it difficult at best to get it off the ground. It was loud, had a voracious appetite for fuel, and the glide factor of a bowling ball. Major, you said the only thing that was good about it was it looked cool. It required 6 hours of maintenance for every 1 hour of flight. Only the uber rich could afford a ticket, and it operated in the red for most of its flight history. Had Sulley tried to land it on the Hudson, if it made it that far, which it probably wouldn't, it would have gone straight to the bottom in under 30 seconds. Concord is the cautionary tale that just because you can do a thing, doesn't mean you should.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, given the European origins of the aircraft, I figured I might as well stick to their terminology. Plus it makes me seem fancy!

Patrick Devlin, WOW, that would be so cool if we could have ID’d you in the crowd!

Melissa, that IS an interesting outfit…

Melissa II, hard to believe that as recently as 2001 you enjoyed a flight, treated like a human being. Years earlier, I flew home from Paris, and the plane from France to New York was so empty that I could put up the two arm rests and lay down on my own private row of seats. SO GREAT.

K. Martinez, they have one on display in at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, I sure would love to go there.

dean finder, yes, I suspect that this photo is from California.

Jonathan, do you happen to know if a similar aircraft could be built today with modern materials (composites, carbon fiber, etc) that might make the planes more flyable and economical? I suppose they would be building them NOW if it was possible. Thanks for all of the great info!

MDC said...

There is a beautiful Concorde museum in Barbados ( The Concorde there is indoors and very well maintained. I'm 6'4" and when walking through the aircraft at the museum could not even come close to standing up straight in the cabin.