Features

21 January 1976: Concorde’s first commercial flight

Almost seven years after its maiden flight, and at a total cost of £1.3bn, Concorde finally entered commercial service on this day in 1976.

150121-concorde

The post-war period was an exciting time in the aerospace industry. The industry and the machines that served it were developing at an extremely rapid pace.

It was also a time of post-imperial jostling. The European empires were in decline, while America was forging ahead. By the end of the 1960s, the market for airliners was dominated by American companies Boeing, Lockheed, and McDonnell Douglas.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Become a smarter, better informed investor with MoneyWeek.

Europe wanted a piece of the action. They wanted prestige, and to let the world know they were still major players.

And so the governments of Britain and France agreed to jointly develop what they hoped would be the future of air travel the world's first supersonic passenger aircraft. A treaty was signed in 1962, and development started.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

The plane first flew on 2 March 1969, and initially, there was a lot of interest from the world's airlines. But it soon ran into problems. Governments weren't keen on sonic booms scaring their populations, and many (including the US, which had a very large subsonic airliner manufacturing base to protect) banned it from flying at supersonic speeds over their territories.

There was also the question of costs. The project, being underwritten by the British and French governments, racked up six times the original estimate. The price of oil went through the roof and Concorde was unable to compete with the new generation of wide-bodied aircraft, led by the Boeing 747, which had its first flight just weeks before Concorde's.

Faced with these problems, its customers evaporated. The only two left were the state airlines of Britain and France. But development continued, and 20 aircraft were built, at a total cost of some £1.3bn.

Finally, at 11:40am 21 January 1976 seven years after the prototype first flew, and five years after the 747 entered service two Concordes took off simultaneously from London and Paris, carrying the first commercial passengers. The British Airways flight set off for Bahrain, while the Air France flight headed for Rio de Janeiro, via Dakar.

Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/519858/how-long-can-the-good-times-roll
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Visit/economy/600859/the-uk-is-doing-fine
Economy

The UK is doing fine

The small matter of the productivity problem aside, the UK economy is doing fine, and should carry on being fine.
20 Feb 2020
Visit/economy/600838/money-minute-monday-17-february-good-news-ahead-for-the-uk-economy
Economy

Money Minute Monday 17 February: good news ahead for the UK economy?

Today's Money Minute looks to a week in which we get the latest employment and inflation numbers, plus retail figures for January and a slew of eurozo…
17 Feb 2020
Visit/economy/600814/money-minute-friday-14-february-the-latest-from-rbs-britains-state-owned-bank
Economy

Money Minute Friday 14 February: The latest from RBS, Britain's state-owned bank

Today's Money Minute previews results from RBS – Britain’s state-owned bank – and from pharma giant AstraZeneca.
14 Feb 2020

Most Popular

Visit/investments/commodities/gold/600874/gold-is-at-its-highest-level-in-years-heres-how-to-invest
Gold

Gold is at its highest level in years – here’s how to invest

Gold's rise at a time when the dollar is unnervingly strong isn't unheard of – but it is curious. John Stepek explains what's going on, and what it me…
21 Feb 2020
Visit/investments/stocks-and-shares/600863/sirius-minerals-anglo-american-takeover
Stocks and shares

Do you own shares in Sirius Minerals? Here’s what you need to do now

Mining giant Anglo American has proposed a cash takeover of Yorkshire-based minnow Sirius Minerals. Unhappy shareholders must decide whether to accept…
20 Feb 2020
Visit/economy/global-economy/600876/the-charts-that-matter-its-starting-to-look-a-little-unhinged-out
Global Economy

The charts that matter: it’s starting to look a little unhinged out there

Things aren't normal in the markets right now, says John Stepek. Here, he looks at the charts that matter most to the global economy for clues to what…
22 Feb 2020
Visit/517625/tr-european-growth-trust-why-investors-shouldnt-overlook-europe
Sponsored

Why investors shouldn’t overlook Europe

SPONSORED CONTENT - Ollie Beckett, manager of the TR European Growth Trust, tackles investor questions around Europe’s economic outlook and the conseq…
6 Nov 2019