Air France Concorde exhibit at Air & Space Museum, Washington

Concorde was an iconic airplane that served the skies for about 27 years between 1976 and 2003. Made in Europe, Concorde's USP was speed. It could fly twice the speed of sound and could reach its destination as much as in half the time taken by next best aircraft. At Mach 2.04 or some 2100 kmph, London to New York would take about 3 hours (even today, this route takes about 7 to 8 hours)

Viewing a Concorde is a treat to any aviation enthusiast due to its historic significance, the fact that only a dozen or so of these planes were made and pressed into service and more so because of its unique shape- long, sharp pointed nose, wide wings and large underbelly.

I had only seen a Concorde in video so far. During recent trip to Washington, I could see it for real in Air and Space Museum near Washington Airport. Here're some pictures before we talk further.

While Concorde was a technological masterpiece and amazing supersonic jet, it was a financial misfortune. Aircraft was made for speed, not space- so it could carry just about 100 passengers. (An Airbus A320 today seats about 180 passengers). Aircraft was super expensive to produce, so it got only two major airlines- Air France and British Airways as its customers, the flights were super expensive to operate too and the cost had to be recovered from the just 100 tickets that could be sold, so each ticket had to be insanely expensive- putting off regular tourists. Only rich businessmen who valued time and/or wanted to reach destinations asap would pay such high fares. Thus the Concorde flights proved to be economically unsustainable and airlines began to cut the fleet and flights. Concorde routes were largely transatlantic- between Paris/London and major cities in USA/Brazil east coast.

Add to this, there was a crash in year 2000. Air France flight AF4590 crashed soon after take off as engine took debris from the ground into it, burst it into flame and aircraft couldn't lift off to safety. About 109 people (everyone onboard) died and 4 more on ground also burned to death. [Watch this video]. 3 years after this, all Concorde fleet was permanently grounded and the beautiful aircraft entered history.
 Below: Boeing 707 and Concorde
Above: Engine intake
Below: Magnificent view from top
Today we're looking at bleak feature for Airbus A380 as no airlines seem to want to order it-it is super jumbo with 500+ seats and is built with a purpose somewhat opposite to Concorde. While Concorde needed 100 people who could pay super expensive fares to reach destination in half the time, A380 needs airlines to find out 500+ passengers for each flight to make the flight economically viable. Thankfully A380s are still in service, no major accidents and may get some revival in future if market dynamics change.

Air France donated one of the planes to Smithsonian National Air and Space museum. Today this plane sits in a confined space along with hundreds of other aircrafts in Steven F Udvar-Hazy centre of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, very close to Washington's Dulles International Airport. More about this museum in a separate post later. I only wish they'd given some more free space around the Concorde and also allowed us to take a look at its interiors.

Standby for more posts from my US trip.


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