Sunday, April 17, 2011
Concorde What A Beautiful Aircraft
In May I am taking my grandson on a trip to the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York. Among all the aircraft displayed on her flight deck I most want him to see the Concorde, British Airways G-Boad. Hopefully I will be able to get some great photos, inside and out.
I never got to see the Concorde up close on the ground. The only time I ever seen one was while I was out for a run one summer day. I saw a Concorde orbiting in the holding pattern over the East Texas VOR (eastern Pennsylvania), on one of its extended legs it passed over my home area. It made about two orbits then disappeared to the south. I don't know if it was Kennedy bound or Washington Dulles. There were many Thunderstorms in the area that day. But it was still pretty cool to see it orbiting the area.
Below are a few articles on the Concorde from the archives of Flight Global.
The airline pilot's view
By CAPTAIN J. ANDREW, BOAC project manager, Concorde
I AM EXPECTING Concorde to be a very nice aircraft to fly.
What the airline pilot wants to know is whether or not it
will be a good aircraft to operate, in all weathers—at all
times and all places.
When a pilot has his first look at the Concorde flight deck,
he will be dismayed to see so much crammed into such a
small space. The 8+ft fuselage diameter tapers to the pointed
nose, and into the space which is available as a cockpit must fit
the controls and displays for one of the most sophisticated
aircraft-systems ever produced. *
The layout allows a fully integrated operation to be carried
out by three men. During take-off, landing, and all critical
phases of flight, the engineer sits forward between the pilots,
monitoring, assisting, looking out. Within his reach are
throttles, fire handles, intake controls and so forth. Behind
him, the systems panel is designed to be set up and left. At
eye level, faults and warnings are displayed on a panel clearly
visible to all crew members.
The pilots have identical instrument panels which carry
large attitude indicators, and radio/inertial horizontal situation
displays. Attitude is shown over the full range with Inertial
Navigation System (INS) accuracy. Cross-pointer flight directors,
MDA indications, expanded localiser and rising runway
focus essential information where needed during low visibility
approaches. On the Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI) the
pilot reads distance to go, ground speed and drift. Deviation
from localiser or INS is displayed.
The mach meter presently carries moving bugs which define
the operating limits. A centre-of-gravity position indicator is
used when fuel is transferred to trim the aircraft.
The autopilot controller and VOR/ILS selectors are mounted
where they can readily be seen by the three crew members.
Push buttons were chosen for reliability and ease of use. This
fail-operative autopilot will be certificated to Cat 2 on delivery
and Cat 3A thereafter. In addition to normal autopilot
functions it will provide height acquire; vertical speed hold;
speed control; INS navigation; vertical navigation; and automatic
With the engine instruments are configuration, reverse, and
reheat indications, and nozzle area. Intake controls are at the
forward end of the engineer's system station and fuel transfer
switching is readily available.
Beneath the engine instruments are the three inertial controllers.
Space has been retained in this area for a fully
automatic chart display driven by the INS. and one controller
will probably be moved to the rear.
Departing London for Kennedy, the aircraft will be rotated
at about 180kt to achieve lift-off speed of 205kt at an angle
of 15°. Although take-off directors have been proposed for
this manoeuvre, 1 am not convinced that the director will do
anything for us, and that a satisfactory job cannot be done
without one. (We have an open mind, although we are working
to produce a runway guidance device for low visibility.)
The noise abatement procedure calls for 250kt at 500ft, and
throttle after given time to 500ft/min climb.
With the aircraft cleaned up, the climb continues at 400kt,
and if there is no ATC or boom restriction, the aircraft
becomes supersonic at 29,000ft, 80 miles from London Airport.
At 5° West the aircraft is at M1.3, travelling at over 700kt
at 38,000ft and on a standard day reaches top of climb in the
region of 10° West. From this rather indefinite point, which
varies with temperature, the cruise climb begins. (If there is
an ATC restriction, the aircraft is cruised subsonically at
Reheat is used at take-off and during acceleration climb,
and seems to be a most convenient way of adding thrust when
needed. Fuel is moved to trim the aircraft during acceleration.
At the earliest possible moment the autopilot is locked on
to the INS-derived track and the aircraft is kept on the
Studies of temperature and wind conditions during climb
and cruise on the North Atlantic have shown that the great
circle is best—when there are no ATC considerations. Higher
temperatures during acceleration do mean that more fuel is
consumed, but our own studies show that the penalties in
the worst cases are no more than 1,5001b, and well within the
A cruise climb at optimum Mach number will be flown.
longitudinal separation having been established by delaying
the start of acceleration of aircraft as necessary.
At top of descent, the pilot partly closes the throttles, slows
down to 325kt and descends. About 2,500ft/min should be
achievable, but we consider this to be insufficient in the
terminal areas, and have asked for the use of in-flight reverse
(the aircraft has no spoiler airbrakes).
Holding is flown at 250-300kt and the final approach at
speeds of 160kt or so. Angle of attack appears to be a
significant parameter here, and RAE are looking for a way
to display this on the Attitude Direction Indicator (ADI).
With the nose lowered, vision is very good, and auto-throttle
will simplify speed control. (I feel, however, that speed control
should present no problem to the airline pilot, with or without
auto-throttle, provided that he obeys the rules for flight in
this "different" regime.)
If Concorde meets the stringent requirements of the airworthiness
authorities and ourselves, I cannot see that a
professional airline pilot will take long to master this new
Training the Concorde pilot
The classrooms are new and lavishly equipped, offering
all forms of visual aid, including purpose-built working
models of vital components. Without having to move
from his console the instructor can select film or slide
projectors, view graphs, wall charts or working models.
He can also monitor the progress of his class by posing
multi-choice questions which the students answer by selecting
the appropriate one of four buttons at each desk.
Student responses illuminate a master panel on the instructor's
Along one wall of the main lecture room an enlarged
working model of the automatic flight-control system
(AFCS) recreates the glareshield panel of the aircraft.
Aircraft responses to AFCS inputs are shown to the whole
class on 12in-square reproductions of the attitude indicator
and the horizontal-situation indicator.
Each course comprises four crews (each of two pilots
and one flight engineer), who first meet for a three-day
introductory study of supersonic flight. The British Civil
Aviation Authority attaches a lot of importance to this
familiarisation, which breaks entirely new ground for most
of the students, and requires that an examination be passed
before students can move on to the next phase. For the engineers,
however, there is a preliminary three weeks of
intensive instruction in the aircraft's systems.
The crews then spend four weeks and two days in the
classroom covering a syllabus which prepares them to take
the technical examination for the type rating (the "ARB"
examination). During this stage the timetable provides
for four hours daily in the classroom and two in the cockpit
procedure trainer. The latter familiarises the students
with control and instrument locations and checklists but
lacks the motion and responses of a simulator.
Crews return to the British Airways training centre
at Cranebank to sit the exam, remaining there for a
performance course before beginning the four-week flight simulator
Joint simulator programme
The simulator is the result of a co-operative programme
almost as involved as that which produced the aircraft
itself. It was commissioned by BAC from Bedifon and the
Link-Miles division of Singer jointly, both companies
having tendered separately to the airlines and the manufacturer.
The £3 million programme was financed by
Brandts, a division of Grindlays Bank which has funded
the purchase of nine flight simulators during the past 18
years. The equipment is leased to BAC, initially for ten
years, on a fixed-rental basis; this arrangement is expected
to permit close analysis of training costs. BAC forecasts
an hourly cost of about £500, about one tenth the cost
of flying training on the real aircraft.
Although simulator instructors are not unanimous on
the need for six-axis motion systems, BAC was in no
doubt about specifying one to give the highly realistic feel
required of the Concorde simulator. The motion system
and hydraulics are part of the Singer contribution and
are changed little from the company's existing DC-10 and
747 systems. Singer also built the flight deck and instructor's
station, while Bedifon was responsible for the two
R2000A computers and the visual system.
Three vertically mounted models are used to give visual
realism. The largest, designed to encompass a procedural
circuit, depicts an airport not unlike Heathrow. No attempt
has been made to produce total realism, but there are two
parallel runways orientated east-west and the characteristic
shape of the Staines reservoirs has been included at
the western end. While it is not unreasonable to put subsonic
aircraft in "cloud" throughout the cruise, this
would not be satisfactory for simulation of an aircraft
designed to cruise at up to 60,000ft. Included therefore is
a realistic cloud-top model, across which the visual-system
TV camera moves at such a rate that the model's five-foot
diagonal represents one hour of supersonic cruise.
At the other extreme, the simulator also includes an
airport-apron model to give training in the precise taxiing
needed when docking the real aircraft.
During the four-week simulator period each crew completes
15 exercises, taking upwards of 60hr, by the end
of which the majority of tests for the type rating (1179)
have been completed. Provision is made for two spare
details and the aim is to reduce the time spent flying the
actual aircraft to less than lOhr before qualification.
1 spent two sessions at the simulator, one flying it and
one in the control and recording room. In this facility
recorders produce traces of the horizontal and vertical
flight paths, the latter information being particularly
valuable for analysis of glidepath performance. The instructor
at the recording panel also acts as an air traffic
controller and tapes are used to provide a background of
typical radio calls to and from "other aircraft." The recording
room is the safest place from which to
watch the movement of the simulator "in flight'; all the
movements appear to be carried to excess and many of
them look utterly unfamiliar. This is not unreasonable
when you consider the forces which need to be imposed
on the crew to approach realism. Three rotary and three
linear servos combine their responses to flying-control
and power adjustments to produce the required effect.
BAC training captain Tim Howell carried out several
consecutive demonstrations and occupied the right-hand
seat for my ride. As 1 settled into place the aircraft was
lined up on the runway with engines running, and from
the outset it felt remarkably realistic. We discussed how
best to use the limited time available and settled for two
extended circuits, intercepting the ILS at about 10 miles
and making the approach by visual references from 1,200ft.
We were simulating a light weight and using dry thrust
for take-off, which allowed me a few valuable extra
seconds of ground roll before the time came to rotate.
The key speeds for take-off were Vi 143kt, V,. 167kt and
Vu 199kt, and 1 was briefed to rotate to 15° to obtain the
Correct attitude for the Vj climb.
One gets so used to Concorde's fighter-like performance
that the "aileron" and "elevator" forces seem at first to be
disproportionately heavy, but this is largely a function of
the strong spring-centring action. The forces are in fact
relatively light for a 100-passenger transport. Full and
free control movement can be checked by reference to the
combined control-position indicator in the centre of the
panel. The rains-horn control column was angled comfortably
and was capable of full rolling movement without
striking the upper surfaces of the thighs. The Concorde
flight deck first strikes many people as
being rather small. There is certainly none of the airiness
of, say, the VC10, but once you are seated everything
seems to lie comfortably at hand and on the evidence of
the simulator the view is comparable with that afforded
by most current-generation transport aircraft. Even the
apparent "letterbox" effect, caused by the proximity of
the overhead and glare shield panels, seemed insignificant
after a Few minutes at the controls.
Wc called for take-off clearance and Tim Howell
spooled up the power while I kept my feet on the brakes
and grasped the tiller with my left hand. Brake-release
produced a satisfying surge forward and I was immediately
busy, trying not to over steer as I held the runway centre line
until the rudder became effective and freed me to
bring my left hand back to the stick. A firm force was
needed to initiate rotation and this had to be sustained
to achieve the desired 15° attitude. The undercarriage is
retracted by using an uncompromising lever on the copilot's
side of the panel. Little trim change was evident,
what there was being lost in the changes which inevitably
accompany acceleration after lift-off.
One of the few characteristics which appears to be
common to all model-type visual systems is the simulated
cloud base at around 2,000ft, and the Concorde system
was no exception. What happens is that the TV camera
runs out of terrain and needs time to reposition to the cruising-
flight landscape (or cloudscape). Within reasonable
limits cloud base can be adjusted as required, making
it possible to simulate a late transition to visual references
at the end of an instrument approach. We flew a left-hand
pattern on instruments and I noticed that the flight director
called for an exact 30° bank when a heading change was
commanded. Heading input to the AFCS is selected on
the glare shield panel, as is the required airspeed when
autothrottle is in use. Both controls are conveniently in
reach, have clear indications and require little departure
from the natural scan.
The simulator exactly reproduces the aircraft instrument
panel and 1 was surprised at how little impact the strip
instruments made on me. 1 imagine, it was a function of
workload—I was concentrating too much on the attitude
and navigation displays—but the vertical-speed indicator
did not at first attract my attention and the vertical-strip
angle-of-attack indicator never did. This instrument lay
alongside the airspeed indicator on early aircraft but was
well away at the extreme left of the natural scan on the
simulator, which presumably represents the current build
On our crosswind leg we reduced speed to 210kt and
used autothrottle thereafter down to the landing. A further
reduction to l,90kt to intercept the glidepath was
followed by progressive reductions towards a target
threshold speed of I61kt. Each speed reduction was selected
on the glare shield controller and the autothrottles were
allowed to adjust to suit the attitude and descent that T
was flying. The runway image was very realistic, featuring
clear VAS1 lights, and 1 liked the way the whole wrap round
picture was presented without a sharp cut-off at
1 tended to allow the aircraft to get below the glidepath,
possibly through not accepting the high angle of
attack which is demanded, but the autothrottle coped
smoothly with my pitch corrections. The controls were
laterally light, leading to some rocking.
As we came into the flare Tim Howell called the radio altimeter
heights and told me to make a gentle check—
about 2° nose-up—as he called 20ft and started to take off
the power. The simulator suggested a typical delta-wing
cushioning as we sank into ground effect and then the
main wheels touched. The nose seemed to rotate downwards
for an age before the nosewheel was on the runway.
At this point we could have taken reverse thrust but
chose instead to select maximum dry thrust for another
At my request Tim Howell cut back No 4 engine as we
lifted off at about 170kt. 1 checked the yaw satisfactorily
but when I relaxed enough to make a knee-pad note the
aircraft began to roll. A 6° pitch attitude was recommended
for the practice engine-out climb and as I rolled
level downwind I found I had applied too much rudder
and had to retrim. With the "dead" engine at flight-idle
power, the other engines showed 88 per cent r.p.m. on the
The circuit was similar to the first, though I became,
a little more conscious of a need to raise the nose in
turns, and the flight director again gave a smooth localiser
interception. We followed the same final-approach procedure
and arrived at a smooth touchdown after a rather
longer float. At this point the simulator seemed particularly
realistic, with the end of the runway approaching fast.
Reverse thrust and brakes soon brought us to a halt with
distance to spare, however, and I just had time to try
turning the aircraft round on the runway before my time
was up. Even that exercise, involving hanging the nose
well over the grass while turning, seemed faithfully
The Civil Aviation Authority airworthiness team has
endorsed the simulator as an accurate representation of
the real Concorde. Without having handled the aircraft.
1 have no yardstick to apply in that respect. But there
is no doubt that the BAG' school and its simulator provide
splendid training for aspiring SST crews
Capt E. C. "Mickey" Miles, flight manager (technical)
Concorde for British Airways, gives his impression of
flying the Concorde. Concorde is at present engaged in
a series of demonstration flights between Charles de
Gaulle airport, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. Arrangements
to fly the aircraft to Boston, Logan, to mark the opening
of the John A. Volpe International Terminal are now
6 june 1974
I START UP and taxi out, conscious that I am further from
the ground than I am used to on some aircraft—but less
so than in a 747. At the end of the runway with all the
normal take-off checks complete (there are no slots, slats,
flaps or spoilers to worry about) the aircraft is lined up.
I advance the throttles fully and switch on the reheat.
Concorde accelerates rapidly and, as the decision point is
passed, the co-pilot calls Vi and I transfer my right hand
from the throttles to the control column. The principles of
stopping from Vi in the emergency distance available, or
continuing the take-off with one engine failed, are exactly
the same on Concorde as they are on other jet aircraft.
In less time than it takes to say it, VE is reached. I
rotate the aircraft to about 15° and the aircraft continues
to accelerate along the runway to the lift-off speed. The
aircraft achieves a speed of at least V» at the end of the
take-off distance and continues to accelerate to Va + 40kt:
the initial climb-out speed. At about 500ft, depending upon
any local noise abatement procedures, reheat is cancelled
and power reduced, maintaining Vz + 40kt. When the airfield
noise restrictions have been passed, power is increased
to maximum continuous and Concorde climbs away at the
airspeed required by the local air-traffic-control regulations,
usually about 300kt. It is preferable to achieve 400kt at this
altitude as soon as possible since this gives the greatest
rate of climb. (This not only gives optimum efficiency but
also gets the aircraft up quickly to reduce any ground
disturbance from engine noise.) The nose and visor are
raised and the cockpit becomes a most comfortable place
to work in.
Climb at VMO/MMO is continued, and, as transonic drag
rise is approached, reheat is selected to transit the region
as quickly as possible. In order to compensate for the
change in centre of pressure in supersonic flight, the electric
fuel-transfer pumps are turned on. These shift fuel
rapidly from tanks in the forward centre section to tanks
in the tail. The e.g. therefore shifts with the centre of
pressure and trim is maintained beautifully with no need
to apply elevon. Any trimmed elevon necessary would be
no problem in handling the aircraft, but at supersonic
speed the drag and resultant fuel penalty would be significant.
On the other side of the drag rise the reheat is
switched off and operation is continued at VMO throughout
the flight. At about 50,000ft the rate of climb drops to a very
low value and a state of cruise climb exists—the aircraft
ascends slightly as fuel burn-off reduces weight. Slight
descents and ascents may be experienced because of temperature
changes but over the whole flight, even in the
most phenomenal temperature gradients, a definite altitude
increase is achieved.
To smooth out any of the intermediate height changes
resulting from very abrupt temperature changes, there is
an additional autopilot mode MAX OP SOFT. This mode
reduces the reaction of the aircraft below that available
in MAX OP. Both modes keep the aircraft speed at max
permitted speed, Mach number or temperature, whichever
is the most restrictive at the time. The autopilot is beautifully
designed with all the modes one could wish for. It
does not quite have one which says, HOME JAMES, but
it comes pretty close.
Of course, in normal operation the autopilot is used most
FLIGHT International, 6 June 1974
of the time just as on subsonic jets. But that isn't to say it
is needed as a "primary control system" as the autopilot
is sometimes described today. Operations throughout the
whole of the flight envelope with all the autostabilisation
devices switched off is extremely easy for the pilot. I
found it easier than on the subsonic jets I am used to.
In common with almost every pilot who has flown Concorde,
I found on my first flight that, as I hand flew the
aircraft during the transonic acceleration, one glance at
the Machmeter showed 0 • 96, the next 1 • 2—I had not even
noticed my first transition to supersonic flight. I would
rather hand fly Concorde on a long sector than any other
aircraft I am familiar with. However, normally the autopilot
does the manipulation of the controls and it is locked
on to the inertial navigation system keeping the aircraft
spot on track.
Air traffic control is told our position on the standard
HF and VHF network—far too frequently of course. The
number of reporting points is far too great. Although the
aircraft is only flying at Mach 1 • 9 there is a high ambient
temperature of ISA + 15° and TAS is up to flight plan at
1,298 m.p.h. Wherever no success has been achieved in reducing
the check points, and one is using the same ones
as the subsonic jets, they really go flashing past.
A close watch is kept on the fuel consumed compared
with flight plan—as on any other aircraft. The task on
Concorde is a little bit easier as a readout of instantaneous
fuel remaining is available on the pilot's and engineering
officer's panels. In addition, the engineering officer's panel
shows a reading of instantaneous weight and e.g. position.
The latter is computed automatically as fuel is transferred
and consumed but only from the original datum position
inserted before departure. The aircraft does not calculate
its own e.g.—it only computes change from the original
setting. There is still, therefore, a need for an accurate
load and trim sheet from the traffic branch of the airline-.
A careful check is also kept on the weather—again, as on 1
any other aircraft. Reports of actual weather, rather than
forecasts, are more interesting because the flight is over so
Descent clearance is gained from 58,000ft; the throttles
are closed to decelerate and Concorde descends at 325kt.
This speed is held all the way to the circuit, or for as long
as air traffic control allows. At about 38,000ft, flight becomes
subsonic and from then on to landing the aircraft behaves
very much like any subsonic aeroplane. The visor and nose
are lowered (visibility is good, even with them raised).
Turn out to final approach is at a speed of about 200kt
and gradually the auto-throttle is dialled down to give a
target threshold speed of 155kt at the outer marker. There
is a pitch-up attitude of about 10° on the approach and,
although it may look very nose-high to the observer on the
ground, it feels perfectly normal.
At 50ft the auto-throttle is taken out and the power
eased off with a gentle flare and the aircraft settles comfortably
onto the runway. The nose is lowered with the
elevons, reverse thrust and anti-skid braking is applied ;
as necessary, and I marvel that a flight at 1,300 m.p.h. felt
so remarkably similar to all my other flights at less than
half the speed. '