The first model is arguably the most famous. Way ahead of its time, the well-loved supersonic aircraft flew around 2.5 million passengers up until its withdrawal in 2003.
The origins of Concorde date back to the 1950s when the idea of a supersonic passenger plane gained momentum due to aviator Chuck Yeager’s blast through the sound barrier. In 1962, the French president Charles de Gaulle made a plea for Britain and France to co-operate in building an aircraft which focused on speed rather than increased passenger capacity, as was the trend at the time. Due to the insistence that the aircraft should fly at supersonic speed, the model was deemed too expensive for any one country to fund alone. The word “Concorde” was first mentioned in reference to the supersonic aircraft project in 1963 during a speech by the French president. Britain referred to the aircraft initially as “Concord” without the ‘e’.
The project did not come without hitches however, as Britain’s new Labour government announced their withdrawal from the project in 1964, only to change their minds the following year. In 1967, in front of over a thousand onlookers, the first prototype French Concorde was rolled out in Toulouse. During this event, British technology minister Anthony Wedgwood Benn announced that the British aircraft would now also be known as “Concorde”, this time with the added ‘e’, which stood in his words for “excellence, England, Europe and entente”. In 1968, the British prototype made its debut.