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April 18, 2003

Review: Supersonic Concorde The Ultimate Flight Experience

Supersonic Concorde

The Ultimate Flight Experience

2003-4-17
BA002 JFK-LHR
Concorde SSC G-BOAG
0900 JFK 1800 LHR

“My Ultimate Flight Experience”
Cruising 58000 ft and Mach 2.0 (1350mph) jetset in style!

“Sam, we’ll be here longer than the plane, she won’t be here after October, your decision!”

I made the booking on Concorde 2 days after the news that both BA and AF will be terminating their service by October 2003. (AF by 31May and BA in October) I rang BA at their US office to ask about a special deal, $2999+ tax one way on Concorde and one way on World Traveller (Economy) between New York and London! I thought it was a very good deal, only half of the normal ticket price for a ride on Concorde!

Check-in and Concorde Room

Terminal 7 at JFK has been refitted and of course Concorde has its own dedicated check-in counter! No queue, I had checked my bags and had documents in hand within 5 minutes.  I got Seat 12D which is the second row in the second cabin (Not a bad seat!)

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The Breakfast area.

The breakfast was a self-serve buffet, consisting of: pastries, breads, fruits, smoked salmon, grilled tomato, baked beans, English sausages and eggs.  There was also a bartender on hand to serve you your favourite drinks.  I like the idea of pre-dining.

You can board the plane straight from the Concorde Lounge!

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“BA002 Supersonic Flight to London is ready to board, please proceed to Gate 6 for immediate boarding!” from the speakerphone.  We proceeded to Gate 6 to board.

Boarding the Concorde

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The small door of Concorde!

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A very warm welcome, my first and final time boarding the Concorde.

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The cabin was really like a tube, pretty narrow and the windows are tiny.  Interestingly enough, it does not give you the feeling of being too cramped.  After I sat down it actually felt quite roomy.  The design of the new leather chairs is marvellous, they are comfortable and elegant!

I was seated at 12D, which is the second row (After Row 11) of the rear cabin.  I can see the wall mounted speed and altimeter ready to go!

We have 54 passengers in total out of 100 available seats. The front cabin was full; however the aft cabin only had 16 passengers sharing 60 seats!

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The amazing takeoff and speed!

As the aircraft taxies out to the runway, The Captain welcomes everyone aboard.  The in-flight briefing is far more detailed than the usual captain’s announcement; on a subsonic plane it is necessary to explain how the aircraft performs. Shortly after take-off, there is a very noticeable de-acceleration when the reheats on the Rolls-Royce Olympus engines are extinguished.

According to my log sheet, completed by The Captain, we left the gate 1 minute early at 08:59 with STD at 09:00.  We taxied for 17 minutes to Runway 13R for take-off.  The take-off roll was noticeably a lot faster than a subsonic plane; we took about 3/4 of the 14000ft runway length to become airborne.  One really can feel the steepness of the climb and the incredible speed! (The plane made a quick bank to the right, to fly towards the ocean)  It took no more than a few minutes for us to pass Long Island; we went into the clouds for a while and within 5 minutes we had lost all sight of the ground.

Here are some statistics from the electronic panel indicator I collected:

Mach 0.77 @ 15500 feet
Mach 1.00 (The speed of sound) @ 27000 feet
Mach 1.51 @ 40000 feet
Mach 1.75 @ 43000 feet
Mach 1.83 @ 45000 feet
Mach 1.92 @ 47000 feet
Mach 2.00 @ 48500 feet
Mach 2.00 @ 56500 feet and we stayed @ 56000 feet for about 2 hours.

The fastest speed we did was 1,390 mph (Concorde cruising speed is 1,350 mph)

The highest altitude we reached was 58000 feet.

The wall of the plane felt quite warm to the touch and noticeably different from a subsonic plane.  I understand that the metal on Concorde expands about 10 inches between flights and the outside temperatures are extremely high.

 

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One interesting question that was raised “When you fly over Mach 1.0 (The speed of sound, on Concorde you do break the sound barrier) Do you hear any noise (The sonic boom)?”

My answer is I don’t remember, but I do not think I heard anything particularly loud. I welcome all your comments and experiences.

(Edited)Here is a response concerning the “boom” from David Kaufman, IL.

Books and articles on the Concorde and on supersonic flight state that no 
particular special sound is heard on board as the aircraft becomes 
supersonic.  However, in general terms, there tends to be a bit more 
buffeting and pitch changes as the speed transitions to supersonic.

Many people are under the misimpression that the “sonic boom” is only 
made when an aircraft crosses into supersonic.  Actually, the supersonic 
shock wave is continuously generated through the entire supersonic flight, 
and observers everywhere along the flight path will hear a boom as the shock 
wave passes them.  That is why Concorde is only operated supersonically over 
oceans.  Ships on the North Atlantic routinely hear the boom, which is more 
like a gradually increasing then decreasing loud rumble when the SST is at 
its cruise altitudes.

In-flight services

In-flight service starts about 20 minutes after take-off @ around 27000 feet.

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ConcordeMenu1 ConcordeMenu2 ConcordeMenu3 ConcordeMenu4 ConcordeMenu5 ConcordeMenu6

Enjoying caviar and champagne at 55,000 feet and at Mach 2.0! It does not get any better!

The service was very English and formal, crews were outgoing, polite and efficient.

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The narrow cabin

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When Concorde returned to service, BA had introduced new seats in ink-blue Connolly Leather and fabric.  They feature a unique cradle mechanism, footrest and contoured head-rest to give added comfort and support.  The new seats are 20% lighter, leading to an almost £1 million a year saving in fuel efficiency.  The seats are 17.25” (43.8cm) wide, offer up to 7” of recline and have a 37” (94cm) pitch.

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Rear Galley

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From the last window looking rearward, Concorde’s Tail looks like a spaceship.

Do you see the curvature of the earth?

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With fellow Concorde enthusiast

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The Glory Arrival

Our total flying time was 3 hours and 18 minutes.

Approximately 30 minutes before arrival, the plane slowed down and returned to subsonic speed; however it still felt slightly faster than subsonic planes approach. The Captain announced on the PA “The weather in London is very unseasonal, 26°C with sunny sky conditions”

The wind was easterly, so we were landing on Runway 09L.  The engines roared aloud in reverse thrust and shortly after, the aircraft decelerated to taxi speed for the trip to the stand.  The time factor with Concorde is truly striking!

We landed at 17:35, 25 minutes early; when coming into London, seeing the beautiful blue sky is like the feeling of a won battle.  After landing and as we slowed down to taxi back to T4, I felt such glory and such a sense of pride; I cannot express my feelings furthermore!

We arrived at the gate about 17:53, about 7 minutes ahead of STA.

Over WIndsor Castle

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One last look at the cabin before deplane

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Captain Mike Bannister flew The BA002 that day; he is The Chief BA Concorde Pilot and he is also The Chief BA Pilot for short haul flights.  This really was a huge bonus to my flight, since the cabin crew told me he does not fly much.  He is very famous and constantly appears on TV acting as BA’s Concorde Spokesperson.  He was a key force behind the return to service of The Concorde, after the tragic accident in Paris.  I have a very pleasant 5 minute chat with Captain Bannister; he was kind enough to sign the menu, fill in my logbook and also he showed me around the cockpit.

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A group photo with fellow Concorde enthusiasts

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This flight is probably the most proud achievement that I have had in my flying hobby.

I was ecstatic and over cloud nine.  I still enjoy looking back on those moments and recalling those precious memories.

Interestingly, on the financial side, the cash burn rate on Concorde is about $900 (US) per hour, or $15 per minute.  In the end, I think the money I paid to ride on Concorde was worth every cent; there is NO better way to fly than on Concorde!  It has been a great, spectacular ride and I wish I could do it one more time! Thank you Concorde and BA for the opportunity!

Here is the standard Concorde Flight Certificate

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Special Thanks to “Bellerophon” for his kindness in getting my “Real” Concorde Certificate sent by post later, signed by all 3 crews of that day!

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Log Sheet of the flight

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