Business Traveller. Facebook Twitter Email. CNN — Last month, a Virgin Atlantic Boeing Dreamliner hitched a ride on a powerful jet stream and flew from Los Angeles to London in a record-setting nine hours and 13 minutes, hitting miles per hour as it flew over Pennsylvania. Record-setting, perhaps, but for a subsonic airliner. Half a century ago, the legendary supersonic passenger airliner Concorde made its first test flight, on March 2, In -- over 40 years ago -- elite passengers were crossing the Atlantic in under three and a half hours, flying at twice the speed of sound in the Anglo-French Concorde. Only 20 of the sleek, delta-winged SSTs were built, and just 14 were delivered to two airlines -- seven each to Air France and British Airways. With superlative service and cuisine, exclusive airport lounges and stratospherically high airfares, Concorde passengers flew far above other flights, and cruised faster than fighter jets to their destinations.
The Atlantic Crossword
It had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound , at Mach 2. First flown in , Concorde entered service in and continued flying for the next 27 years. It is one of only two supersonic transports to have been operated commercially; the other is the Soviet-built Tupolev Tu , which operated in the late s. Twenty aircraft were built, including six prototypes and development aircraft. Air France and British Airways were the only airlines to purchase and fly Concorde. The aircraft was used mainly by wealthy passengers who could afford to pay a high price in exchange for the aircraft's speed and luxury service. With only seven airframes each being operated by the British and French, the per-unit cost was impossible to recoup, so the French and British governments absorbed the development costs. British Airways and Air France were able to operate Concorde at a profit, in spite of very high maintenance costs, because the aircraft was able to sustain a high ticket price. The type was retired in , three years after the crash of Air France Flight , in which all passengers and crew were killed.
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Who flew in Concorde?
The box sat untouched in his bottom desk drawer. For weeks we discussed opening it, and one January morning he was ready. I set the box on his white bedsheets and removed the stack of passports, which could have belonged to a family with dual citizenship. But all nine—from to a valid update issued in —belong to my year-old grandfather.
The pointy-nosed plane barreled down the French tarmac and into the air. The crowd of , spectators that gathered near the runway at Le Bourget Airport for the Paris Air Show watched the star of the day, the Concorde, climb toward the horizon. Its rival would not be so fortunate. But the Soviet plane swerved suddenly during ascent and dropped like a stone onto the nearby village of Goussainville, where it killed six in the plane and eight on the ground. From to , the Concorde shrank the Atlantic Ocean in half, ferrying passengers from New York to London or Paris in a just three and a half hours. The plane cruised higher than 50, feet, revealing the curvature of the Earth at a casual glance out the window. Tickets were outrageously expensive. But living in the future, even for just a few hours, has never been cheap. Today, that future has come and gone.