The most exciting piece of Airline hardware enters service at last!
Air France Concorde services from Paris to Rio de Janeiro
British Airways Concorde services from London to Bahrain
Sample fare one-way on Concorde during January 1976
London to Bahrain – £356
By early 1976, most things were in place to allow Concorde to enter commercial service. British Airways and Air France had opened Concorde reservations the previous October, the aircraft had now been certificated, the airlines operational infrastructure was largely in place and despite the strong anti Concorde sentiment being expressed by some, most were fascinated with Concorde. Concorde fares were established with the agreement of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at the first class rate of a given route plus 20%.
One major stumbling block which inhibited early service operations was the ban on Concorde using US airports. Service across the Atlantic was to be Concorde’s jewel in the crown, the route for which the aircraft had primarily been designed. This route was not only important from a economic aspect, being UK/Europe/USA, most of the route was over water which removed the concerns over the sonic boom noise.
Without the approval to fly this route, Concorde was a dead duck. The resistance from the US to allow Concorde to use their airports may in some part been due to the cancellation of their own STT project. But it was presented on the grounds of noise and air pollution. Considerable effort was put into winning to right to fly there, a battle that was eventually won.
But at the beginning both British Airways and Air France needed to find alternative routes for Concorde’s inaugural services. Air France decided on Paris to Rio de Janeiro via Dakar. This route had a lower traffic density than services to New York, but it proved to be sufficiently busy in the early days to justify it.
British Airways opened Concorde operations with the less satisfactory London to Bahrain service. This was a difficult segment for Concorde as it involved a subsonic leg over Europe, a curved tack over the eastern Mediterranean and the need for absolutely precise navigation through the narrow corridor over the unstable Middle East. But despite this, Concorde still managed to complete the flight in four hours compared to a subsonic aircraft which took 6.5 hours to complete the route.
Air France launched its first supersonic flights to Rio de Janeiro (GIG), via Dakar (DKR) there were two weekly flights with the flight number AF025. British Airways started their supersonic services with a return flight to Bahrain with the flight number BA300. The plan at British Airways was that Bahrain service would eventually, they hoped, become part of a route that would take Concorde to Singapore and then onto Australia.
The date and time were set, at Paris-CDG airport and at London-Heathrow airport on 21st January 1976 at 11:40am, Air France Concorde F-BVFA and British Airway Concorde G-BOAA took off simultaneously to the seconds, in a set piece move filmed live on TV, that inaugurating the era of commercial supersonic travel. The passengers on these first flights included the good and greats of both Governments and the aviation industry
The list included onboard British Airways Concorde G-BOAA:
- HRH The Duke of Kent
- Peter Shore, UK Secretary of State for Trade
- Sir George Edwards BAC
- The list included onboard Air France Concorde F-BVFA:
- Monsieur Marcel Cavelle
- Pierre Giraudet
- Jacques Mitterrand
- The Duchess of Argyll
- Lord Boyd-Carpenter
- Sir Keith Granville
- Sir Max Aitken
- Rosa Stainton
- Group Captain Leonard Cheshire
- Group Captain Brian Trubshaw
The Cabin Crew of the British Airways flight to Bahrain were-
- Sue Graham
- Francine Carville
- David Bracley
- Ken Taylor
- John Hitchcock
- Jack Hawkins
- John Lyth – Positioned to Bahrain and operated the return flight to London in place of Jack Hawkins.
British Airways Concorde G-BOAA was crewed by Captain Norman Todd (who commanded the outward leg), Captain Brian Calvert (who would command the inbound leg), along with flight engineer Lidiard. There were some technical issues with the certification of the aircraft, due to this fact a BAC observer was on the cockpit for the first seven flights. For this first flight it was Brian Turbshaw, The chief UK test pilot at BAC.
The Air France aircraft took a route to the western edge of Africa for a technical stop at Dakar and landed at 14:24. While the aircraft was on the ground a Dakar, the British Airways flight BA300 arrived on time at Bahrain at 15:20.
Air France flight AF025 took off from Dakar at 15:45 for its final leg of the flight to Rio De Janeiro and arrived at its destination shortly after 19:00.
The inaugural flights went entirely according to plan and congratulatory messages were passed between the Queen of England and the French President, the Queen wrote:
On the occasion of today’s inaugural flight by Concorde aircraft of Air France and British Airways, I send you and the French people my warmest congratulations. Today’s flights mark the successful outcome of 14 years of close collaboration between our two nations. It is a source of pride that our countries have today inaugurated a new era in civil aviation.
Air France brought to a close there range of Concorde services that had served South America in 1982, and British Airways ended their Bahrain services in November 1980.
London to Washington
Sample fare one-way on Concorde during March 1976
London to Washington – £352
Paris to Washington
On the 4th February 1976, the combined and exhaustive efforts of the UK / French governments, British Airways, Air France and Concorde’s constructors to obtain landing rights into the USA for Concorde were rewarded by the US Secretary of Transportation, William T. Coleman, who approved British Airways and Air France to operate two services per day to New York and one service per day to Washington for a trial of sixteen months. However, the matter did not end there, Washington-Dulles airport is operated by the FAA which is linked to the Department of Transport. New York’s JFK airport is owned by the Port Authority, and they refused landing rights despite the Transportation Secretary’s ruling.
Operations to Washington-Dulles airport began on 24th May 1976 with departure times adjusted so that both aircraft landed within one minute of each other at Dulles. The two aircraft were ceremoniously taxied around the airport. Then they were parked nose to nose for a photo-shoot, they raised their noises and visors in a synchronised salute.
A special descent procedure was developed in order to comply with height restrictions, with certain danger areas and to meet the Mach=1.0 point. This procedure consisted of initial descent to 52,000ft followed by descent to 43,000ft at a constant M=1.3 with a preset altitude of 39,000ft at M=0.95. London to Washington
The London to Washington service by BA was to last until October 1994, it had been possible to continue on to Miami from Washington by Concorde, but that ended in 1991. Air France ended their Paris to Washington Concorde services in 1982.
Paris to New York
London to New York
Sample fare one-way on Concorde during November 1977
London to New York – £431
A massive book was produced covering all known noise data noise assessments, which showed that normal take-off flights from Runway 31 Left or 22 Right would be made at approximately 14 tonnes below maximum, producing a noise pattern similar to that of the Boeing 707-320 B, which met New York’s JFK noise criteria.
Banning flights in and out of New York’s JFK was immediately challenged by the airlines who filed a law suit questioning the Authority’s right to do this. PNYA responded to this with a requirement to conduct a six-month study of Concorde noise at Washington, London and Paris. Bearing in mind that there were actual results from trials carried out at Casablanca, which had been in their hands for months, there was a real political game being played out here.
There were other legal issues that added further extensions to the status quo until in 1977 when Judge Milton Pollack of the Federal District Court ruled that the ban was illegal and should be lifted on the grounds that the delay in PANY setting noise standards for Concorde was “… discriminatory, arbitrary and unreasonable”. PAYA then appealed immediately to the Supreme Court, which upheld the decision of the Federal District Court and dismissed the appeal
Regular services were preceded by a proving flight by the first production aircraft 201 on the 19th October 1977. A joint crew from British Aerospace and Aerospatiale operated the flight which was very much a test as the aircraft was subject to intense noise monitoring and measuring. By using a carefully planned noise abatement procedure on take-off, the Concorde was able to keep its perceived noise down to a level which satisfied all but the most ardent of the many protesters there present.
Regular service began to New York on 22nd November 1977 and both British Airways and Air France maintained services continuously until 2003.
London to Singapore
The jointly operated British Airways & Singapore Airlines service 1977 – 1980
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Washington DC –Mexico City
New York – Mexico City
Air France Concorde services from the US to Mexico 1978 – 1982
During the Mexican oil boom, Air France flew Concorde twice weekly to Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport via Washington, DC, or New York City, from September 1978 to November 1982. The worldwide economic crisis during that period resulted in this route’s cancellation; the last flights were almost empty. The routing between Washington or New York and Mexico City included a deceleration, from Mach 2.02 to Mach 0.95, to cross Florida subsonically and avoid creating a sonic boom over the state; Concorde then re-accelerated back to high speed while crossing the Gulf of Mexico.
Dallas to Washington
Braniff Concorde services using British Airways & Air France Concordes 1979 – 1980
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