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Tuesday, March 2, 2010


March 2, is just another day with some significance. On 1949 at Lucknow, Sarojini Chattopadhyaya better known as Sarojini Naidu, the child prodigy, freedom fighter and great poetess, the first woman to become the President of Indian National Congress and First woman to become the Governor (of Uttar Pradesh) passed away in office following a heart attack.

This was also the day when in 1969 Concorde made its faultless maiden fight, though the commercial flight occurred as late as 1976. The Anglo-French plane took off from Toulouse and was in the air for just 27 minutes before the pilot made the decision to land. The test flight reached 10,000ft (3,000m), but Concorde's speed never rose above 300mph (480kph). Earlier two test flights had been abandoned due to poor conditions.

The Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde aircraft was a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner, a supersonic transport (SST), which flew from 1969 to 2003. It was a product of an Anglo-French government treaty, combining the manufacturing efforts of Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation. (The French word concorde translates to the English concord as agreement, harmony, or union.) Concorde entered service with Air France and British Airways in 1976.

Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow (British Airways) and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (Air France) to New York JFK and Washington Dulles, flying these routes at record speeds, in less than half the time of other airliners. With only 20 aircraft built, the development phase represented a substantial economic loss. Additionally, Air France and British Airways were subsidised by their governments to buy the aircraft. As a result of the type’s only crash, (on 25 July 2000), economic effects arising from the 11 September attacks, and other factors, operations ceased on 24 October 2003. Regarded by many as an aviation icon, Concorde acquired an unusual nomenclature for an aircraft.

Designing and building Concorde was an incredible achievement. The airliner cruises at twice the speed of sound, just about as fast as a rifle bullet leaves the muzzle. Concorde's designers faced the classic aerodynamic problem that a wing which performs well at very high speeds tends not to do so well at the low speeds involved in take-off and landing. The engineering compromise eventually reached was Concorde's distinctive delta-shaped wing, reminiscent of 1950s military aircraft.

The 001 Concorde prototype made its own contribution to science during the total solar eclipse of 30 June 1973. It took off from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and chased the eclipse at Mach 2 for 74 minutes, allowing a team of seven scientists from the US, Britain and France to make unprecedented observations. The record observation may not be bettered before the year 2150, when a similarly long eclipse might permit another sun-chasing flight.

Air France made its final commercial Concorde landing in the United States in New York City from Paris on 30 May 2003. Since the last commercial Concorde flight on 24 October 2003, the British Airways fleet of seven Concordes have gone to their final resting places at museums around the world.

Regards – S Sampathkumar.

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