I am afraid time has blurred some of details of this event. It’s 1989 and I am living in the lower mainland and I recall finding out an Air France Concorde jet was due to land at Vancouver International Airport. We had to see that! By then it was a twenty year old design, but it was still was such a unique ground breaking aircraft that there was no way we were going to miss this opportunity.
You see, nothing compared to the Concorde. It was unique in every way – fast, sleek and cutting edge, looking more like an overgrown fighter jet than a passenger carrier.
Why it was here is anyone’s guess – it may have been a fuel stop or perhaps a charter for the rich and famous. Who knows? I don’t even remember how we found out it was due, but obviously it was no secret as when we showed up there were hundred of others, and perhaps even thousands, waiting for the plane to arrive.
Staking out a spot was no easy feat but we did manage to find a nice open area overlooking the tarmac. And so we waited. And waited. I CLEARLY remember that part.
Finally, it arrives and long before we see it, we hear it. It’s unbelievably loud, noisy as hell. Coming into view, the plane approaches at an incredibly odd angle, almost pointing up as though is was taking off not landing. The nose cone droops at a funny angle and the landing gear looks far too spindly to support anything, let alone a big plane.
It lands without incident and is quickly escorted by a truck to an area out of view behind some hangers. Before however, it slowly passes by the spot we had staked out, almost as if it was on parade. The whole event last perhaps a few minutes but it was worth the wait, every minute of it. It’s a very interesting aircraft.
The Concorde is one of those airplanes that was perhaps ahead of its time. Designing and building a supersonic jet passenger liner sounded like a great idea, but too many problems plagued the project dooming it to failure.
Sure it was fast, more so than any passenger plane out there, but it was too loud (engine noise and sonic booms), restricting where it could operate. It was a fuel hog limiting its range, it was cramped and it was expensive, both to build and to fly. In the end it was just not practical. None the less, the plane seen here and many of her sisters manged to have a long service life.
The design of the Concorde goes back to the 1960s with the first flight happening at the end of that decade. Scheduled flights did not happen until 1976 however as there was a long testing period in between. The last flights were in 2003.
Seen more as a novelty by the flying public, they never really caught on.
Only twenty aircraft of this design were made, some of them non-commercial test beds. Our plane, known as F-BTSD was one of the last made and it still exists as of 2013, being on display at a museum in France. This exact plane by the way is the holder of many Concorde speed records including a couple around the world trips.
The aircraft was build by a consortium of companies, British Aircraft Corporation and France’s Aérospatiale. A money loser from the start, it was more experimental then practical. I am certain however a lot was learned building and flying it.
The next generation of supersonic transport, which I am is on the drawing board somewhere, will be designed using the knowledge gained from this pioneering aircraft.
These pictures were scanned from 35mm slides.
If you wish more information on this very cool airplane, by all means contact us!
Date: 1990 (corrected, I earlier said 1989).
Location: Vancouver International Airport, Richmond BC.