STORY ARCHIVE June - Dec 2002

Concorde suffers 5th rudder failure - 4/12/02

Concorde has suffered another failure of the lower rudder's bonded wedge section. The aircraft flying the BA001 on Wednesday 27th November arrived into New York's JFK airport minus a small part of the lower wedge. The safety of the aircraft and its 96 passengers was never in any doubt as it can be handled with no adverse effects with only a single (upper or lower) rudder section.

Chief Concorde pilot Mike Bannister says the crew believe that separation of a small part occurred during acceleration through Mach 1.8 on the November 27th departure from London when they heard a 'slight pop', but since there were no indications of malfunction they carried on to New York.

A BA spokeswoman said: "A small part of one of the lower rudders became detached during the flight. The aircraft flew safely throughout the flight and landed safely."

"The missing part did not affect the safety of the aircraft. At no stage during the flight were the passengers or aircraft in any danger."

Concorde is one of the few aircraft in service that have dual rudder sections. The rudder failures that have been experienced in the past have not affected the handling of the aircraft as its excellent design and handling characteristics allow it to easily fly with only one serviceable rudder section.

A former Concorde pilot today insisted the aircraft could fly "very successfully" with just one rudder surface. Jock Lowe, who has 25 years' experience of flying Concordes, said rudders were usually not needed at all in normal circumstances. He told BBC News: "It only comes into use for steering during take-off and if there is an engine failure or if there is a cross-wind, so for most flights it is not needed at all."

The rudder of a Concorde, he said, was split into two large surfaces. They were made of a "honeycomb material" glued between a sheet metal skin.

He added: "The aeroplane can fly very successfully with just one rudder surface. They are only needed if you have a simultaneous double engine failure at 60,000ft and that's pretty unlikely."

Although the rudder involved in last Wednesday's incident was "quite new", there was always the possibility of some faults, he said. In terms of aerodynamics and flying the aircraft, however, it was a "non-event".

In the late 80s and early 90s Concorde suffered several failures of the upper rudder sections, most notably on G-BOAF as she arrived into Sydney on a round the world tour in 1989. These failures lead to a new redesigned set of rudder panels, that were manufactured at a cost of several million pounds and fitted to all the aircraft in the British Airways and Air France fleets.

Shortly after these new upper and lower sections had been fitted, G-BOAC suffered the first failure of an lower section in October 1998. It was suggested at the time, but could not be proved due to the missing part not being recovered, that the new rudder design's manufacturing process, which had had additional strengthening features built in, could have been to blame. Additional riveting was used to strengthen the section but this riveting could place additional stresses on the bonding that could in turn possibly fail in flight. The Air Accident Investigation Board instigated additional checks following this incident.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight International magazine said: "The rudders are made at Toulouse and now everyone will have to look at ways of strengthening them."

He went on: "Concorde is an enormously high-profile plane, so anything that happens to it is big news. But really, all that happened in this latest incident was that a bit of the bottom quarter of the rudder was lost."

"Operationally, the loss had no effect on the plane. Although BA will want to get the rudder situation sorted out, the rudder design for Concorde can cope with problems of this kind and the aircraft is completely controllable during such incidents."

The AAIB are investigating the incident, and have published a short report on what the circumstances surrounding the event were :

The airplane was climbing through 45,500 feet, at 50 degrees, 78 minutes north latitude, 15 degrees, 38 minutes west longitude, heading 271 degrees magnetic, and accelerating through Mach 1.8 with auto throttle and auto pilot engaged, when the crew heard what they thought was an engine-related "pop surge". The crew activated the flight recorder event marker, and the flight continued to New York.
The remainder of the flight was uneventful, except for a continuous light vibration while decelerating from Mach 1.4 to Mach 0.89. After landing, a post-flight examination revealed that a section of the lower rudder was missing.

The adverse effect on Concorde services is that until a new rudder section can be supplied to replace the damaged one, British Airways have decided to re-time their daily BA002 New York to London flight from a 8:30 departure to a 12:30 departure from New York. This will allow the aircraft that flies the outbound BA001 service to be turned around in New York and fly the return leg, therefore allowing the airline to operate the daily services with only one aircraft. The benefit of this is that the airline can continue to offer passengers the guarantee of a standby aircraft for the BA001 service, should it be required.

With BA posting multi-million pound profits recently and Concorde being a big contributor to the top line; many analysts will question the delay in bringing Concorde Alpha-Bravo back on line. The 6th Concorde in the fleet would allow British Airways to offer a far more robust service level, and carry out additional services where there is most definitely is passenger demand.

One positive note: services have restarted for the 'summer' season to Barbados. These services presently replace the Saturday New York flights, and are very popular, regularly running at full capacity. The services run from now until April, departing Heathrow at 9:30 and returning at around 20:00 every Saturday

The top picture shows Concorde G-BOAE in New York after the failure, while the lower picture shows G-BOAF when it suffered the first ever rudder failure in 1989

25 years since start of New York services - 22/11/02

On November 22nd, British Airways and Air France celebrated the 25th anniversary of the start of services to New York by Concorde. After nearly 18 month of negotiations by BA and Air France they were finally allowed landing rights at New York's prime airport - JFK - by the Port Authority of New York, the airport's operators.

One of Concorde's planned main roles during the build-up to its entry into service was to serve on the popular North Atlantic route, where it could cut flight times near enough in half - from between 7 and 8 hours to only 3 and a half hours - allowing passengers to arrive "before leaving", with a little help from the world time zones.

The door to the US had been opened up, after much legal wrangling, in mid-1976. This allowed the airlines to operate services to the US capital of Washington DC, and from there on to destinations such as Miami and, for a short time, Dallas.

The main concern of the New York locals was allegedly the amount of noise generated by Concorde when flying in and out of JFK. The manufacturers had over time been writing what was known as the "grey book" which detailed aircraft operations where there were local noise and other concerns. In 1976 they began to use their knowledge to apply this to New York. The analysis of all the available data showed that Concorde could easily operate from a selection of the main runways at New York (31L and 22R) with a noise level no greater than that from the current Boeing 707 jets.

The legal battle did not end there and it was not until October 1977 that the US supreme court, their highest, ruled in Concorde's favour. Two days after the judgement, on October the 19th, Concorde finally landed in New York. Concorde 201 - F-WTSB - flew from Toulouse to New York on a proving flight, that ended with a landing on runway 4L at JFK. The following day the aircraft lined up and departed from runway 31L.

For both the landing and take-off special noise monitors had been set up. These would register noise over 105 PNdB, with the airport limit being 112. On the day they did not even register for Concorde. In the words of one journalist from the assembled media it was "a Non-Event". Finally Concorde was cleared for New York!

Services were set to commence on 22nd November with BA and AF operating simultaneous flights. Captain Pierre Dudal commanded Air France Concorde F-BVFC and Brian Walpole was in the left-hand seat of G-BOAA. The aircraft flew across the Atlantic in tandem, one slightly ahead of the other. After landing they posed briefly together and saluted each other with their droop noses, before heading off to their respective terminals.

The battle, which had taken over 2 years to win, was over in 3 hrs 23 mins - the time it took for Speedbird Concorde 171 to fly from New York to London. The following year BA increased the daily flights from a single return to a twice daily return. As well as operating the daily New York flights British Airways still operated a daily scheduled flight on most days to Washington. BA operated all these services with a fleet of only 5 aircraft. Today with the same fleet they can only operate a once daily flight to New York.

The services to New York have proved very popular and have run at very high load levels. Apart from the time during the grounding the services have operated continuously since November 1977 and have built up a customer base that included people from the world of business, showbiz and even just people taking the trip of a lifetime.

Successful Re-launch Year for Concorde - 7/11/02

Concorde has just celebrated 12 months back in service, which have seen it re-enforce itself as the indisputable way to travel between London or Paris and New York, as well as the unmistakable flagship of the airlines.

Since services restarted on Nov 7th 2001 Concorde has proved more popular than ever before, with British Airways and Air France both seeing good load factors that are comparable with those before the aircraft was grounded.

BA have successfully operated the BA001 and BA002 services 7 days a week over the past year as well as many Saturday-only flights to the Caribbean destination of Barbados. After initially running the daily New York flights using one aircraft a day, British Airways re-timed the service to the more popular 17:25 UK arrival time, by over-nighting an aircraft in New York.

In the summer Concorde returned to its flagship role and flew in formation with the RAF Red Arrows over London to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee

Air France continue to run a 5 day a week return service to New York and have also re-introduced occasional charter flights, such as a 1 hour 40 minute champagne trip out of CDG, in association with Air Loisirs Services. These special flights are marketed in the UK by Goodwood Travel, who regularly account for a large proportion of the passengers on board.

The airlines have 9 serviceable aircraft between them that have been modified and are in regular use. Air France will return their 5th remaining aircraft to service in the late summer of 2003 after it has completed its 'D' check and modification programme. BA, with their current operational fleet of 5 aircraft, are expected to modify their 6th aircraft next year, but their very first Concorde (G-BOAA) is unlikely to be return to flight status. Due to the age of the Concorde design, many part are now obsolete or take a great deal of time to manufacture. The airline has therefore been forced to use parts from Alpha-Alpha to service the current operational aircraft.

Concorde has enjoyed a good reliability record over the past year that is comparable with any other aircraft. Problems have occurred, such as the recent, well publicised, in-flight engine shutdowns. These were unfortunate events that can routinely affect any aircraft, but with the symbolism of Concorde always get blown up by the media into life-or-death situations....which they are most definitely not - at most just an inconvenience to passengers who will no doubt be very well compensated for their trouble.

British Airways fitted a new interior to their aircraft, which has been very well received by both the regular passengers and the one-off passengers traveling on Concorde for the first time. Several of the features of this upgrade still have yet to be implemented such as new toilets and lighting, but it is expected that these will be fitted over the coming years during Concorde's regular in-service checks.

Although officially Air France have no plans to upgrade their interiors many feel that it will just be a matter of time before an upgrade is carried out. Due to the weight of their interior fittings along with the tank liner modification they are only capable of flying with a load of 92 passengers, while BA can and regularly do carry a full load of 100 passengers.

The future for Concorde over the next few years is very secure - passenger loads are very healthy and the airframes are still very young in aircraft terms; they look set to serve the airlines for a good few years yet without any modification or strengthening.

Many regular passengers are keen for British Airways to re-introduce the popular evening services (BA003/4). To ease their concerns BA have plans to move the already popular BA001 service to an evening departure time in the 2003 summer schedule. However this move could possibly backfire, as many regular passengers use the BA001's 9am arrival time in the US to allow them to spend a full business day in New York. Should demand require it, Air France have said they would re-instate the AF001/2 services on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

The Concorde charter market has not yet been fully re-instated, but efforts are underway by the specialist travel companies to put a programme of flights in place to the most popular destinations as soon as the airlines have the required capacity.

The airlines are said to have decided when to retire Concorde from use, but are not saying....just yet. Air France went on record before the accident stating that Concorde would retire from their fleet in 2007, but with 14 months on the ground this would no doubt allow Concorde to keep flying beyond the planned 2007 date.

Record-breaking Concorde captain retires - 2/11/02

After 34 years with British Airways, Captain Leslie Scott has retired from the Concorde fleet. In 1996 he captained the fastest ever transatlantic crossing in a passenger aircraft.

Captain Scott, who has flown many aircraft in his time at BA said "I've had a wonderful career and thoroughly enjoyed working on Concorde. What I'll miss most is the camaraderie and enthusiasm of all the people associated with the aeroplane."

Les - who joined the BA Concorde division in 1994 - was treated to a spectacular send off in New York with the JFK airport fire services providing the aircraft with a red, white and blue water cannon salute to send him off.

"I had absolutely no idea what they were going to do - at most I expected a small cake. It was a very emotional moment for me. I was lost for words."

The special send off was organised by BA's Director of ramp services in New York, Terry Hennessey, who used coloured dyes that were previously used when former Mayor Rudy Giuliani flew on Concorde to collect his honorary knighthood from the Queen.

The record breaking trip that Capt Scott commanded took place on the 7th of February 1996 in Concorde G-BOAD, flying the evening BA004 service. The flight from New York to Heathrow took only 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds - breaking the previous record by over a minute.

The aircraft, with Senior First Officer Tim Orchard and Senior Engineering Officer Rick Eades took off from JFK at 1:51 EST and touched down on runway 09R at London Heathrow, 40 minutes ahead of schedule, at 9:44pm. The record is unlikely to ever be beaten as Concorde now decelerates slightly sooner from Mach 2 on approach to the UK.

On a similar personal note: Denise Korsaks who is a 48-year-old Concorde cabin crew member, recently had good cause to celebrate thanks to Concorde. Denise flew to New York on Friday 6th September as a member of the cabin team on the BA001. As the crew flew back on the BA002 the following day, she went to the cinema to see the new Mel Gibson film "Signs".

The film broke down after about 20 minutes and she left the cinema with two other stewardesses. They walked out onto the street and Denise saw this man who she thought was her dad who she had not seen or heard from for about 28 years. They followed him and it was her dad - who at the age of 71 was still working for the diplomatic service and was in New York for all the Ground Zero ceremonies. Denise who flies to New York three times in a week is now spending time with her dad.

Info from BA News and Concorde - "The Inside Story"


Concorde continues to serve well

Air France and British Airways have completed their first set of scheduled heavy maintenance checks on certain individual aircraft in their Concorde fleets since returning the aircraft to service in 2001.

Air France have completed a four month long 'C' check on their lead aircraft, F-BVFA, as it neared the 18,000 hour life mark. A QuickTime clip of F-BVFA's test flight is available on the video page of British Airways have completed a three month long, 1,200 hour, intermediate check on Alpha Golf. The aircraft returned to service, flying a busy BA001, from Heathrow to New York on Sunday October 20th. The picture shows the aircraft arriving back into Heathrow as BA002 the following day.

Due to the specific nature of Concorde, like a high performance motor car, the maintenance side is a far more in-depth operation that is designed not just to give the aircraft the once-over, but check out all its major systems and structure for any sign of impending problems that can be corrected before they become issues that could affect the aircraft.

Air France are progressing well on the 18 month long 'D' check and tank liner mod on F-BVFF, while it is understood British Airways will begin work on returning G-BOAB to service later next year.

From November 30th, British Airways will recommence its highly popular service to Barbados. The service, which runs with the aircraft at near a full capacity of 80 passengers (the maximum on the route), operates every Saturday with a 9:30 departure from Heathrow. The inbound flight arrives back at around 21:00. During this time BA will not run the daily New York JFK services so it can continue to ensure a backup aircraft is available at Heathrow.

Next years summer timetable, that starts on March 30th, has been published on BA's website; this sees British Airways move the flagship BA001 service to a 18:30 evening departure from Heathrow with an arrival into New York at 17:00. The BA002 service remains unchanged. The timetable does not feature any start dates for the 2nd daily return flight to New York - the BA003/4. Since returning the aircraft to service British Airways have had very good loads on the aircraft, that are believed to be in the region of 70%. This is comparable with those from before the aircraft was grounded for 16 months

After the recent retirement of several prominent Air France Concorde crew including Edgard Chillaud (head of Air France Concorde division) and Captain Christian Voog, Air France undertook a series of training sorties at Vatry Airport 100 miles east of Paris.

The 4 day long exercise featured a series of manoeuvres including simulated departures from CDG and New York, along with emergency procedures such as go-arounds. A night session of circuits was also completed. The flights were split between Concordes F-BTSD for the first few days and F-BVFC for the remainder. Air France also used the opportunity to brief engineering staff that are usually based in New York about the aircraft.


Concorde completes scheduled flights as planned on 9/11

Both British Airways and Air France's scheduled Concorde services flew to and from New York on September 11th 2002. British Airways delayed their outbound and inbound departures to ensure that they would not interrupt the commemoration services going on in and around New York. As Air France services depart and arrive around an hour earlier, their service times did not require to be changed.

On September 11th last year British Airways were just completing their first operational assessment flight with Concorde G-BOAF since the certificate of airworthiness had been returned. When the aircraft landed back at Heathrow, after a 3 hour flight round the Bay of Biscay, the crew and BA staff on board as passengers were told the news of the terrible events in New York and Washington.

The events of September 11th 2001 in New York, Concorde's main destination and marketplace, pushed back the start of Concorde service utill November 7th 2001. This allowed the airlines more time to modify and thoroughly test their fleets along with tuning their service levels before the return to service programme was completed.


British Airways offer free Concorde upgrades for Club World passengers

Business travellers' dreams will come true as they will receive a free upgrade to First on one sector of their journey when they book their next British Airways long haul business class ticket.

For passengers flying in the airline's Club World (business class) cabin to New York JFK, British Airways is offering a free upgrade to Concorde on one leg of that journey.

The offer, which is launched on Monday 1st September, in conjunction with Visa, is available to passengers who book a fully flexible Club World return ticket from 2 September to 31 December 2002 inclusive for travel during the same period. It is valid on the majority of routes on the British Airways long haul network.

The upgrade is confirmed at the time of booking and the passenger can choose which sector of their journey they would like to upgrade, subject to availability.

Dale Moss, British Airways Director of Sales said: "We are very aware how tight travel budgets are at the moment and are delighted to link up with Visa to give our Club World customers the opportunity to sample an upgrade to First and Concorde for free."

The upgrades are subject to availability at the time of booking and are only valid with a fully flexible British Airways only Club World return ticket. The offer is not valid on the interlineable Club World fare nor are they available to book online.


Duxford celebrates 25th anniversary of the arrival of Concorde G-AXDN

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the retirement and arrival of Concorde 101 at Duxford on August 20th 1977, the custodians of the aircraft, the Duxford Aviation Society, organised a special anniversary reunion where people who had been involved in the aircraft over its life span both as a development aircraft and as a museum piece could come together.

Test pilot John Cochrane, who flew the first British Concorde flight with the late Brian Trubshaw, was present along with fellow test pilots Eddie McNamara and Peter Baker. They were joined by many flight and test engineers that worked on the projects along with the people who are still part of the Concorde programme today from British Airways and Airbus UK. Representatives from the Duxford Aviation Society who have looked after the aircraft, with great care, over the past 25 years were also present.

Concorde G-AXDN first flew in December 1971 and helped develop the complex and ground-breaking digital computer systems that control the engine air intakes at supersonic speeds. In 1977 the aircraft was ferried by Trubshaw and Cochrane to Duxford. A few days after she arrived the runway was shortened to make way for the new M11 motorway. The shortened runway would have made a landing impossible, so the contractors had waited till the aircraft had arrived before starting work.

In March 1978 the aircraft was put on public display and over 2 million people have passed through her since. Plans for the re-development of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford ensure that the star attraction is given pride of place in the new "Air Space" hanger.

Original British Aircraft Corportation Concorde test pilots Eddie McNamara and John Cochrane in 101's cockpit at Duxford on the 25th anniversary of her final flight

For more details on Concorde 101 see G-AXDN's page in the fleet section


Travolta visits Concorde during stop-off on Goodwill tour

Self-proclaimed aviation buff and qualified airline pilot John Travolta recently visited Heathrow in his special role of Qantas' Ambassador. Travolta had flown in on his own Boeing 707, Jet Clipper Ella, and held a Media Conference promoting air travel on the ramp outside BA's main Concorde hangar.

Travolta, who is qualified on 8 types of aircraft specifically asked for a tour around a BA Concorde, one type he is not rated on....yet! During a 20 minute look-around with Bob Hawkins, BA's Communications Co-ordinator for Engineering, he was shown the flight deck of BA's Flagship of Flagships - Concode Alpha-Charlie( G-BOAC). John said that " He would really like to fly Concorde. That would be a lot of fun".

The film star became involved in his goodwill role after meeting Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon while promoting his film Swordfish in Australia, where he asked if he could work with them promoting air travel around the world.

"After September 11th 2001 we decided the tour needed a wider purpose because airlines were used as such a destructive tool on that day," says Travolta. "That's when we decided I would fly the world extending the hand of friendship to all airlines. "

Picture - Bob Hawkins/BA