Being the only successful supersonic passenger airliner, Concorde is one of the most widely recognized aircraft types.
That’s in spite of the fact that only twenty Concordes were produced in total and that not all of those were delivered to the type’s two customers. And the fact that they could only be flown on a limited number of routes.
Continue reading to learn more about the twenty supersonic jets as well as the routes that they operated.
How Many Concordes Were Made?
In the 1960s, more than a dozen major airlines including Pan Am, Qantas, and Japan Airlines signed non-binding agreements to purchase the aircraft. In the end, however, British Airways and Air France – the flag carriers of the two countries that jointly developed the type – were the only two to receive the aircraft.
As such, between 1965 when construction of the first two prototypes commenced and 1979 when the last airframe was assembled, only twenty Concordes were built.
Of those, six were prototypes and other test and development aircraft. The fourteen production aircraft were split evenly between the two airlines with both British Airways and Air France taking delivery of seven.
Where Were Concordes Built?
As mentioned earlier, Concorde was a joint British-French project. It was jointly developed and manufactured by Aerospatiale (formerly Sud Aviation) and British Aircraft Corporation.
Because of that, even though only fourteen Concordes were built for customers, they were assembled at two separate facilities.
The seven airframes delivered to Air France were assembled by Aerospatiale in Toulouse. The seven delivered to British Airways were assembled by British Aircraft Corporation in Filton. The six test aircraft were split equally between the two locations as well.
Both the very first Concorde to fly, F-WTSS, as well as the first production aircraft, F-BTSC, were manufactured in France. The last test aircraft, G-BBDG, and the last production aircraft, G-BOAF, were, on the other hand, assembled in the United Kingdom.
What Routes Were Operated by Concorde?
Without a doubt, the two routes that Concorde is best known for are those that used to connect Paris Charles de Gaulle and London Heathrow with New York JFK. However, those are not the routes that Concorde flew on January 21, 1976, when both Air France and British Airways put the type into service.
Also, while only Air France and British Airways were the only two customers of Aerospatiale/BAC, Concordes leased from the two airlines were also briefly operated by Singapore Airlines and Braniff International Airways.
Air France Concorde Routes
Both Air France and British Airways Concordes took off on scheduled flights for the first time on January 21, 1976 at 11:40AM.
The Air France Concorde set its course for Dakar where it made a brief refueling stop before continuing to its final destination, Rio de Janeiro. Routes from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Caracas via Santa Maria airport in the Azores and to Washington Dulles were then launched on April 9 and May 24 of 1976.
All of these remained in “supersonic operation” until 1982 when Air France withdrew its Concordes from all the routes except for a single daily rotation to New York JFK.
The flights from Paris to New York for which the Air France Concorde is the most famous were launched on November 1977. Between March 29, 1981, and November 1, 1982, some of them continued from New York to Mexico City.
Air France flights 1 and 2 between the French capital and New York remained in operation until May 30, 2003, when the airline phased the supersonic jet out of scheduled operations.
British Airways Concorde Routes
While Air France’s Concorde headed west on its first day of operation, British Airways’ one headed east, to Bahrain.
In 1997, it extended those flights all the way to Singapore. However, due to problem with securing rights to overfly Malaysian airspace, those only operated three times. These flights were resumed later in cooperation with Singapore Airlines.
Other destinations that once had supersonic connection with London Heathrow include Miami, Bridgetown, and – of course – New York. It’s worth noting that the Miami flights were operated via Washington Dulles and routed off the coast so that they could be flown at supersonic speed.
As for the flights to New York, they were launched on November 22, 1977 – the same day as Air France’s. British Airways flew Concordes to New York until October 24, 2003. The airline used flight numbers 1 and 2 on the flights to JFK and back. Today, these are used on the airline’s premium route from London City to New York JFK (via Shannon on the outbound flight).
Singapore Airlines & Braniff International Concorde Routes
British Airways restarted its flights from London to Singapore via Bahrain with the help of Singapore Airlines in January 1979. Half of the flights’ crews were provided by Singapore Airlines.
Obviously, British Airways’ aircraft were used on the route. However, there was one Concorde, G-BOAD, that sported Singapore Airlines’ livery on one side before being repainted back into the full British Airways livery.
That aircraft is currently displayed at the Intrepid Museum in New York. It’s also the aircraft that holds the record for the fastest transatlantic passenger flight. On February 7, 1996, it flew from New York to London in just 2 hours, 52 minutes, and 59 seconds.
As for Braniff International, it partnered with both Air France and British Airways to extend their flights to Washington all the way to Dallas. The French and British crews would fly the transatlantic segments before letting Braniff crews take over for the domestic hop.
These flights operated between January 1979 and May 1980 when they were cancelled for operational reasons. Reportedly, the load factors were around 20%.
The Braniff portion of these flights only flew at sub-sonic speeds to avoid sonic booms above inhabited areas. In spite of that, the airline’s fourteen Concorde pilots and flight engineers were trained to fly the aircraft at supersonic speeds as well.
Even though only twenty Concordes were built and only fourteen of those actually carried airline passengers, it is still – together with Boeing 747, the Queen of the Skies – one of the most widely recognized aircraft types among the general public.
Considering that it’s one of the only two supersonic aircraft to ever enter into commercial service – and the only one to do so relatively successfully – that recognition is well-deserved.
While Air France and British Airways were the only two airlines that owned the supersonic jets, they were also briefly operated by Singapore Airlines and Braniff International. And, while Concordes’ flights to New York are the best known, it was not the only – or the first – destination that the aircraft flew to.