Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first UK test flight of the now-defunct Concorde, the legendary super-sonic passenger jet that whisked millionaires and models across the Atlantic for decades until it was taken out of service in 2003.
On April 9, 1969 the jet flew for 22 minutes over the English Channel, five weeks after a similar test flight near Toulouse, France.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil, England will host a small anniversary commemoration today that will include some former Concorde staff.The Concorde was joint British-French project that started making commercial flights in 1976. 20 planes were made, but only 14 were used to transport passengers on mainly transatlantic routes between Paris, London, and New York. Seven of the planes were operated by British Airways, and seven by Air France.
In its heyday, Concorde flew several flights a day in planes that could accommodate around 100 passengers each. The top speed of the plane was a sound-barrier-breaking Mach 2, though noise regulations in many countries prevented it from flying that fast over some regions.
London-to-New York flights, which used to take six or seven hours on conventional jets, took only three and half hours on Concorde. This flight had a perfect safety record until July 15, 2000, when a crash near Charles de Gaulle airport in France killed 109 people on the plane and four on the ground.
Click here to view a clip from “Black Box Mystery: The Crash of the Concorde,” Peter’s recent Dateline NBC special which delves into the cause of the crash and the resulting criminal lawsuits that are still pending in French courts.
Most of the Concorde fleet has been sent to aircraft museums around the world, but on Wednesday a consortium from Dubai announced that is bidding to buy one of the jets that is currently gathering dust at Heathrow airport.Dubai seems to have a fondness for British icons: The Emirate is already home to the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II, which is being turned into a floating hotel.
The plan to buy the jet has angered some in the UK, who feel that British Airways reneged on previous promises to put the plane on public display at Heathrow airport.
They are also aghast that the plan’s wings would have to be partially dismantled to allow the jet to fit on a cargo ship in order to be transported to Dubai.
The consortium defended its plan, saying that it would spend millions of dollars restoring the plane’s interior in order to turn it into a tourist attraction near the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s famous archipelago of man-made islands.
By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com.
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