Assembling the Concorde

On 2 March 1969, the Concorde prototype took off for the first time from the French city of Toulouse, changing forever our understanding of civil aviation.


From the archive

Fourty-three years ago, the supersonic airliner Concorde took off for its maiden voyage on 2 March 1969. The aviation icon was the only supersonic commercial vehicle in history. In this photo series, we republish some images taken at the hangar of the Toulouse Blagnac airport, where the French prototype of the Concorde 001 was at the time being finalised.

Built by the British Aircraft Corporation and the French Aérospatiale, the Concorde was the result of more than ten years of collaboration between the French and British aeronautic industries. Destined for elite passengers, the fine aircraft achieved a cruise speed of 2.150 km/h, topping the speed of sound and achieving a flight time of just over three hours and a half between London and New York. At the time, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson said of the supersonic aircraft: "What's great about it is I'm able to take my children to school at 8.30 in the morning, drop them off, then take BA flight 001 at 10.30am to New York, and get to New York at 9.30am, in time for my Weight Watchers meetings and speeches."

From the engineering point of view, supersonic flight immediately raised two problems. The first was that of the high temperatures produced on the surface of the aircraft, for which a solution was found by adopting special metal alloys; and the second was that of the turbulence created on the wings, as the aircraft approached the speed of sound.

The Concorde 001 prototype in the hangar at Toulouse Blagnac airport. Photo by Sud-aviation, 1967

In this case the matter was dealt with by acting on the shape of the wings and adopting a triangular, 'delta' configuration. Internally matching these generic technical figures and external form is a passenger cabin with a length of 35 metres and a seating capacity of 100. The seat width including armrests is 54,2 cm and the longitudinal space available is 96.5 cm.

First devised by a team of aerospace engineers, the interiors of the Concorde were later revisited by a number of designers: Raymond Loewy in 1975, Pierre Gauthier-Delaye in 1985 and 1988, and lastly, by Andrée Putman 's studio Ecart.

The Concorde 001 prototype in the hangar at Toulouse Blagnac airport. Photo by Sud-aviation, 1967

The Concorde's demise followed a tragic accident on 25 July 2000, in which 113 people lost their lives as Air France flight 4590 took off from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport. Crediting low passenger numbers since the accident and the changes in air travel that occurred after 11 September 2001, the aircraft took off for the last time on 26 November 2003.

The Concorde 001 manufacture breakdown

Assembling the engines of the Concorde 001 prototype, in the hangar at Toulouse Blagnac airport. Photo by Sud-aviation, 1967

Scale model of the Concorde 001 prototype interiors. Photo by Sud-aviation, 1967