Route Proving Flights
G-BOAC in Melbourne, Austrailia.
Picture by Clive Dyball
G-BOAC during the route proving flights
G-BOAC in Gander
Picture by Peter Duffey
As part of the certification process the aviation authorities wanted Concorde to fly 1000 hours in route proving flights before they would award a certificate of airworthiness to the aircraft.
Due to the work that have been carried out during the development programme this figured was lowered to 750 hours, mainly due to the extensive test flying that 02 had done.
The route proving work kicked off in France on 28th May 1975 using the ill fated F-BTSC - aircraft 203. The idea of the route proving was to convince the authorities that the aircraft could be operated by the respective airlines over the routes that they would initially fly as a starting point for future services. Air France crews along with Aerospatiale test pilots flew route proving flights from Paris to Rio (via Dakar), Caracas, Gander and loops via the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The cabin staff on the flighyts were provided by Air France.
The 124 route proving flights on 203 were completed on August 2nd 1975 and covered 367,900 statute miles. The aircraft carried 4,680 passengers and was supersonic for over 258 hours. F-BTSC was then returned to the manufacturer, but was subsequently leased to Air France for a few months when they started commercial services. The aircraft was bought by Air France, for 1 Franc, in 1980.
The British based route proving flights began on July 7th 1975 using Concorde 204 - G-BOAC. The aircraft flew flights that included destinations such as Gander, Beirut, Singapore and Melbourne.
Due to a requirement by the UK's CAA a BAC test pilot was required to be on the flight deck and in command at all times, even through he would be seated in the jumpseat. The original 8 BA Nucleus group captains did all the flying. They were, Brian Calvert, Norman Todd, Pat Allen, Tony Meadows, Peter Duffey, Chris Morley, John Eames and finally Mickey Miles who eventually did not get fly Concorde in commercial service. Also part of the programme were the flight engineers from BA who would fly on the aircraft - They were Lou Bolton, Arthur Winstanley, Terry Quarry, George Floyd, Dave Macdonald, Johnstone, and John Lidiard.
At the time BA cabin staff were in dispute over rates of pay and other arrangements over their services on Concorde, so for the route proving the cabins were staffed by crews from Singapore Airlines, Gulf Airlines and Air India.
After the Completion of the route proving flights on the 13th of September 1975, G-BOAC was returned to BAC for final modifications to take place before the aircraft was officially delivered to British Airways in Feb 1976.
204 flew 130 flights that equated to 380 hours block time, of which more that 208 hours were supersonic. G-BOAC covered 325,000 statute miles and carried around 6,500 passengers.
The main technical issue that route proving flights brought out was a deficiency on the autopilot system when set to Mach hold mode. As the mach number is a function of temperature, the changes experienced in outside air temperature tended to cause the aircraft to follow the mach number in an erratic manner. This caused larger rates of climb and decent along with the speed variations between M1.8 and 2.1.
The problem was eventually solved by the engineers at Aerospatiale, but during the initial commercial flights in 1976 BAC observers had to be present on the cockpit, at the request of the CAA, on all BA flights. The French authorities were not too bothered about the autopilot system error and felt that their flight crew would understand the issue.
|French Flights||British Flights|
Return flight to Dakar from Paris|
15 Return flights from Paris to Rio via Dakar
12 Return flights to Caracas via Lisbon
4 Return flights from Paris to Gander
3 Loops via the North Atlantic
3 Loops via the Mediterranean
Total 124 flights
15 Return flights from London to Gander|
6 Return flighst from London to Beiruit
15 Loops via the North Atlantic
5 Loops in and out of Bahrain
8 Return flights from Bahrain to Bombay
2 Return flights from Bombay to Kuala Lumpor
4 Loops in and out of Singapore
7 Return flights between Singapore and Melbourne
5 Return Flights from Singapore to Bombay
3 Return flights from Kuala Lumpor to Bahrain
2 Return flighst from Singapore to Kuala Lumpor
Total 130 flights