Sleeping Beauty

A last, longing look at the Concorde.

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Photographs from Concorde reprinted with permission from Zenith Press.

Who doesn’t miss the Concorde? The loveliest airliner ever built retired in 2003, after 25 years of passenger service, and the airports it frequented haven’t been the same. Few of us got the chance to fly on the supersonic jet, but simply seeing it was a memorable experience.

Europe, the United States, and Barbados. If you can’t make it to one of them, we’d advise taking a look at the recently published Concorde (Zenith Press, 2006), a book for those who never tire of admiring the airliner’s magnificent lines.

With text by French journalist and pilot Frédéric Beniada and 120 images selected by photo editor Michel Fraile, Concorde provides a history of the supersonic transport’s career, starting with its joint development in the 1960s by Sud Aviation in France and British Aircraft Corporation in the United Kingdom. A design compromise only made the transport more exquisite. Engineers had considered giving the aircraft a delta wing. The triangular shape is excellent for generating lift and reducing drag at supersonic speeds, but when the airliner takes off, climbs out, maintains a holding pattern, or lands, it flies at subsonic speeds, and at those, the delta wing’s lift is insufficient. By gently curving the lines into an ogival shape, like a bullet’s nose, engineers gave the Concorde sufficient low-speed lift—and the appearance of a great white bird.

Flying at Mach 2.2, the Concorde could cross the Atlantic in under four hours. Compare that with the doleful seven to eight hours that a conventional jet requires and it’s easy to understand why the Concorde will always be the airliner of our dreams.

Click here to find out where to see a Concorde on display in the United States.

Photographs from Concorde reprinted with permission from Zenith Press.
On November 12, 1970, just after the death of former French president Charles de Gaulle, test pilot Andr$eacute; Turcat flew over Toulouse as an homage to the long-time Concorde advocate.
Wind tunnel tests of Concorde models aided designers in creating a wing that could generate lift at every point in the airliner's flight profile.
Once-a-year power washes kept the Concorde fleet looking sharp.
Aeronautical sculpture: To connect the Concorde's wing to the fuselage, engineers working on the first production model devised a spectacular framework.
Under the watchful eye of a Gloster Meteor chase airplane, the first French-built prototype, F-WTSS, deploys a drag chute during a test of the aircraft's brakes at the Sud Aviation factory in Toulouse, France.
Requiring 18 hours of maintenance for every hour in the air, Concordes spent most of their lives in hangars. Of particular concern were the lubricant distribution systems of the massive Olympus engines.