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Last Concorde completes last journey, at maybe Mach 0.02

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Don't know why...

It's not still flying, there was no problem with the aircraft or it's design/safety and was downed by a piece of cowling from an aging commercial jet that had bee badly repaired and fell off getting kicked up by the wheels as Concord took off and puncturing the fuel tank.

Shame!

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Re: Don't know why...

Statistically Concorde went from being the safest airliner ever to the most dangerous in that one accident, when you measure it in fatalities per passenger carried and probably a few other metrics.

I believe part of the problem with continuing to operate it was that Airbus weren't particularly keen on continuing to support it which would require BA and/or AF to become the design authority for the aircraft.

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Re: Don't know why...

Baldy50:

Don't know why it's not still flying

The accident gave the airlines the good excuse they needed to ditch the service. Concorde was never a commercially profitable product for BA and AF and the marketing effect was lost due to the accident. On top of that operating cost had been rising year on year due to rising fuel prices and aging airframes. Thus both operators felt it was the right time to just stop concordes operation.

Also, 2003... damnit, now I feel old. And it seems I'm a spring chicken in Reg standards...

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Re: Don't know why...

'Concorde was never a commercially profitable product for BA and AF and the marketing effect was lost due to the accident.'

Not strictly true, BA made it profitable by raising the ticket price to what people thought it was worth/what business class passengers thought their companies were paying. AF not so much so like most nationalised airlines they kept operating at a loss.

'Also, 2003... damnit, now I feel old.' Totally, when I read that the one at Bristol had been out in the cold for 13 years I thought 'that can't be right, did they retire that one early?'!

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Re: Don't know why...

Errr... Because it was a dinosaur?

It was a byproduct of military tech. 1960-es military tech to be exact. Somewhere in the 1970-es NATO countries significantly decreased the investment into the development of hypersonic aircraft with standard operational envelope above Mach 1.6. While for example the Eurofighter can punch it to 2M for a short run it is not its normal cruising speed.

The death knell of the Concorde was rung not in 2003, it was rung in 1977 when Jimmy Carter cancelled B1A. As a result there was very little new tech development to be fed into its modernization. Russians continued for longer (to develop aircraft capable of dealing with the SR-71), but they also decreased high speed efforts in the 1980es. Their White Swan is probably the Swan Song of large supersonic aircraft for the time being and its cost is so ridiculous that it can never be transformed into a passenger aircraft design. So the F35B option of "buy failed Russian tech" is not on the menu either.

This may change in the near future as the advances in AA missiles and AEGIS are creating a hypersonics race. There may be some byproducts from there to be used to build a new Mach 2+ aircraft. It is not likely to happen anytime soon though and it will not be the anything even remotely resembling a Concorde.

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Re: Don't know why...

'NATO countries significantly decreased the investment into the development of hypersonic aircraft with standard operational envelope above Mach 1.6.'

Hypersonic is above Mach 5.

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Re: Don't know why...

The B-1A was cancelled because they couldn't make the engine air intakes work properly whereas the Concorde intakes did all that was asked of them.

The B-1A intakes were swept in two axes, Concorde's were swept in only one axis. The additional axis on the B-1 made it impossible to control the shock waves at high speed, that's why the B-1B was limited to about Mach 1.25 (they also took the opportunity to add RAM baffles to reduce radar signature from the compressor face).

Ted Talbot, the man who ran the Concorde air intake design team was shown the B-1A in 1975, he looked at it, noted the large number of pressure-measuring probes around the inlet and correctly predicted that it wouldn't be made to work with the technology of the day. Even the Concorde inlet was right at the limit of what could be done with 1960s/70s technology.

And yes, SR-71 inlets operated at Mach 3+. But they are symmetrical and circular, removing quite a lot of the difficulties...

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Go

Re: Don't know why...

From talking to one of the guys who did the accident analysis, the chain of events was originally that a Concord wheel axle was (re)assembled incorrectly, misaligning the wheel, increasing drag, decreasing takeoff acceleration, increasing tyre temperature, and thereby rendering the tyre more sensitive to the damage caused by the cowling it ran over.

But it's still rather cool to have had in one's country's commercial airline fleet a passenger jet that could out-drag every fighter in the world, *and* keep it up for three hours or more, *and* make a running profit (though we ignore the dev costs :).

I always liked the logic after it came back into service, when BA did a survey asking how much people thought their ticket had cost (since most passengers were commercial and didn't pay for the ticket directly). About five grand, said the passengers. Right, said BA, since that's what you're obviously willing to pay, we'll have some of that - and raised the price from two grand to five grand...

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Unhappy

Re: Don't know why...

Also, remember that Virgin Atlantic would probably have paid whatever BA asked to buy the remaining Concordes. However, BA was NOT going to see them in the sky with Virgin logos on them and made sure (by refusing to release the service records for them) that future operation was impossible.

Boo.

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Re: Don't know why...

Yep remember reading about the tyre issues, overheating on landing etc and the bearings too but a piece of engine trim around the cowling at the end of the runway is what it is at, take off speeds and could have taken any aircraft out. The compound has been changed for some time now, didn't know about the alignment issue.

Don't think I have a pic of it but they traced the offending item to a specific plane and it showed how poorly the damned thing had been riveted back on.

A bit shocked years ago on an aging plane on an aeroflot flight, it had two flat tyres we noticed walking to the bus and the rest didn't seem that healthy either, one of the smoothest landings ever BTW, very good pilots.

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Re: remember that Virgin Atlantic

Hard as it might be to believe, Branson was just indulging in empty posturing for publicity. With Airbus declining to continue support the aircraft couldn't be flown, and anyone thinking that Airbus might have been persuaded to continue support once Air France had decided to stop flying them needs to think a little more about french politics. What BA did or didn't want to do was really largely irrelevant.

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Re: Don't know why...

I think the answer to that is complex, but boils down to rising costs and falling revenues. The advent of an easy-to-use internet reduced the need for high-speed transport in the business sector.

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Boffin

Re: Don't know why...

The accident may have been triggered by a stray piece of cowling, but undoubtedly design flaws allowed it to progress into the loss of the aircraft. Concorde had even had many near misses in her service life that should have been taken more seriously. Such an impact should have been survivable and resulted in nothing more than a go-around and emergency landing. Given that flaw, the story of how Concorde returned to flight afterwards via a seriously impressive piece of shoestring engineering is just as enthralling as the rest of her story - retrofitting the fuel tanks and more to ensure the same accident couldn't happen again. Have a look at http://www.concordesst.com/returntoflight/mods.html.

There are many theories as to what caused her ultimate demise - the BA aircraft were still profitable - as always it probably just boiled down to politics. Sad, I would have loved to have flown on her.

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Re: Don't know why...

Wasnt the bearded one quite keep to buy up flying versions but BA sort of disabled them?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't know why...

Don't know why it's not still flying

I think it has to do with regulations that demand a certain amount of available spares and maintenance. Once you no longer have the required spares, the plane becomes unserviceable and must be taken out of commission (or something like that, it's been quite a while since I read that).

I was in Bristol at MoD's DPA when it "came home", did a fly by and then landed there for that last time.

If Branson has come up with something to replace it he'll certainly gets one over on the people at BA that did everything to prevent him from taking over and fly them for a bit longer..

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Unhappy

Re: Don't know why...

The advent of an easy-to-use internet reduced the need for high-speed transport in the business sector.

I agree. But, I guess the news hasn't filtered down to our representatives at Westminster, for they do carp on about the need for speedy business travel and the need for the HS2 rail scheme.

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Pirate

Re: Don't know why...

Hypersonic is above Mach 5.

Yeah, right.

I want MY flying car to go at at least 5 C, and I want it NOW!

AND it'd better be faster than your sheep in a vacuum ....

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Remember when the Moon program involved thousands of companies, who were proud enough of their products and work to place newspaper & magazine ads saying nothing more than "we're part of the space program"?

Remember when supersonic transport was a chance to show how smart we were, that we could make a large plane go that fast for that long and that far?

Remember how both programs spawned lots of side benefits, including the integrated circuit, and programming as an actual discipline?

Remember when people gave a shit?

On the other hand, G-BOAF apparently flew for just short of 25 years. That's a bit longer than I thought.

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Good looking

Still looks majestic even on the ground and after all these years.

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Re: Good looking

Darn right - it was a beautiful thing. Back in the day I lived for a while in a tower block on Kingston hill, and used to go out on the balcony to watch it taking off from Heathrow twice a day... always gave me a lift. (Bloody noisy, though, sub-Mach 1.)

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Re: Good looking

It certainly was beautiful thing...

One evening way back (can't remember when), staying at a hotel just off Heathrow's Northern Perimeter Road, in the bar having a quiet pre-prandial...

Heard the familiar roar as she took off, then watched, slack-jawed, as she rotated off shortly before the hotel, and went past the bar window into the sunset, afterburner-boosted exhaust blasting out...

Glorious sight!

(what is that makes those 'rings' in afterburner boost? Some sort of frequency/harmonic effect?

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Unhappy

Re: Good looking

"what is that makes those 'rings' in afterburner boost? Some sort of frequency/harmonic effect?"

Shock diamonds. They're glorious and I only partially pretend to know how they work

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_diamond

As to its beauty, while I'm glad this one has a hanger, I'll be sad to drive past Filton and not see her anymore.

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Thumb Up

Re: Good looking

Indeed -- a magnificent looking bird! We saw the last take-off from Pearson in our office just south of the airport. Facing awway from us, all the windows shook as she lifted up at a steep angle, and flew off. Not a sight and sound to forget.

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I once spotted one of these at Schiphol

Magnificent plane, so radically different from all other airliners. Hopefully some day something as astonishingly elegant will carry passengers again

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Re: I once spotted one of these at Schiphol

The only downside of this move, is that I won't be able to see her whilst driving past Filton. Even now it's a beautiful futuristic looking machine.

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Re: I once spotted one of these at Schiphol

^ This. Very much this. I sometimes drive home that way and admire the aircraft as I go past, but won't be able to again.

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Re: I once spotted one of these at Schiphol

I have not forgiven whoever it was that removed the model from the roundabout at the end of the Heathrow-M4 spur and replaced it with some modern tat.

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I have not forgiven whoever it was that removed the model from the roundabout at the end of the Heathrow-M4 spur and replaced it with some modern tat

'tis now the gate guardian at Brooklands (where they also have a full-size one).

51.347768, -0.472033

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Gate guardian at LHR

> replaced it with some modern tat.

Some Emirates-branded tat, too. "Britain is open for business sale".

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Support

Like lots of aging and niche technology getting the neccesary support services from an ever decreasing supply of contractors becomes ever more acute and costly.I think in the end there were only two company able to work on the bird but beside that the insurance companys took a complete 180 once the accident happened and withdrew any resonable offer to insure them.

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The death knell for Concorde was way before 2003 when America wouldn't let it fly over the continental United States because, no matter what excuses were made, it wasn't American built.

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At subsonic speeds it was allowed

Just not a lot of point - hardly faster than competing airliners and with far less range (probably not NYC-LA). So why not at supersonic speeds? Too damn loud - generally only military gets to do that, mostly far away from most voters, and still get lots of complaints...

AFAIK all the routine flights east of UK either had wacky routing to keep it over sea and deserts or had it subsonic over land. And it simply didn't have the range for trans-pacific or trans-polar to US west coast. Di that left it with the trans-Atlantic routes (and even then strong headwinds could force a fuel stop)

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Given the number of Airbus's flying over the continental USA, this makes no sense whatsoever...

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Re: At subsonic speeds it was allowed

I seem to remember from reading about the development, if Concorde wasn't going supersonic by the end of the Bristol Channel it wouldn't have the fuel to cross the Atlantic. It was that efficient at high speed and that draggy at low speed. The Atlantic crossing was its niche when developed, although there's probably some city pairs in the Asia-Pacific region that might make economic sense these days too.

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Facepalm

Had my chance....and blew it

Years ago.

£500 one-way LHR to JFK, thought about it but didn't.

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Anonymous Coward

El Reg missed the headline...

"Police prevent drone narrowly missing Concorde at Mach 0.2, by 100m"

(Do we really need a Police Officer present for Plane Spotters now, even when its a Plane doing Mach 0.2). And we wonder why we have no money for the NHS.

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JDX
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Re: El Reg missed the headline...

We have loads of money for the NHS. More than you can easily imagine. Don't be duped by Guardian posts shared on FB!

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Facepalm

Re: El Reg missed the headline...

"Don't be duped by Guardian posts"

Or Telegraph articles, or ones in the Daily Mail, or the BBC, and definitely don't be duped by what MPs are saying in parliament.

No, just believe JDX and Jeremy Hunt (and don't spell his name wrong either!)

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Re: El Reg missed the headline...

These are not mutually exclusive projects.

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Once upon a time men flew to the moon.

Once upon a time civilians cold fly supersonically.

Somehow it seems we've stopped being a "can do" species and become "can't do" instead. Whatever happened to our sense of ambition?

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Facepalm

Welcome to the UK

The only country in the world to have given up *both* a working space program and a working supersonic plane.

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Re: Welcome to the UK

The only country in the world to have given up *both* a working space program and a working supersonic plane.

Of course, being British, we called it a "Space Programme" (if we actually used the word "Programme" at all, which seems a bit left-pondian to my ears) ... but let's not let spelling stand in the way of a telling observation.

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Meh

"Can do" species

Once upon a time men flew to the moon.

Once upon a time civilians cold fly supersonically.

Somehow it seems we've stopped being a "can do" species and become "can't do" instead. Whatever happened to our sense of ambition?

Neither of those things were much benefit to the average human being.

Over the last fifteen years there have been massive improvements in access to safe water, insecticide-treated bednets, immunization, plus cheaper and better antibiotic, antimalarial and antiretroviral therapies. These might not look sexy, or make a loud noise, or even cost very much, but they have materially improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

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Re: "Can do" species

"plus cheaper and better antibiotic"

Let's pick out one of those. We've abused the cheaper antibiotics by careless use and bred populations of resistant bacteria. That in turn means that "better" are effectively no better than the last and we're in danger of the best becoming not good enough.

We haven't got smarter in the last few decades. In fact we've not been anywhere near smart enough.

Another of the things we've done: taken one of our most versatile raw materials, fossil fuels, and wasted in in static power plants when for decades we could have used nuclear in place of it, leaving fossil fuels to be used as chemical substrates, a role for which there are no adequate substitutes available in similar quantities. Again, because we lacked ambition.

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Re: Welcome to the UK

And a civilian nuclear programme.

And for that matter, a military nuclear programme.

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Happy

Re: Welcome to the UK

The only country in the world to have given up *both* a working space program and a working supersonic plane.

We haven't given up just yet. We're quietly luring the rest of the world into a false sense of security.

https://www.reactionengines.co.uk/vehicles/

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Windows

@ Doctor Syntax:

"Once upon a time men flew to the moon.

Once upon a time civilians cold fly supersonically.

Somehow it seems we've stopped being a "can do" species and become "can't do" instead. Whatever happened to our sense of ambition?"

It was pounded out of us. Lysol everything to death. Bubble wrap around the kids just in case they skin a knee. Black on yellow stickers on *everything*. Boogie men on every corner kidnapping thousands of sweet innocent children EVERY DAY! OMG!! TERRORISTS!!!

Between Madison Avenue selling utterly useless tat as 'make your house/family/child/car/oven/electrical outlets/stairs safe!' conning folks into the idea that we're all fragile glass instruments subject to the vaguest whiff of something even remotely off from perfect, and the constant use of panic, terror and fear in the media purely to increase ratings for ad sales and to push headline sales out the door, we've become afraid of everything.

And in reality, it is the "your profits didn't rise in the last quarter, so we're going to beat your stock value to the ground" threats from wallstreet that mainline the bullshit through the corporates.

...... <holy crap I'm awfully ranty today>

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Re: Welcome to the UK

And not forgetting trains & BREL, the designers who came up with the APT (Advanced Passenger Train) that was decades ahead of its time. Sure, it has some issues like any new technology but the thing that killed it? Reporters did not like it tilting on the curves. Whether it was the gas turbine powered unit or the electric it was at the cutting edge. The IP was sold to Fiat for bugger all and then reappeared as the Pendelino. Just because it had Virgin on the side it is suddenly cool and acceptable, it is still the same train. My uncle was at Doncaster when they scrapped the electric APTs and they were literally smashed up with hammers and a JCB. The High Speed Train or InterCity 125 was another, still highly successful design. No other diesel train is as quiet. The modern Voyager/Meridian things are basically a cheap carriage with a bus engine bolted underneath buzzing away furiously, vibrating your teeth out.

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JDX
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Presumably it's impractical now

Pushing that hard was presumably somewhat akin to F1 cars... fuel consumption very high per mile/passenger? These days, environmental issues mean new planes have to focus on fuel efficiency (whether legally, financially or for PR I don't know).

Does modern tech mean a plane could go that fast without drinking fuel or is a fundamental restriction of physics that supersonic flight is fundamentally expensive?

And of course the internet means some of the "I need to be in NY for a meeting" cases are removed.

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Halo Effect

The first time I heard the above expression was in connection with Concorde and BA. It was claimed to give a bump to BA's image world-wide and they reckoned to increase passenger loads generally on other flights simply because of the halo effect of flying with the airline that flew supersonic.

But yes that disappeared in minutes with the crash in Paris.

Having said that it was a tiny bugger. Some may remember Concorde flew to Caracas at one point. I had an uncle who flew there a few times on business. He was very tall - 6 foot 3 - and he could only complain about the leg room.

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