The Concorde supersonic jet was arguably the zenith of aviation.
The supersonic airliner was first flown in 1969 – that’s almost 50 years ago – by the British Aircraft Corporation and France’s Aérospatiale, though its first commercial flight wasn’t until 1976.
Its maximum speed was twice the speed of sound, reaching up to 1,370 mph, and it transported passengers from New York to London in less than 3.5 hours.
Today, it takes us more than seven, mostly because we’re crawling at a pace of around 500 to 600 mph.
In service for 27 years, the Concorde stopped flying in 2003. But now, a group of people are trying to bring the supersonic planes back from the dead.
According to theTelegraph, a group of Concorde fans (“Club Concorde”) raised $186 million in the hopes of getting a Concorde to fly again by 2019. The group plans to buy two Concorde planes: They hope to restore one plane for flying use and to turn the other into a tourist attraction that will reside near the London Eye.
Of course this will involve some obstacles, including a significant restoration and subsequent upkeep to then run the decommissioned plane privately. Plus, people would have to be trained in its engineering, maintenance and piloting. The final obstacle: the record cost of fuel these days.
Concorde saw its last flight on October 24, 2003, and flying has only gotten worse since. So why did the Concorde stop flying in the first place?
- Wikimedia/Daniel Schwen
Only 20 Concordes were ever built, six of which were prototypes and development aircraft, meaning that only 14 were actually used commercially. As oil prices increased in the late ’70s, foreign airlines canceled their Concorde orders – they practically gave away those 14 planes to British Airways and Air France.
Many believe that Concordes stopped flying because of a violent crash that killed 113 people in 2000, but in its 27 years, Concorde only saw that one single fatal accident, and was previously considered one of the world’s safest planes.
Of course, the crash didn’t help (Concorde flights were grounded for a year, pending modifications), but the main reason behind Concordes no longer taking flight is simple: a general downturn in the economic industry, especially following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Concordes were also pretty high maintenance in terms of upkeep, and literally bled fuel – they flew 45 miles per ton of gas versus today’s 120 miles, and that carrying fewer passengers. Thus, Concordes were only profitable on long haul flights, which explains why they mainly flew between New York and London or Paris. Essentially, they just weren’t profitable enough.
And while they might be on the verge of making a comeback with this new group, there are still major obstacles, including the high cost of fuel.