Although the maiden flight was on 2 March 1969, on 1 October 50 years ago, Concorde prototype 001 made the type’s first supersonic proving flight. On its forty-fifth test flight the aircraft broke the sound barrier attaining a speed of Mach 1.5 (1,125 mph) and flew supersonically for nine minutes.
There was a long-running argument over the spelling of the aircraft’s name, which can be traced back to 1962. Should it have been the English spelling (Concord) or the French spelling (Concorde)? Tony Benn waded into the diplomatic row. Here is an extract from his speech at the French roll-out of Concorde at Toulouse on 11 December 1967, where he used his charm to good effect:
But even this speech provoked controversy. In his diary Benn recorded how he received an ‘angry letter’ from a Scotsman who complained how ‘you talk about “E” for England, but part of it is made in Scotland’. Benn deftly replied that it was also ‘E’ for ‘Ecossé’ (the French name for Scotland) and admitted that he could have added ‘an ‘e’ for extravagance and ‘e’ for escalation as well!’ It was certainly very expensive.
Did you know?
September 1966 – Flight tests of the Olympus 593 jet engine to be used on Concorde begin, using Vulcan XA903. The engine and its housing were attached below the bomb-bay.
XA903 was also used as the testbed for the Panavia Tornado’s RB.199 engines in 1972.