A look at the flight paths in the first few months of the Concorde’s entry into passenger service.
Before the legendary aircraft was retired indefinitely, the Concorde’s most notable routes were London – New York and Paris – Washington, DC. Although Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation built the plane for people who wanted to get across the pond in record time, these routes were banned before the Concorde ever went into service. Local concerns about noise and air pollution forced the US government to restrict Concorde’s use until February 1976, though it would not begin service until May of that year. So, where did the plane fly in its first few months of passenger service?
British Airways and Air France’s dual takeoff
On January 21, 1976, at 11:40, two Concordes lined up simultaneously at London Heathrow Airport and Paris Orly Airport. The former would directly head to Bahrain while the latter was bound for Rio de Janeiro, with a technical stop in Dakar, Senegal. Air France 025 landed on the Western tip of Africa at 14:24, staying for just over an hour. While on the ground, BA 300 landed in Bahrain at 15:20, finalizing the first passenger service on a Concorde. Air France 025 left Dakar at 15:45, landing in Rio de Janeiro just after 19:00.
British Airways flight 300 cruised under supersonic speed from London to northeastern Italy to avoid sonic booms over land. But at 13:00, as the plane reached the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Croatia, the pilots began accelerating to supersonic speeds. In just 20 minutes, BA300 reached Mach 2.0 and stayed in supersonic flight as it turned south towards the Mediterranean, east towards Beirut, then southeast until it finally landed at Bahrain without delay.
Air France flight 025 enjoyed much quicker acceleration to supersonic speeds as the pilots left Paris directly westward towards the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft flew at Mach 0.93 for just over 20 minutes before reaching water, upon which the pilots increased their speed to Mach 2.0 in 10 minutes. Two hours later, AF 025 landed in Dakar; however, on takeoff towards South America, the flight crew encountered a temporary malfunction of an air inlet. This error wouldn’t become an issue for the flight, though it did result in a six-minute delay, getting into Rio a bit after 19:00.
Photo: Singapore Airlines
London to Singapore and Paris to Caracas
BA service from London to Bahrain was challenging due to its long period of subsonic flight over Europe and non-linear path over the Mediterranean Sea. But it still shaved off about three hours compared to standard passenger aircraft at the time and opened up a connection to Asia by flying south of India and Sri Lanka. As one of the first alliance-type partnerships in the industry, Singapore Airlines worked with British Airways to bring a half-and-half livery Concorde online with service from London to Bahrain to Singapore and back.
Since the timing aligned perfectly with Venezuela’s oil boom, Air France also began service from Paris to Caracas with a stop in the Azores in April 1976. However, just one month later, on May 24, 1976, Air France and British Airways would once again time their flights simultaneously to land at Washington Dulles Airport at the same time for a ceremonious taxiing and exhibition.
Did you ever fly on the Concorde? Have you gone to see one of them on display? Let us know in the comments.
Sources: Heritage Concorde, Concordesst