Concorde the Supersonic Aircraft


Concorde Trivia

  • In transatlantic flight, Concorde travelled more than twice as fast as other aircraft, and other aircraft frequently appeared to be flying backwards.
  • The hottest part of Concorde was the nose, which could reach a maximum of 127C.
  • As the aircraft approached Mach 1, the centre of pressure over the wings moved rearward, causing the nose of the aircraft to pitch down, this is countered by the wing design, however this still caused a shift of about 2 m. This was countered by shifting the distribution of the fuel between fuel tanks along the body of the aircraft. This also acted as a method of trim allowing limited or no use of the elevons reducing the drag of the aircraft.
  • During supersonic flight, the windows in the cockpit became too hot to touch.
  • Concorde went through two cycles of heating and cooling during a flight, first cooling down as it gained altitude, then heating up after going supersonic. The reverse happened when descending and slowing down.
  • The brakes were carbon-based, and could bring Concorde (going at 190 mph, weighing up to 185 tons) to a stop from a rejected take off within one mile. This brought them to temperatures between 300C to 500C, requiring several hours to cool.
  • The brakes were one of the first major uses of anti-lock braking system which stops the wheels from locking when fully applied allowing greater deceleration.
  • Concorde's famous drooping nose did not greatly affect the drag of the aircraft at the speeds it was used at, however it makes normal conversations in the cockpit impossible without the use of head sets. It was required to allow the pilots to see the runway during landing.
  • After landing only the two outer engines were run to conserve fuel as during taxiing the full 152,200 lb of thrust (677,000 N) was not required.
  • For optimum travel at supersonic speed the engines required a low bypass ratio and small cross-sectional area, meaning that turbojets were the best choice of engines.
  • The delta shaped wings allowed Concorde to attain a higher angle of attack than conventional aircraft, as it allowed the formation of large low pressure vortices over the entire upper wing surface, maintaining lift. It is this low pressure which caused Concorde to disappear into a bank of fog on humid days. These only formed at low air speeds, meaning that during the initial climb out and throughout the approach Concorde would experience light turbulence and buffeting.
  • Throughout the entire approach Concorde was on the 'back side' of the drag curve.
  • Braniff International pilots flew both AF and BA Concordes (10 in total).


Video of a Radio Controlled Model Concorde with fighter escort

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  • Concorde had quite small passenger windows. At the extremely high altitude that Concorde flew, a broken window could have led to the passengers and crew passing out before the aircraft could be brought down to a safe altitude. Standard oxygen masks would not have helped. The windows were made smaller so the compressors could maintain sufficient cabin pressure during the descent.
  • Due to the heat generated by compression of the air as Concorde traveled supersonically, the fuselage would extend by as much as thirty centimetres, the most obvious manifestation of this being a gap that would open up on the flight deck between the flight engineer's console and the bulkhead. On all the Concordes that had a supersonic flight before retirement, the flight engineers placed their hat in the gap before it cooled, where they remain to this day. However in the case of the Seattle museum's Concorde, the protruding cap was cut off by a thief in an apparent attempt to steal it, leaving a part behind. An amnesty led to the severed cap being returned; the museum has been examining options to reattach it in some way.
  • During the multi-venue Live Aid famine relief concerts held on 13 July 1985, pop star Phil Collins flew with Concorde from London so that he could perform at both venues (London and Philadelphia) on the same day.
  • The vehicle used reheat (afterburners) to pass through the high-drag transonic regime (i.e. 'go supersonic'). Although the engines were quite capable of pushing the airframe supersonic without reheat, it was discovered operationally that it burnt more fuel that way, since the vehicle took much longer to accelerate through the transonic region even though reheat is quite inefficient.
  • Concorde burnt a reasonably large amount of fuel, but perhaps not as much might be expected; per passenger it works out at about 14 miles to the gallon (0.17 litres per kilometre).
  • Concorde flew faster than the rotation of the Earth. Therefore, it was possible to take off from London just after sunset, and see the sun rise in the west on the way to America.
  • Concorde flew fast enough that the weight of everyone onboard was temporarily reduced by about 1% when flying east. This was due to centrifugal effects since its airspeed added to the rotation speed of the Earth. Flying west the weight was largely unaffected, because it was fighting the rotation of the Earth (and winning!).[4]
  • Concorde also flew high enough that the weight of everyone onboard was reduced by an additional 0.6% due to the increased distance from the center of the Earth.
  • All engines (except the Scramjet) can only accept air entering it at around Mach 0.5, therefore the engine required modification to slow the air speed from Mach 2.0 to Mach 0.5.
  • The speed of sound varies greatly with the air temperature, meaning that if Concorde entered a warm pocket of air its speed could increase from Mach 2.0 to more than Mach 2.04, without its actual velocity changing. The speed of sound is around 332 m/s at standard temperature and pressure.


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