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Looking Back: The Concorde

When I first started flying to France in the 1990s, friends and family would joke about whether or not I was going to take the Concorde. I was tempted, but the ticket price (about 5 times as much as a regular flight – $10,000 for a round-trip ticket from New York to Paris) didn’t exactly fit into my college student budget. Here’s a look back on an interesting period in international aviation history, the Concorde era.

The Concorde, a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger plane, was developed by the French company Aéropastiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) as the result of a treaty between the two countries. The plane’s name reflects this collaboration: “concorde” in French means the same as “concord” in English – agreement, harmony or union.

The Concorde’s first test flight took place out of Toulouse (France) in 1969, and it officially entered service as a commercial aircraft in 1976. The Concorde flew regularly between London Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle airports to New York’s JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados (among other locations).

One of the great advantages of taking the Concorde was that the flight time was less than half of what it was in a normal plane (hence the astronomical ticket price). Only 20 Concordes were produced (and only 14 ever operated as commercial planes), each with seating for between 92-128 passengers. According to passenger accounts, the service was first-class, but some complained about the small seats and cramped quarters.

Ticket sales declined after one of the Concorde planes crashed outside of Paris in 2000. It was the only fatal Concorde accident in the 27 years this type of aircraft was in flight. This tragic event, along with the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and a general decline in international air travel, resulted in the Concorde’s official retirement in 2003.

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