A supersonic blast from the past: revisiting British Airways' Concorde

A supersonic blast from the past: revisiting British Airways' Concorde

Step back in time to a supersonic blast from the past as Australian Business Traveller steps inside the Concorde for this 'access all areas' photo tour.

For almost three decades from the mid-70s to 2003, the Concorde was the only way to fly – especially if you were shuttling between London and New York, a route which the streamlined jet conquered in barely three hours.

Today, one of 18 remaining Concordes is part of New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, at the west side of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River to New Jersey.

British Airways' 'Alpha Delta' Concorde – taken from the final two letters of the G-BOAD registration – is positively draped in history.

Of the 14 Concordes built for commercial service, this one spent the most time in the sky, having notched up 23,397 flight hours.

For a time it also sported Singapore Airlines livery down one side of the plane – retaining BA livery on the other side – as part of a short-lived airline partnership on the London-Singapore route.

Many years later in 1996, the aircraft would also set the world record for the fastest trans-Atlantic passenger flight from New York's JFK Airport to London Heathrow: accomplished in two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds under the supervision of Captain Leslie Scott.

Although now fading, Captain Scott's autograph remains in the cockpit, joined by a reminder of the record time and autographs of the team responsible for G-BOAD's last-ever flight: from Heathrow to JFK on November 10 2003.

From there, the aircraft was moved by barge along the Hudson River to Intrepid, where it now stands proudly at Pier 86.

Australian Business Traveller took a private tour of the cabin and cockpit to bring you these exclusive snaps, including a look at parts of the aircraft normally closed to the public.

Concorde photos: Concorde Class, passenger cabin

Forget first class – BA decreed the exclusive service level worthy of being christened 'Concorde Class'. Yet what strikes every first-time visitor to the Concorde is how small and, by today's standards, cramped the cabin feels.

(The central air conditioner was obviously an 'aftermarket accessory'...)

BA's Concordes had 100 seats – 40 in the front cabin and 60 in the rear – arranged in a 2-2 layout, and at first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking this was economy.

(Although with trans-Atlantic flights rarely longer than 3.5 hours, making them quicker than your average Sydney-Perth trek, lie-flat beds simply weren't necessary.)

We found the legroom more than ample in Row 1...

... aided by removing the footrests better-suited to those of smaller stature...

... and still comfortable-enough further back with plenty of knee room:

When it came time for the inflight lobster, Row 1 passengers really were the Chosen Ones with tray tables folding open to unveil a seriously-sized dining space...

... and retracting to provide an easy cocktail table:

Away from the bulkheads, smaller and more plane-like trays were the norm:

Also remaining a staple of modern air travel are overhead lockers, with the Concorde's large enough to fit this author's laptop bag, but which would certainly struggle to accommodate the larger rollaboard varieties.

Directly underneath were personal air vents, a call bell to have your Champagne replenished and the obligatory reading lights...

... complementing the relatively limited natural light flowing in through the small exterior windows – a necessity of the aircraft's supersonic design.

Passengers, of course, were reminded of their speed and altitude via screens at the front of each cabin, along with the temperature outside...

Tumblr
Concorde could reach 60,000 feet and cruise at up to 2,160kmh
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... but which now sit idle and recognisable only if you know what you're looking for:

As we wander back into the rear cabin – off-limits to the public and normally seen only through a perspex screen – the seats lose their protective plastic covers and remain just as they were when Concorde was flying.

These newer-style seats afforded passengers audio-based inflight entertainment with a selection of radio channels at their fingertips...

... and armrests that are just wide enough to share...

... or can be spun and retracted to create more elbow room for couples...

... or those lucky enough to have a vacant seat beside them.

Concorde photos: inside the cockpit

No tour of the Concorde would be complete without a visit to the flight deck, which the public tour fortunately allows.

Prospective aviators are welcome to sit in the jumpseat...

... and to stickybeak at the various dials, gauges and instruments, including the all-important Machmeter...

... and the lever to control the Concorde's nose:

That was a very important control for the pilots to have, as the Concorde's design ordinarily blocked their view of the tarmac below, as we witnessed here in New York with the nose in 'cruising' position.

By lowering that nose for taxi, take-off and on landing, safety – and the pilots' viewing angle on the ground – was improved considerably.

Aero Icarus, 2003
G-BOAD with the nose lowered in its final year of flight
Aero Icarus, 2003

Exiting the Concorde, we paused to glance across the wing as so many passengers did before us...

... but what most probably didn't realise is that the prominent reflective white paint they saw wasn't merely a design choice by British Airways, or indeed even Air France on its own Concordes.

Instead, it helped prevent the aircraft from overheating at supersonic speeds by reducing its exterior temperature by 6-11°C – an impossible feat with a darker, heat-absorbing colour.

With its wings well and truly clipped, the Concorde now helps museumgoers to avoid the heat by sheltering them as they enjoy their lunch: not entirely unlike the journey of yesteryear.

Members of the public can join one of Intrepid's many hour-long Concorde tours to experience this magnificent aircraft for themselves. For more information or to book a tour time, visit the Intrepid website.

Also read: British Airways launches new first class Concorde Bar

Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

28 comments

  • Serg

    Serg

    15 Sep, 2015 01:00 pm

    Concord is aviation marvel. We unlikely to see supersonic passenger jets in our life.

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    15 Sep, 2015 01:03 pm

    The Intrepid is an amazing place to visit, the Space Shuttle there is just amazing with all the other history.

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  • Kogglogs

    Kogglogs

    15 Sep, 2015 01:13 pm

    This is a must do if you find yourself on Manhattan. Actually, the whole Intrepid Sea & Air Museum is a must do (The Endeavour Space Shuttle is also there). 

    I certainly had my avgeek freak-out moment when I did the Concord on-board tour... I'd be certainly happy to do it again! :)

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  • riley

    riley

    15 Sep, 2015 01:30 pm

    Has anyone flown on the Concorde?

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  • readosunnycoast

    readosunnycoast

    15 Sep, 2015 01:56 pm

    I flew about 6 times on BA and just once on AF.  I never paid extra. I used to buy QF/BA RTW First Class tickets that you could use the Concorde OR QE2 across the Atlantic. Never got to use QE2 (much to my regret). I was always amazed at how noisy it was. I kind of expected it to leave all the noise behind (as we we travelling twice as fast as the noise but no, it really did make a racket, much louder than 747 or A380.   OH, Those were the days !!!!

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  • jubbing

    jubbing

    15 Sep, 2015 02:07 pm

    But.. the A380 is meant to be extremely quiet?

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  • AJW

    AJW

    1 Jan, 2019 09:18 am

    It is quiet. Think you missed the point.
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  • riley

    riley

    15 Sep, 2015 02:23 pm

    Wow... Amazing!

    I think it was ahead of it's time. Imagine today's version, takne up by most major airline, operation a point to point model... 

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  • Tom Goddard

    TomGoddardd

    15 Sep, 2015 01:46 pm

    Wow would of loved to of flown on the Concorde. A truly magnificent piece of engineering!  

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  • Hugo

    Hugo

    15 Sep, 2015 02:05 pm

    As an alternative, they also have a Concorde you can walk through at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, along with a Kennedy-era Air Force One. Hundreds of other planes too, though you can't get inside most of them. 

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  • ILIKEPLANES101

    ILIKEPLANES101

    1 Jan, 2019 08:11 am

    Have been lucky enough to see the Concorde at Seattle's Museum of Flight, Washington's Air and Space Museum, Duxford IWM UK and also spotted the one at LHR a few times! Wish I coudl have flown it!
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  • 180mis

    180mis

    15 Sep, 2015 03:51 pm

    I highly recommend this too. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. On the flight deck of the USS Intrepid there are some fantatic military planes and helicopters. Pics are below

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  • NEquine

    NEquine

    15 Sep, 2015 05:25 pm

    There is a Concord in the Air & Space museum (Dulles) in Washington but sadly you only get to see the exterior.  I've been to the one at the Scottish Museum of Flight where  you do get to go on the aircraft.

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  • petriojala

    petriojala

    15 Sep, 2015 06:54 pm

    There's a Concorde in Barbados where you can also get in.

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  • Fqtv

    Zac

    15 Sep, 2015 07:40 pm

    Slightly less glamorous, but there is also one at Manchester airport if you're ever stuck there on a stopover...

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  • Jason

    cooper81

    15 Sep, 2015 07:51 pm

    I worked on Concorde as cabin crew for BA.  We were actually all shorthaul crew that were checked out on it - we flew 757/767 and concorde.  It was a hot, smelly and noisy plane!  We had six cabin crew onboard and the service was quite intense....there was always a diva or six that thought they were on a private jet....but it was something really really special.  

    BA had around 15,000 cabin crew at the time and us on Concorde were a relatively small team - we all pretty much knew each other.  It was great to fly to NYC and land before we had left London.

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  • Serg

    Serg

    16 Sep, 2015 12:15 am

    Even today you can arrive before departure. On BNE-LAX flight for example :-) But yes, there is something special to fly faster then sun

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  • Shoudy Chen

    Shoudy Chen

    15 Sep, 2015 10:26 pm

    A wonderful article there, Chris. The spirit of supersonic Concord will live us for the rest of our lives. 

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  • PunditShafton

    PunditShafton

    15 Sep, 2015 10:27 pm

    As a young boy i flew Concord several times with my parents. And I think on one occation I was with my sister visiting dad on holidays from out from boardiing school. As a young guy never liked the food,  complained on every bite! But now I miss the sight of this great bird.

    One of the last time I saw Concord in operation was in Sydney,  it was carrying charter pax arounf the globe.

    Now i will not complain about the food and obviously the booze!

     

    memories!!!

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  • Brackenboy

    Brackenboy

    18 Sep, 2015 12:21 pm

    Back in the 1970s on  a first class ticket to London via the USA there was a surcharge of AU$110 to fly Concorde from Washington DC to London. Even then, by the standards of the day the cabin felt cramped!

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  • Patrick

    x2921294h

    18 Sep, 2015 06:32 pm

    In Sinsheim (Germany) you can visit a AF Concorde (F-BVFB) and next to it its russian competitior TU144 (CCCP-77112). 

    Here are some describing links: 
    Concorde: http://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/concorde
    Tupolev TU144: http://sinsheim.technik-museum.de/en/tupolev-tu-144

    The entire museum is worth a visit as it is featuring several other types of planes as well and also classic cars or motorcylcles.

    Btw, did anybody ever ride on the TU144?
     

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  • Colin White

    Colin White

    1 Apr, 2016 05:20 pm

    I flew in Concorde LHR-JFK on the first AD ever allowed by BA - as I had the first group on Concorde. It was a real thrill, although very noisy. In those days we did not have the technology to shut out the noise of the atmosphere on the fuselage - and of course engine noise was left far behind us. Auto take-off and auto landing - very impressive. Champagne all the way = arriving in JFK a little the worse for wear at 0900hrs and then having to face a 2 hour ride into town in the Concorde limo.

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  • johninoz

    johninoz

    1 Apr, 2016 10:15 pm

    I was lucky enough to fly on Concorde once, in the late 80's.  Can't remember the exact year now.  I still have my Concorde Kit, that they gave us.

    My then partner and I rocked up to the BA terminal at JFK for a flight to London where we were booked in First Class.  There were a lot of people around, which seemed a bit strange, but we didn't bother.  While we were waiting in line to check-in, I heard the BA person ask the passenger in front of us, would he like to fly on Concorde.  I nudged my partner and told him what I'd heard.  He just shrugged and said they were probably high status and eligible for upgrades.  We did not fit that category!

    When we got to the check-in desk, we also got asked if we wanted to travel on Concorde.  My partner, being a complete aeroplane nut, almost wet himself with excitement.  Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would ever fly on Concorde.  Of course we said YES.  It didn't matter that we would get to London 3 hours earlier.

    Turned out that a TWA flight to London had been cancelled, and BA were upgrading passengers to Concorde to free up space on the 747 Flight, to accommodate some of the stranded TWA passengers.

    I don't remember a lot about the flight now, though I can recall the small cabin, cramped seating etc.  Service was very good.  I assume the staff were the cream of the BA Flight Attendants.

    But it was a wonderful experience, and one I will never forget.

     

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  • lind26

    lind26

    8 Jul, 2017 09:20 pm

    Brooklands in England also have a Concorde that you can go onboard, it has a simulation experience of the flight which is quite realistic. They are doing it up bit by bit, when we were there the nose droop started working. The flight attendant was a real Ex BA Employee that is writing a book of her Concorde experiences.
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  • Graham Steele

    steeleg

    31 Dec, 2018 01:47 pm

    I never flew on Concorde, but sat behind one awaiting take off from LHR one Saturday morning in the 1980s. The noise as the Bristol Olympus engines spooled up was staggering, reminded me as an ATC cadet at a Biggin Hill Air display when a Avro Vulcan flew over low and slow, cleaned up, stood on it's tail as those four Bristol Olympus engines vibrated the earth for miles.
    and yes, the Concorde had the same engines. Wonderful stuff!!!
    Can we have one at Mascot doing circuits please SIR.
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  • Stuart Foster

    Stuartfoster

    31 Dec, 2018 02:26 pm

    I flew Concorde 3 times across the Atlantic with BA. Was a great experience especially once the after burners went on when over the water. The kick in the seat was impressive, as was watching the screen in the front of the plane showing the speed.
    There is also one at Brooklands motor museum just out of London to look at.
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  • Taggart Neumanas

    tneumanas

    1 Jan, 2019 01:38 am

    I was working for BA as their PR photographer in Belfast in the early 80's, aged 20, when I managed to get on Concorde from LHR to Belfast International. Concorde replaced the usual shuttle flight to Belfast to do a fly past at Belfast International Airshow. I was on board to take pics of the BA top brass onboard and was in seat 3A, I actually got paid to fly on it! I was learning to fly at the same time and managed to spend time with the pilots and engineer in the cockpit at mach 2 and was in the cockpit when they lowered the nose for the approach to Belfast. I vividly remember taxying at Heathrow and the way the airframe vibrated every time it hit a ridge on the concrete taxiway. Easing out of your seat with negative g as we throttled back over Windsor for noise abatement was also quite a feeling. The highlight of over forty years in the air.

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  • Austin Taylor

    Austin

    2 Jan, 2019 12:02 am

    Chris
    Always an awesome aircraft. But, I note your comment about it being a Commercial Aircraft.

    Any insights into its non-commercial uses ?
    Austin
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23 May, 2019 07:26 pm

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