Aerospatiale-British Aerospace Concorde

The Concorde first flew over 25 years ago, and yet it remains the pinnacle of civil aviation development for one reason - speed. The Concorde is the only aircraft in the world operating scheduled passenger flights at supersonic speed.

An engineering masterpiece, the Concorde was the result of a collaborative venture between the aviation industries of Britain and France. It dates back to design work for a supersonic airliner carried out by Sud Aviation and Bristol, their respective Super Caravelle and Bristol 233 designs being remarkably similar in configuration to each other. The forecast high costs of any SST program and the similarities in the designs led to a 1962 government agreement between France and Britain which resulted in the British Aircraft Corporation (into which Bristol had been merged) and SudAviation (which became a part of Aerospatiale in 1970) joining to design and develop such an aircraft.

Talks with airlines in the 1960s resulted in a relatively long range aircraft design capable of flying trans Atlantic sectors (although for a time Sud offered a short haul version). Design of the airframe was refined to feature a highly complex delta wing featuring cambering and ogival leading edges with pairs of engines mounted in pods under the wing undersurface. The slender fuselage features a high fineness ratio to keep supersonic drag to a minimum, while the fuel system was designed to trim the aircraft longitudinally by transferring fuel between tanks to combat the change in the centre of pressure as the aircraft accelerates. Another feature is the variable geometry nose which is lowered while taxying, on takeoff and landing to improve the flightcrew's visibility.


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