Concorde has just celebrated 12 months back in service, where has seen it re-enforce itself as 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 ands 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 flight 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 charters flights, a 1 hour 40 minute champagne trip in and 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 6 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 therfore 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 effect 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 and 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 this 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 capably 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; which 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, (BA003/4) services. To ease their concerns BA have plans to move the already popular BA001 service to an evening departure time in the 2003 summer schedule. This move although could possibility 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 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 the 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.
Back to Barbados - 3/8/02
For the holiday season in the UK, British Airways have started operating their Saturday only Concorde return flights to Bridgetown, Barbados. They fly for an extended period during December-April, but are also very popular on Saturdays during August.
The BA273 Departs from Heathrow Terminal 4 at 9:30am and arrives back shortly after 9pm as the BA272. Up to 80 Passengers can be carried on the service, which is always very popular. The loads is limited to 80 passengers as the aircraft carries more baggage than on the normal New York business route and it also is at the top end of the aircrafts range.
On Saturday August 3rd, there were 2 Concorde departures from Heathrow: The BA273 to Barbados and also a positioning flight to New York. The positioning flight will enable BA to re-time the BA002 service back to a 17:25 London arrival, which increase loads and is more popular with the majority of the passengers.
The flight had been moved back to a 21:15 arrival to allow one aircraft a day to carry out the BA001/2 service over the past 2 months, while scheduled maintenance checks were carried out on the fleet. With 5 aircraft now modified and the maintenance work complete, BA can are in a position to re-time their flagship services.
2 years after the accident in Paris, that lead to Concorde being grounded for over a year, the main reference books on the Concorde Story have all now been re-published to bring their content fully up to date.
The Concorde Story has remained the most complete record of the history of Concorde in print since it was first published in 1986. Starting with Concorde's earliest development, it assesses other forms of supersonic transport and provides the background to Concorde's evolution. It reveals what it is like to fly Concorde, the only commercially successful aircraft capable of exceeding Mach 2, and describes the training procedures to which Concorde pilots are subjected.
Author Christopher Orlebar, a Concorde pilot and instructor for 10 years, provides an informed and intelligent insight into the findings of the Final Accident Report. Engine failure, affirmed the Flight Engineer - but was this the cause or the consequence of the devastating fire that consumed the aircraft? This and other questions are addressed and considered, whilst Christopher Orlebar's intimate understanding of Concorde's workings enables him to explain and interpret the actions taken by the Paris crew in their valiant efforts to ward off disaster.
Endorsed by British Airways, The Concorde Story-Fifth Edition is a definitive guide to the history of Concorde. It is an examination of the technical factors that make Concorde the remarkable machine it is, a lively and engaging account of life on board the aircraft, and a celebration of one of the wonders of the technological world.
The other major work on Concorde, now in its 3th edition, is Brian Calvert's 'Flying Concorde - The Full Story', that was first published in 1981.
This new edition of 'Flying Concorde' has an added section that covers the cause of the Paris tragedy and the remedies and improvements that have been made in the light of the accident report. It also brings the reader up to date with many other improvements that have been made to the aeroplane that will keep it in service for many years to come.
During Concorde's entry into service with British Airways, Brian Calvert was flight manager (technical) and responsible for deciding the methods by which Concorde would be flown, the flying qualities of the aircraft and its suitability for potential routes. He carried out acceptance trials and flew several of its inaugural flights.
Brain also guides the reader through Concorde's unique systems, explaining in great detail how the aircraft flies at twice the speed of sound and what makes it so special compared to traditional sub-sonic aircraft
G-BOAC Back in Passenger Service -23/07/02
BA's flagship Concorde, G-BOAC, is now back in revenue service on their London - New York route. The aircraft few the BA001/002 services for the airline on Monday July22nd arriving back in London 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
The return to passenger service for Alpha Charlie is the culmination of 5 months work that have seen the safety modifications fitted to the aircraft that were demanded by the aviation authorities after the Air France accident in July 2000.
British Airways now have 5 modified Concordes that is can use on its scheduled services, although one of these aircraft in now in the Concorde majors hanger, that was vacated by G-BOAC, for a scheduled intermediate check. Once this routine check is complete BA is expected to begin work on modifying G-BOAB, along with fitting the full new Concorde interiors.s
Alpha Charlie, which last flew in service on August 13th 2000, was the aircraft that was taxing to the runway at Heathrow for take off to New York on August 15th 2000, when the news was passed to British Airways from the UK Civil Aviation Authority that the Certificate of Airworthiness was to be withdrawn from the aircraft the following day. On hearing this news BA management ordered G-BOAC retuned to the stand and Concorde services were suspended. The picture shows Alpha Charlie on that day being towed back, her flight cancelled, to the BA maintenance area where she has been ever since.
Alpha Charlie Completes 2nd Test flight - 16/07/02
Just 5 days after G-BOAC had flown for the first time in 23 months the aircraft was back in the air on a 2nd airtest that should hopefully certify the aircraft to be put back into revenue service. The aircraft will be used on the daily BA001/2 service to New York, along with the other four modified Concordes in the BA fleet.
Alpha Charlie departed from the BA Concorde maintenance area at Heathrow at Midday and was airborne at 12:41, taking off from runway 27R. After heading out of the Atlantic the aircraft landed back on runway 27R at 15:51. The flight was again Commanded by BA's chief Concorde pilot Mike Bannister.
The 2nd successful airtest of G-BOAC will be a boost to British Airways, who recently suffered a turnaround of their flagship BA001 service, when an engine had to be shut down as a precaution halfway to New York when it began to perform abnormally. The aircraft, G-BOAE, returned safely to Heathrow on 3 engines and the passengers transferred to another aircraft to compete the journey to New York.
For more details see the BA test flights section
BA Concorde G-BOAC has returned to the skies nearly 23 months after the Concorde fleet was grounded in August 2000. Alpha Charlie is described by many as the flagship of flagships as she carries the initials of BA's predecessor - BOAC (British Overseas Airline Corporation).
The aircraft departed from Heathrow's Terminal 4 around 15:00 and was airborne for her verification airtest at 15:25. The aircraft headed out of the Atlantic before turning back as planned and landing on Heathrow runway 27R at 18:22.
G-BOAC is the fifth British Airways Concorde to return to the skies, complete with the multi-million pound safety modifications and cabin interior upgrade. With the aircraft soon to be back in service, BA Concorde service will be even more robust in the future and guarantee that a standby aircraft will always be available in London for the BA001 route. It is expected that BA will shortly allow an aircraft again to be positioned overnight in New York to allow the BA002 to arrive in London just after 5pm UK time.
For more details see the BA test flights section
With the scheduled maintenance checks on the BA fleet, that have been taking pace over the last few weeks, coming to an end, British Airways have started to focus engineering work on returning Concorde G-BOAC to flight status.
Compared to the recent pictures of the aircraft that showed it to have several key parts still not back in place after the modifications, this up to date shot shows that nearly everything is in place for a verification airtest to soon take place. Following the pattern from the other aircraft in the fleet returning to service, it can be expected that 2 flights will be required before BA will put it on service on the New York route. G-BOAC, The oldest Concorde in service was only the 4th production aircraft built and first flew in 1975. Being one of the first built it is also the heaviest in the fleet and this tends to rule it out of flying on the Barbados route, as passenger loads would have to be further limited from the currently 80 passengers that carried on flights to the Island.
According to Flight International, British Airways will begin work on G-BOAB's intermediate check and modification programme towards the end of this year. This will see the aircraft back in the air in early 2003, allowing British Airways to re-start the daily BA003/4 services to New York if there is sufficient demand.
Alpha Bravo will also be the first BA aircraft to be fitted with the new vacuum toilets, Galley systems and specially designed "blue wave" LED lighting system that will generate a blue wash of light that will travel through the cabin, from front to aft, when the aircraft passes through the Speed of sound at Mach1. These systems will be retro-fitted to the other aircraft in the fleet as they cycle through the intermediate checks in the next over the next few years.
The 5th BA aircraft to be modified (G-BOAC), although a little behind schedule from its original April/May target date, is expected to return to flight status in the coming weeks. On Friday June 7th the aircraft was rolled out of the 'East Pen' Concorde dock where the modifications work was carried out. As can be seen in the picture some additional work remains to be completed, including the re-fitting of the lower rudder panel, before the verification flights can get underway.
British Airways have taken advantage of the slightly lower loads in the summer season to move the BA002 service back to a 21:15 Arrival in London. This temporary change in timings will allow them not to have to base an aircraft in New York overnight, meaning that BA can quickly progress through the regular schedule maintenance checks on the fleet that, according to Flight International, are required to be carried out. In past times, with an operation fleet of 7 aircraft, this has been a straightforward task to carry out the checks, but with the time required to carry out the CofA modifications an additional workaround was needed so as not to disrupt the schedule services.
Air France have announced that that will now not restart full 7 day a week services from Paris to New York presently. Load Factors for their services have been around 50%, but with the usually summer dip in business class travel it would not be wise to re-commence the additional Tuesday and Saturday flights at this time.
The finale of the Queen's Golden Jubilee weekend, on June 4th 2002, was a fly past that included 27 aircraft from the Royal Air Force and a Concorde from British Airways.
The Flypast, which also signaled Concorde's return to its Flagship role after being grounded after the Paris Accident in July 2000, took place at 18:20 and was watched by Members of the Royal Family from the balcony of Buckingham Palace and over one million well-wishers packed into the Mall and surrounding streets. They had earlier witnessed for one of the most passionate displays of pageantry the UK capital had ever witnessed in modern times.
RAF Picture - Crown Copyright
For full Details of the Flypast see the special Flypast Page
Work on the 12,000 hour major service on Concorde F-BVFF, which has been sitting in-limbo since July 2000, has been given the official go ahead by Air France executives.
Concorde 215 (F-BVFF) was the final Concorde built in France and is last Air France Concorde to go through this Scheduled D check. Concorde F-BTSD was the last aircraft to go through this check during the time when the fleet was grounded awaited the return of the Certificate of Airworthiness
This D Check will be organised into 3 main parts:-
"We are happy, that after economic reflections, Air France can make this positive decision on Concorde F-BVFF." remarks Jean-Cyril Spinetta, President of the Air France Group. " Concorde exceeds Air France. It is not just a question of the economy of the company; The Concorde is a myth, a symbol not only French but the world."