The final flight of any Concorde, 2003

Concorde – turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner or supersonic transport (SST). It is one of only two SSTs to have entered commercial service; the other was the Tupolev Tu-144. Concorde was jointly developed and produced by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years.

  • Supersonic speed – a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound (Mach 1). For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C (68 °F) at sea level, this speed is approximately 343.2 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph, 667 knots, or 1,235 km/h.

British Airways Heritage Collection – photos – The images in this section represent only a small part of the Museum’s collection and will be added to over time.

Concorde Cockpit

What’s the problem?
Concorde is an ogival (also “ogee”) delta-winged aircraft with four Olympus engines based on those used in the RAF’s Avro Vulcan strategic bomber. Concorde was the first airliner to have a (in this case, analogue) fly-by-wire flight-control system; the avionics of Concorde were unique because it was the first commercial aircraft to employ hybrid circuits.

  • Ask – Concorde needed to fly long distances to be economically viable; this required high efficiency. Turbofan engines were rejected due to their larger cross-section producing excessive drag.
  • Imagine – Turbojets were found to be the best choice of engines. The engine used was the twin spool Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593, a development of the Bristol engine first used for the Avro Vulcan bomber, and developed into an afterburning supersonic variant for the BAC TSR-2 strike bomber.
  • Design, Build – The aircraft used reheat ( afterburners) at takeoff and to pass through the transonic regime (i.e., “go supersonic”) between Mach 0.95 and Mach 1.7. The afterburners were switched off at all other times.
  • Improve – The intake design for Concorde’s engines was especially critical. Conventional jet engines can take in air at only around Mach 0.5; therefore the air has to be slowed from the Mach 2.0 airspeed that enters the engine intake. In particular, Concorde needed to control the shock waves that this reduction in speed generates to avoid damage to the engines. This was done by a pair of intake ramps and an auxiliary spill door, whose position moved in-flight to slow transiting air.

That’s engineering

Engineering ideas

  • delta-wing, analog, fly-by-wire, flight-control system, avionics, hybrid circuit, turbojet, afterburner, transonic, Mach, intake, shock wave

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • learn more about supersonic flight

Learn more…