Concorde’s Genesis: 47 Years On

It captured the eyes, hearts, pride, and imaginations of the world’s people. Through time, the dream has not faded. It simply stands still. Though it stands rock solid to the ground, it brings hope and inspiration. The dream will never let us boom past the sound barrier again. It will never let us view the curves of our planet, or the indigo skies beyond our consciences. We can never again, break open a bottle of champagne in a toast to Mach 2. However, it could guide us to touch the face of God once more. If only we’d let it. Our minds will never be free from the ever growing need to dream bigger and better. The dream that captured the universe, that loves us so.

On this day 47 years ago, Concorde took to the skies for the very first time. A day in history that will never be repeated, nor replicated. The world’s first supersonic airliner would leave the ground and prove what was once thought to be impossible. 27 minutes that would carry the big white swan into the future. 27 minutes that would lead Concorde to 27 years of service. She left service, leaving behind a legacy.

French Concorde prototype “zero-zero-un,” plastered in a red, white, and blue scheme taxied her way down the Toulouse runway. The rocket-shaped swan, the technological marvel, the essence of European innovation. One of the finest representations of the 20th century. Concorde confidently flaunted herself as she casually strolled to the end of the runway, to prepare for her maiden voyage; a voyage that would never be forgotten by the many engineers that put so much of their livelihoods into her.

Two previous attempts to fly had been aborted due to nasty weather, but soon the issue was surmounted in the most elegant way possible. The Mirage chase-plane buzzed off above the clouds; to discover the promising sight of the friendly sun, and it’s welcoming shimmer of warmth and gratitude for the future. Concorde was going to fly on this very day, March 2, 1969. Late André Turcat was at the controls of the ambitious bird. It was 3:30pm (15:30) in Toulouse. The aeroplane began to accelerate as a trail of thick, black smoke collected behind her. Soon enough, the aircraft approached V1 speed. The Olympus 593 engines roared as tension began to build. Excitement rang out in the air, only to be mixed with the sound of the screaming engines. “She flies, she flies!” Shouted British commentator Raymond Baxter in a flurry of joy. The nose lifted. The aeroplane was off the ground. And surely, she did fly. For 27 minutes, traveling at 300 mph and 10,000ft above the ground, Concorde flew without even raising her nose or gears.

The swan glided with grace and ease over Toulouse, accompanied by her Mirage companion above the clouds. The sun was finally shining on the Anglo-French engineering marvel. Soon enough, the weather was turning nasty again and the big bird had to return to Toulouse. The big white swan touched the runway with her nose gear; much like she had touched the hearts of the public. Thrust-reversers engaged, the braking parachute blossomed behind her as she came to a slow. Concorde halted, and the crowd erupted in a much-deserved applause of pride. Revered André Turcat emerged from the aeroplane, and the crescendo of applause embraced the brave crew. “Finally, the big bird flies, and I can say now that it flies pretty well” Turcat exclaimed.

This was the beginning of a new chapter in aviation history— things were just getting started. “Zero-zero-un” flew beautifully, without faltering once. Concorde would soon capture the imaginations of many more for years down the line. It would be a mere fallacy for an aviation lover to be unable to apprehend the significance of a giant leap in humankind. With every pull of the throttle, Concorde would fly further into the future. Her elegance and luxury, being an epic meditation of intangible human advancement.