Flight 31.01.1976

Extracted from former Flight editor Mike Ramsden's report from on board the first British Airways Concorde service:

Europe opened the supersonic age with a Houston-style countdown and a precision double launch, which was technically and diplomatically immaculate.

The time is 1135hr GMT on January 21 1976. We are in British Airways Concorde G-BOAA, lined up for take off on runway 28L at London Heathrow, Bahrain-bound. Captain Norman Todd, commander, captain Brian Calvert and senior engineer officer John Lidiard are about to halve the size of the of the world at the same time as Capt. Pierre Dudal and his crew Rio-bound out of Paris.

Full power and reheat, the carbons are let gently off, and at 1140hr GMT we start to roll. Lift off comes at 1140.35. It is the "end of the beginning" says Ken Binnings, director of Concorde at the Department of Industry. Gordon Davidson, British Airways Director of Concorde, confesses to his original estimate of 100-1 against a successful simultaneous double launch.

For the next 700 miles to Venice we cruise at 25,000ft and Mach 0.93 on the cabin bulkhead meter. A "fine view of the Alps on our left," calls the captain and then at 1259hr, he announces the start of our transonic acceleration.

The urge is noticeable but I cannot detect, from where I am riding, the expected nudge of the reheat. Noise level, or rather pitch, increases slightly and the new livelier airframe tells us that Concorde is in her supersonic element.

I ask Sir George Edwards whether he thinks there will be another doubling of transport speed. "The limitation is money. I don't think we shall go beyond M2.7. We have got Concorde about right...what we have got to do is to increase the range. We have a very strong wing and by adding area to the tips we reduce induced drag and fuel, most of it subsonic, by about 12,000lb. I don't think we'll go beyond M2.7, not in this century."

The normality is just unbelievable, says a BA man as we tuck into smoked salmon, roast duckling, and strawberries and cream at 1,350 mph somewhere off Greece. This from someone who has been on the project for seven years. In reply I quote Sir George Edwards's aphorism: "That was the difficult bit".

We start the descent at 1451hr. In five minutes - strongly braked by reverse thrust - we read subsonic numbers on the meter. At 325kt I can see the necklaces of Bahrain prickling out the darkness. At 1518hr we feel the touchdown. Whatever happens now, man has attained the supersonic age.

Source: Flight International