Concorde - SST

Updated Friday, October 24, 2003 at 10:48:33

The only operational, supersonic, commercial jet plane. The Concorde was built in the late 1960's, as a joint project of France and Britain.

Latest

On May 10th 2003, British Airways and Air France made a joint announcement that they will retire their ageing Concorde fleets due to rising maintenance costs and declining passenger numbers.

Air France Flight AF001 from New York to Paris, which took place on Saturday May 31st 2003, was the last flight of a French operated Concorde.

British Airways decommissioned its last operational Concordes on Friday, October 24th 2003.
In a ceremonial landing three flights converged on Heathrow airport, London. A flight from Edinburgh, a token supersonic flight over the Atlantic and the last transatlantic flight of the Concorde arriving from New York.
At Heathrow a grandstand with a thousand seats was specially built for the occasion, where a farewell ceremony was held together with British Airways staff.

So far all offers regarding the future operation of the retired Concordes -- including a two-million-dollars-per-plane offer -- were declined by British Airways.

History

After long and tiring negotiations, on the 29th of November 1962, the French and British governments signed on a general agreement to the creation of a joint supersonic-commercial-jet project. The agreement specifies that the aim of the project is to research and construct such a plane. France and Britain will equally share in all aspects of the project, both financially and technically. The actual development and construction will involve French and British companies. British Aircraft Corporation and Sud-Aviation -- it is from Sud-Aviation that sketches of the Concorde were stolen, by soviet agents. The sketches were later used in the development of the Soviet rival of the Concorde, the Tu-144, nicknamed by the West Concordski -- will develop and build the body of the aircraft. Bristol Siddeley and the French company SNECMA will develop and build the engines.

On the 11th of September, 1966, the project began to take shape, as a supervising committee was appointed. The control of the committee was shared equally between France and Britain. Later that year, work had commenced on the French prototype of the plane, designated Concorde 001.

During 1967 a controversy had arisen between France and Britain, over the name of the plane. The French insisted that the plane's name will use the French spelling of the word, concorde (with an 'e' at the end), while the British insisted on the English spelling, concord. There was not much 'concord' about that, but the British finally gave in, and the plane was officially named Concorde.

On the 2nd of March, 1969, the Concorde 001 was ready to make its debut test flight. After some weather delays, the Concorde took off, for the very first time, from the airport of Toulouse-Blagnac, admired by more than a thousand spectators and reporters. Despite some minor technical difficulties, the flight was successful.
A few weeks later, on the 9th of April, the British prototype, designated Concorde 002, completed another successful test flight, at the airport of Filton.

On the 21st of January, 1976, the first two commercial flights of the Concorde were underway. In a symbolic gesture of Anglo-French cooperation, a French flight from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, and a British flight from London to Bahrain, took off simultaneously. On the 24th of January both Concordes landed triumphantly in Washington.

The Concorde entered regular service, and was far from being profitable for its companies, Air France and Biritish Airways. In total twenty Concordes were ever built.
During 1991 the French fleet of Concordes underwent 40,000 hours of meticulous scrutinising. The planes were stripped to their skeletons, and each centimeter was scanned with X-ray based technology, in search of miniature cracks caused by the extensive supersonic travel.

The crash

On the 25th of July, 2000, Air France's Concorde 203, designated F-BTSC on route from Paris to New York, crashed less than a minute after take off. The plane hit one of the buildings of a hotel in the outskirts of Paris, at Gonnesse. All 109 people on board , crew and passengers, and four more people on the ground, were killed.

The horrific crash, which was well documented and publicized, shattered the credibility of the Concorde as the world safest plane (statistically, of course), and led to a year long grounding of the entire anglo-french Concorde fleet.

The crash drew much media attention, as just a week before Air France announced that miniature cracks were found in the wings of one of its Concordes. A few days later an amateur film of the crash was made public and shown repeatedly on every news bulletin. Taken by a truck driver who drove past the crashing Concorde, the film shows the Concorde a few seconds before it hit the ground. The plane is dangerously low and a huge tail of flames is flowing from its rear.

The investigation committee concluded that some kind of metal debris left on the runway by another plane punctured one of the Concorde's tyres at take off. The rubber debris was then thrown with great force and ruptured one of the Concorde's fuel tanks. This triggered a chain of events that eventually caused a fire, followed by an engine failure. The plane did not gain sufficient speed and altitude during take off and crash landed. The committee also stated that similar tyre failures happened a few times in the past, but nothing was done to amend the problem.

Once the causes of the accident were understood, research was under way for the neccessary design modifications. Almost a year after the crash, on the 17th of July 2001, British Air Ways conducted its first test flight of the modified Concorde. The Concorde, designated 2001BA G-BOAF, was fitted with new tyres, fuel tank liners and additional electrical shielding. The supersonic test flight went smoothly, and the plane proved to handle very well in supersonic conditions with the new modifications.

British Airways and Air France restarted the Concorde's services on the 7th of November 2001.

Technical specifications
Capacity: Up to 100 passengers with a cargo of 590 kg / 1300 pound
The Concorde's flight crew is composed of 2 pilots and 1 flight engineer, in addition to 6 stewardesses - a total of 9 crew members.
Maximum Weight Without Fuel: 92,080 kg / 203,000 pound
Maximum take-off weight: 185,000 kg / 408,000 pound

Takeoff speed: 402 Kph / 249 mph
Supersonic Cruise Speed: Mach 2 / 2,150 kph / 1,336 mph (at an altitude of 16,765 meter / 55,000 ft)
Landing speed: 300 Kph / 187 mph

Length: 62.1 meter / 203.7 ft
Height: 11.3 meter / 37 ft
Wing Length: 27.66 meter / 90.7 ft
Wingspan: 25.5 meter / 83.6 ft
Wing Area: 361.45 sq meter / 3,890.6 sq ft

Engine Model: Olympus 593 Mrk610 turbojet
Engine Manufacturers: Rolls-Royce and SNECMA
The 4 engines produce together, at take off, a maximum thrust of 17 kilo newton/ 17,259 kg / 38,050 pound
During supersonic cruise, each engine produces a maximum thrust of 4.5 kilo newton/ 4536 kg / 10,000 pound

Fuel Type: A1 Jet fuel
Fuel capacity: 119,500 litre / 31568 gallon
Fuel consumption: 25,629 litre / 6770 gallon per hour

    Fuel in the Concorde has a threefold purpose:
  1. Energy source, of course.
  2. Balance. During a subsonic and supersonic flight, fuel is shifted from one fuel tank to another, in order to maintain balance, and to keep the Centre of Gravity, which is so crucial in supersonic travel.
  3. A heat sink for cooling purposes.

Landing gear: Eight main wheels in the back, and two nose wheels.

Main flight routes: Paris - New York and London - New York. Both flights take about 3 hours and 50 minutes, compared with a seven hour flight by subsonic jets.

Ticket price: extremely expensive, roughly twice the price of a first class ticket in a subsonic jet. It is no surprise then that of the 2.5 million people that have flown the Concorde, 80 percent are male, and 43 percent of those are senior managers in major corporations. The average passenger age is 43 years old.


Sources:
  • Concorde SST, Supersonic Aircraft - http://www.flying.to/concorde
  • http://www.concordesst.com (comprehensive history and data)
  • British Airways - http://www.british-airways.com/flights/factfile/airfleet/docs/conc.shtml (specs)
Also the name of a custom parts kit for Ford Falcon coupes and panel vans in the mid-'70s. The centrepiece part was a fibreglass front that fitted over the headlights and around to the wheel arches. Made by an ex-Ford designer Peter Arcanipane through his own company Arcadipane Designs, the modification coincided with the van craze and more concorde kits were produced for the vans than the coupes. The other parts in the full kit were some slight wheel flares and a roof spoiler

The fronts were reasonably boxy looking, the van ones especially - to fully appreciate the front on vans, wheel flares that extended a couple of inches out were needed to follow the contours of the front. The coupe front is more streamlined and, in my opinion, better looking. It features a much narrower lip and sides that tapered down to sit flush with the mudguards and arches.

By far the most exposure this product ever got was to feature in the movie Mad Max, as the front on the Black Interceptor. Sadly, although a fair few fronts were made in the seventies, almost none are around anymore - the coupe moulds I believe have been completely destroyed. Even when the original Black Interceptor was restored to it's current glory, a replica van front was used. Arcadipane has confirmed that the original moulds have been destroyed.
I was a passenger in a Boeing 757 sitting on the tarmac at Boston-Logan International Aiport last Thursday (October 9) at 6:20 pm EST. The tug pushed the plane back from the gate and rolled it to the end of the terminal. The plane then sat there for about ten minutes, and I noticed out the window that a crowd (150+) of baggage handlers and other workers were clustered around the end of the terminal looking at the runway. I thought to myself that this was really unusual, so I looked out the other window and about that time the captain came on the intercom:

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you'll look out the right side of the aircraft you're about to have the pleasure of seeing the Concorde take off on its last transatlantic flight."

Pictures do the Concorde absolutely no justice. The entire plane shook with the thunder of the Concorde's engines, at least 500 yards away, with full afterburners engaged. It sped away as if someone had put the Concorde in a slingshot. A fitting end to the 50 minute wait through security and the Concorde's multi-decade run.

Concorde is usually only associated with two airlines, British Airways and Air France, the airlines that operated it from its launch to its retirement. However, there are four other airlines that figure prominently in the Concorde story, and it wouldn't be fair to leave them out. So here's The Rest of the Story (tm)...

Pan Am: The Concorde That Wasn't

When the Concorde program was launched, it had twenty-one firm orders: seven each from British Airways, Air France, and Pan Am. In case you're too young to remember, Pan Am was, back in the day, the largest international airline based in the Estados Unidos, and probably the largest airline in the world bar none. It had been a launch customer for two other revolutionary airliners, the Boeing 707 and the Boeing 747.

After Pan Am ordered Concorde, economic conditions changed, making fuel for the kerosene-hungry aircraft a financial nightmare. Worse yet, U.S. environmental groups were protesting the SST's tendency to pollute the air and disturb people on the ground with its sonic booms, leading key American airports such as JFK to ban the plane outright. So Pan Am's Concordes had no future, and the planes slated for America were picked up by Britain and France instead.

Singapore Airlines: The Concorde That Halfway Was

Since BA couldn't fly the Concorde to America, it turned the SST on an eastward route to Bahrain. The airline's eventual goal was to link Britain and Australia by Concorde, but the route would require two refueling stops, and the next likely stop seemed to be Changi International Airport in Singapore.

BA enlisted the help of Singapore Airlines, and gave the Asian carrier exactly one-half of a Concorde. That is to say, British Airways operated and maintained the plane, but it painted a Singapore Airlines livery on the port (left) side. This was perhaps one of the only points in history when two airlines shared an aircraft's livery by splitting it down the centerline.

The Bahrain-Changi service only survived for three months in 1977. Malaysia started complaining about sonic booms, and Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC had agreed to let Concorde land. Two years later, BA and Singapore restored their cooperative service by using a new route across India, but because Concorde couldn't reach supersonic speeds over populated areas of the country, the carriers gave up again in 1980, and Concorde left Singapore for good.

Braniff International: The Concorde With A Double Identity

Nowadays, Braniff only exists as the production company that brings us South Park. Back in the seventies, however, it was a major U.S. airline, and its giant orange 747's were a common, if comical, sight at many airports.

In 1979, Braniff sent a group of pilots and flight attendants to Europe, and had them trained to operate Concorde. Later that year, Braniff worked out an agreement with both BA and Air France, under which it would commandeer one daily Concorde flight on each carrier from New York to Dallas/Fort Worth.

Although the planes were clearly marked in British Airways and Air France livery, they were operated by Braniff crews on their US sectors. To clear up legal problems (foreign carriers are generally not allowed to operate US domestic flights), the aircraft were registered in the United States, and their European registry was covered up with a giant sticker while they were on their US sectors.

Having an American Concorde might have been cool for Braniff, but it wasn't feasible on a business level. The flights were rarely more than 25% booked, and there was simply no way to turn a profit on such a short and low-dollar route. Braniff stopped flying Concorde in 1980.

Virgin Atlantic: The Concorde That Really, Really Wanted To Be

You've got to love Richard Branson. If somebody discovered oil on Mars, he would have a network of Virgin Petroleum rigs set up within a month, and would be operating a chain of 2,000 Virgin Gas Stations by year's end, and turning a higher profit than anybody else in the industry.

When British Airways decided to retire Concorde, Branson virtually leapt to the phones and began trying to buy the planes for his airline. He told British Airways that he would buy the whole fleet for the same price it carried in the 1970's. That price happened to be... one pound sterling. Needless to say, BA told Sir Richard to get stuffed.

Later, Branson reappeared with an offer of five million pounds. Again, BA refused, and explicitly stated that it would not sell Concorde to anyone at any price.

Although Virgin never got to fly Concorde, it did get to enjoy its fantasy in one way. Before the year was out, Virgin commissioned a model Concorde in its red and silver livery, and sold the models as a limited edition through its in-flight catalog.

Personally, I would have let Branson buy Concorde. He would have done something fun with it. Maybe it could have become a real-life Soul Plane.

Concorde: Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers on its Last Day

Although I'm now quite sad to say I only once saw Concorde in flight, it would be fairly hollow to lament its grounding in any serious way because my age was in single digits at the time. Concorde is a beautiful aircraft, though, and I hope we see another SST in my lifetime.

This node, however, is a perfect opportunity for some aviation geekery, if you'll allow. I hope to allow the professionals to speak for me.

Air Traffic Controllers get paid to tell pilots, most of whom get paid far more than them, what to do. And pilots have to do it. There is no cooler job in the world than throwing multiple aircraft around the sky. If you disagree with me, you are wrong.

* * * * *

The world of ATC communications is nominally very strictly structured. Phraseology is prescribed for every common situation, and many of the not-so-common ones:

"You are subject to a Court Order prohibiting your aircraft from leaving the United Kingdom, what are your intentions?"

...for instance.

Occasionally, pilots or controllers break the conventions for some reason. Although sometimes the situation demands it, oftentimes it does not and arises simply from a wish to informalise the situation somewhat. This is perhaps inevitable for people in positions that involve either large amounts of responsibility, dealing with the darker side of human existence, or both; to dwell is almost certainly a destructive influence, and making light of sombre or otherwise serious situations is a common coping mechanism.

Dr. Cox of Scrubs sums this up fairly well, as he explains doctors' widespread use of flippant and morbid humour:

"You see Dr. Wen in there? He's explaining to that family that something went wrong and that the patient died. He's gonna tell them what happened, he's gonna say he's sorry, and then he's going back to work. You think anybody else in that room is going back to work today?

"That is why we distance ourselves, that's why we make jokes. We don't do it because it's fun -- we do it so we can get by.

...

"And sometimes because it's fun.

"But mostly it's the 'getting by' thing."

The departures from standard pilot/controller conversations make interesting listening if you're so inclined, and frequently betray the abiding respect that both pilots and controllers generally reserve for, despite taking most available opportunities to gripe about, each other.

At least as many pilots and controllers as enthusiasts were sorry to see the last of Concorde. This is compellingly illustrated in the R\T exchanges between Concorde and its controllers during the aircrafts final flights, in which controllers and other pilots took time to wish Concorde and her crew well for retirement, and for Concorde pilots to thank those they worked with during its 27 years of commercial operations.

Some of these exchanges are transcribed below. Concorde in the transcripts is BAW002 or Speedbird 2, captained by Les Brodie and copiloted by British Airways chief Concorde pilot Mike Bannister. The exchanges are edited or truncated here and there for readability's sake, and I will interrupt with pertinent explanations of terms.

KJFK, USA; ~0700Z, 24th October, 2003;

Last Concorde passenger flight from KJFK to EGLL, aircraft registration G-BOAG

BAW002:     Kennedy Ground, good morning, for the last time, Speedbird Concorde 2, IFR,
            London Heathrow with Mike, requesting a Canarsie Climb.

KJFK:       Ah, Speedbird 2, I guess for the last time we can give you that Canarsie
            Climb: Speedbird 2 Heavy cleared to London Heathrow Airport; Kennedy 9
            Departure, Canarsie Climb, radar vectors SHIPP, then as filed, maintain 
            five thousand, expect flight level 290 ten minutes after, squawk 1136, and
            Mike is the ATIS.

"Kennedy 9 Departure" refers to a Standard Instrument Departure, or SID. These are published, standardised routes out of an airport which are referred to by ATC. They detail navigation aids, directions and altitude requirements, and any pertinent radio frequencies. Pilots have details of these routes on hand so ATC, when telling aircraft where to fly, can simply refer to the designation of the appropriate route - in this case, 'Kennedy 9' - instead of having to read out a lengthy route clearance on the radio.

The 'Canarsie Climb' is a flight profile specific to JFK airport, that takes aircraft towards the Canarsie VOR, a navigation aid situated near a neighbourhood of the same name. It is a climb-out path that was used by Concorde as part of the noise abatement restrictions it was required to comply with at JFK.

The following part of the clearance informs the crew that their aircraft will be vectored - that is, instructed by ATC which direction to fly - towards a reporting point named 'SHIPP', which is to the south east of JFK. Afterwards, the clearance has the aircraft continuing "as filed" on its filed route.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2, Mike, 1136, thanks very much indeed... and if you could pass onto 
            your colleagues, er... two or three things. Firstly, in a perfect world, we'd
            like to be wheels rolling at 07:37 local, if we can get a clearance through 
            105 Alpha direct that'd be great, but more importantly if you pass onto all 
            your colleagues here, thanks for all the support and help you've given us over
            the years.

KJFK:       Speedbird 2, on behalf of the controllers in Kennedy Tower, and I particularly
            want to pass onto Captain Bannister, we hope you have a wonderful flight, and 
            over the years it's been a privilege and an honour to get to work you all every
            day in and out of JFK and you certainly will be missed. We hope you have a
            wonderful farewell flight, and er, godspeed, and we will be wishing you all
            the best as you fly over to London.

BAW002:     That's very kind, and thanks to all of you. I wouldn't want to name any but one,
            whom I understand has been with you right from the very first day we came -
            Samuel Cohen - so thanks to all of you.

KFJK:       Well, he will be talking to you when you're at the runway, and ground is 
	    point-nine* when you're ready to taxi, and enjoy your flight.

* Radio frequencies are, um, frequently given out just as the last digit when an airfield has several frequencies that all begin with the same digits. For example, if JFK had frequencies 118.8 and 118.9 for different parts of their ATC service, they would often just tell a pilot to contact “point-niner” or “point-eight,” depending. In the UK the 'point' would be spoken as 'decimal': “decimal niner.”

Unknown
Aircraft 1: Any chance we can hold at Juliet*, behind Speedbird?

*“Juliet” is the name of a holding point. An airport's taxiways - concreted areas that aircraft use to move on the ground between various sections of the airport - are often punctuated by holding points: painted lines or signs at the side of the taxiway where aircraft may be instructed to wait at. They are used by controllers in the Tower to organise movement of ground traffic. Not unlike traffic/stop-lights.

Also note one of several aircraft asking to hold, undoubtedly so that they can watch Concorde's last take-off.

KFJK:       Um, well, Speedbird, like I told the last guy, is not departing for another 
            20-25 minutes or so, but if you wanna wait I could find someplace to put you.

UA1:        Aah, that's ok... gotta be the on-time machine here.

KFJK:       Yeah, right.

a few minutes later...

UA2:        So long Concorde, have a good flight.

BAW002:     Thankyou very much indeed, that's very kind of you.

UA2:        We're gonna miss you here at Kennedy.

BAW002:     We're going to miss coming to New York.

UA3:        Best wishes from Jet Blue.

BAW002:     Thankyou.

UA4:        ...and from the old cactus-bird!

KJFK:       Speedbird 2, Ground, I've only been here five years, which is not nearly as long
            as the next guy you're gonna talk to, but it's been a pleasure. Hold short of
            Juliet, he'll get you out right on that release time, monitor XXX.XX.

BAW002:     Speedbird Concorde 2, thanks very much, ground XXX.XX, I guess we know who we're
            gonna talk to, but everyone else here has been so helpful and supportive and we're
            very grateful for that, and we'll miss you.

KJFK:       Okay, g'day sir.

BAW002:	    Kennedy Tower, Speedbird Concorde 2 heavy* is with you, for the last time. We'd
            like to release brakes at about three-seven and fifty seconds.

KJFK:       Roger!

*'Heavy' refers to Concorde's vortex wake category. Flying aircraft leave a 'wake' of disturbed air that can disrupt the flight of aircraft following them; aircraft are categorised by their weights, since this disturbance is greater for larger and heavier aircraft, and affects the distances that aircraft may be spaced when following others. As an aide memoir, Tower and Approach controllers are required to suffix callsigns of aircraft in the 'Heavy' category with that word, and pilots of aircraft in that category are required to suffix their callsigns in the same way. See the node for more information.

EGF830:     Kennedy Tower, American Eagle 830.

JFK:        American Eagle 830, Kennedy Tower?

EGF380:     Yes sir, if Speedbird 2's on the radio, we just wanted to pass along a "best
            wishes" and "godspeed" and we're gonna miss you there. We just departed 
            La Guardia - wish we were over at Kennedy.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2 here: thanks for that, we're gonna miss you all.

JFK:        American 205, you'll follow the Concorde up at the next intersection.

JFK:        Speedbird 2 heavy, taxi into position and hold, caution, wake turbulence,
            departing Airbus.

BAW002:     Speedbird Concorde 2 heavy, position and hold, 31-left*.

*"31-left" is a runway designation. Runways at airports are named for the magnetic direction they face, rounded to the nearest ten degrees with the last digit removed. Therefore each runway is actually two - one designation 180 degrees away from the other. So runway 31L faces approximately 310 degrees, or northwest. The 'L' means there are two runways facing that direction, and that this is the left of the two; thus, there is also a runway 31R at JFK.

JFK:        Speedbird 2 Heavy, be advised I happen to have the good luck of being here and
            issuing the first landing clearance to the Concorde here at JFK back in '77. Just
            want to say it's been wonderful working with your aircraft and I wish good luck 
            to all the crews, and er, we're gonna miss you.

BAW002:     Well, we're very very grateful indeed for all your help, especially over such a
            long period. It's been great knowing you, and we're gonna miss you a lot.

JFK:        Thankyou!

JFK:        Okay, the time now is three-five, at your discretion you can roll to finally
            lift off at three-seven*. Wind: three-zero-zero at one-three; maintain four
            thousand, cleared for take-off.

*”three-seven” is the time. For most purposes in aviation, when quoting times it is not necessary to mention the hour so just the minutes after the hour are spoken. The full UTC time is given if there is any risk of confusing one hour with another.

BAW002:     Speedbird Concorde 2, cleared take-off 31L, we're cleared to roll to meet our
            departure time, we'll start the take-off roll at three-seven and fifty [seconds],
            and maintain four thousand.

AAL699:     Tower, American 699 heavy.

JFK:        Yes sir?

AAL699:     Any chance we can hold here at Bravo, or anywhere in this area if we're not
            blocking anybody?

JFK:        American 699, uh, cleared to transition over to Alpha and then you can hold on
            Alpha. Do you need any assistance?

AAL699:     Negative.

JFK:        OK.

AAL59:      Hey Ground, American 59 Heavy, can we hold here for a second so we can see 
            something?

JFK:        Yup.

AAL59:      Thanks.

(Concorde takes off)

JFK:        Speedbird 2 Heavy, contact New York departure, so long!

BAW002:	    Speedbird 2 to departure, good day Samuel, so long.

A Short Time Later - New York Approach

BAW002:     Center, Speedbird 2 is with you, for the last time.

NYT:        Speedbird Concorde 2 heavy, New York departure, good morning, radar contact, 
            climb and maintain one-three thousand.

...

NYT:        Speedbird Concorde 2 heavy, proceed direct to LINND, resume own navigation, 
            climb and maintain one-seven thousand.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2, direct LINND, own nav, climb one-seven thousand.

NYT:        Speedbird Concorde 2, I was the first controller to give you the approach 
            clearance on the first flight into Kennedy, so I'd like to thank you and all 
            the crews that have worked the flight over the years for your professionalism,
            we'd like to wish you good luck as you soar towards the sunshine there to the 
            East, and we just do appreciate all the fine professionalism and hard work that
            you guys put in through the years, and it was a pleasure for us to serve you.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2, we really appreciate that, thankyou very much indeed, we couldn't
            have done any of this without the support of all of our friends and colleagues
            in the USA, particularly in ATC in the USA; you've been so helpful and supportive,
            we really do appreciate it.

NYT:        Speedbird 2, thankyou for those words, and contact New York Centre XXX.X, cheerio.

BAW002:     XXX.X, Speedbird 2, have a nice day.

LATCC, London, UK, ~1530Z, 24th October, 2003

The last Concorde transatlantic flight was one of three special Concorde flights on this day, the aircraft's last in commercial service. The other two flights, by ships G-BOAE and G-BOAF, were return flights to Edinburgh and around the Bay of Biscay respectively, carrying VIP guests including several former Concorde flight crews. All three flights were timed to land sequentially back at Heathrow. This transcript is clipped from a heavily truncated recording, and comprises conversations with several controllers, again with Speedbird 2.

BAW002:     ...without all the help and support we've had from air traffic control across the
            UK and particularly LATCC, we couldn't have done all that's been done in the last
            27 years and we're very grateful.

LATCC:      Touche.

...

LATCC:      Speedbird 2, London, go.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2, we're proceeding direct to Ockham*, which if we kept the speed up
            we'd get there at four-eight. Our company wants us to all land before the hour or
            after, and before the hour doesn't look achievable so after the hour looks better.

*”Ockham” is one of the hold facilities surrounding Heathrow airport. A 'hold' is a point, usually marked by a navigation aid of some kind, over which aircraft circle while waiting to be sequenced for landing. These are also commonly known as 'stacks'. Aircraft join the stack at the top, and leave from the base. As the aircraft at the bottom leaves the stack, those above it all descend by 1,000ft and thus gradually step down the stack until they reach and exit at the bottom.

Heathrow airport has four holding stacks, all marked by VORs, positioned roughly at the "corners" of the area surrounding the airport: Ockham, Bovingdon, Lambourne and Biggin.

LATCC:      The plan is, after Ockham, you'll be vectored over the top of Heathrow then a
            right-hand downwind* for a twenty-mile final*.

*'Downwind' and 'Final' are terms used at airfields and approach control units. Aircraft usually fly a circuit of sorts of an airfield before landing, depending which direction they approach it from. Since airfields almost always use the runway facing into the wind for take-offs and landings (so that aircraft can get airborne more easily, and can have a lower ground speed when landing), the portion of the circuit flown parallel to the runway will be in the same direction as the wind, and is called the 'downwind' leg. From there, the aircraft will eventually be turned onto a 'base' leg, which is perpendicular to the runway, then will be turned onto 'final', which simply refers to the portion of the approach that is flown towards the runway, hopefully ending with a successful touchdown.

BAW002:	    Right now we're estimating Ockham now at fifty and thirty seconds, and we're happy
            with whatever plans you and your colleagues want to make to reach that touchdown
            window for the three aircraft.

LATCC:      Okay Speedbird 2, yup, that's all in hand for the three of you, descend now flight
            level nine-zero. Just for your information, Concorde Alpha Fox is presently
            holding at Ockham and is just inbound to the beacon, they'll be a thousand feet
            beneath you.

BAW002:	    Speedbird 2, understood.

LATCC:	    Speedbird 2, contact Heathrow Director now, frequency XXX.XX and welcome home for
            the last time.

BAW002:     XXX.XX Speedbird 2, thanks very much indeed for all your help and your colleagues'
            help over all the years, we couldn't have done it without you.

LATCC:      Okay, bye-bye now.

BAW002:     Bye.

Heathrow Director, LATCC, London, UK, ~1550Z, 24th October 2003

BAW002:     Good afternoon, for the last time, Speedbird Concorde 2 is out of one-zero-zero
            descending nine-zero to Ockham.

HD:         Speedbird 2, roger, enter the hold, but there's only going to be a very very short
            delay.

BAW002:     Okay, enter the hold, and any idea how long the delay's going to be so we can
            fine-tune our planning?

HD:         Probably just one orbit to the right.

BAW002:     OK.

a few minutes later...

HD:         Speedbird 2, you're going to pass right overhead West Drayton.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2, I'm very pleased, wish we could see you but we've just gone right
            through a cloud!

HD:         (laughing) Understood.

HD:         Speedbird 2, they've all rushed out to the door now to look at you over the top.

BAW002:     Now, don't you go!

HD:         (laughing) Not going just yet.

...

HD:         Speedbird 2, there's only meant to be me and you on this frequency, but I'm sure
            there's a lot, lot more people listening to what's going on at the moment. Would
            you like to say something to them on the R/T? It's all over to you.

BAW002:     If there are, then it's an opportunity to say thankyou to everyone in the UK that
            supported Concorde over all the years. We realise that Concorde has been a very
            popular aircraft, an icon of the 20th and 21st century, and she's been successful
            and popular because of the support of the general public - particularly those
            who've taken their time to come out and watch her as she's taken off and landed 
            during the last six months and we're very privileged and proud to be part of 
            the British Airways team that's flying Concorde today.

HD:         Speedbird 2, that's wonderful, for the last and final time contact radar XXX.XX

BAW002:     Radar, XXX.XX, thanks for all your help as well.

HD:         Bye.

Tower, EGLL, UK ~1608Z, 24th October, 2003

BAW002:     Tower, Speedbird 2 with you, glidepath intercepted.

HT:         Speedbird 2, good afternoon, continue approach on 27-right, still number two,
            number one's on a one mile final. Traffic information: police helicopter
            operating on the right hand side of the runway, will remain north at all times.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2, that's copied, continuing approach.

....

HT:         Speedbird 2, for the last time, you're cleared to land on 27-right, the wind
            is 350 degrees at eight knots.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2, cleared to land.

(Concorde lands)

HT:         Speedbird 2, left turn at the first taxiway, we've all enjoyed you over the years
            at ATC, best wishes from us all, contact ground, frequency XXX.XX, bye-bye.

BAW002:     Likewise, thanks a lot, bye.

(now on ground movement frequency - GMC)

BAW002:     Speedbird 2's with you.

GMC:        Hello Speedbird 2, position straight ahead behind the company aircraft for the
            photocall.

BAW002:     Speedbird 2.

The three aircraft then taxied around Heathrow for the next 45 minutes before disembarking the passengers.

G-BOAE, the first in the three-ship convoy, was retired to Bridgetown, Barbados on November 17th.

G-BOAG, the ship that flew the last transatlantic flight, flew back to New York on November 3rd en-route to its retirement berth at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. This final leg was flown on November 5th, casually breaking a record flying supersonically over northern Canada on the way.

G-BOAF, the last Concorde ever to be built, and the last ever to fly, landed at Filton Airfield (where it was built) at 13:00 on November 26th. This aircraft is the focus of a group of volunteers who are campaigning for it to be returned to flight. While technically possible, the cost of such an effort is estimated by the former manager of BA's Concorde fleet at £10-15 million. Airbus ending their maintenance support for the aircraft prior to its 2003 retirement means it is realistically impossible for any Concorde to ever fly again.

:-(

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