Concorde’s Last Flight

British Airways Concorde

© Never Was An Arrow II / CC BY-NC-ND

1350 miles per hour; 23 miles a minute; a mile in every 2¾ seconds; 10% faster than a rifle bullet; Land’s End to John O’ Groats in 24 minutes: Concorde.

Captain Brian Walpole
Concorde Technical Manager

There was a rather interesting documentary broadcast on Channel 4 on Monday evening, which looked at how the 2000 crash of a Concorde at Paris CdG Airport lead to the eventual retirement of the Air France and British Airways fleet.

The programme was split into 3 sections (I’m not referring here to where there were ad-breaks), the total length being 90 minutes. If you’d like to watch it, its available on 4oD for the next 28 days.

For those of you unable to watch it, (perhaps reading this after the 28 days have expired) here’s a basic look at what the programme was all about. I hope you will agree that the Channel 4 production team(s) have clearly done their research on this!

Part 1…

Part 1 looked at the rise of Concorde; how the English and the French were racing against the Americans and the Russians who were both trying to build their own versions. Why Concorde had to have the Delta wing, and the problems regarding cost, noise and actually getting the machine to fly safely at Mach 2 for a prolonged period of time.

Part 2…

Using actual footage and photographs from the time, as well as computer graphics, to illustrate what went on, narrator Jamie Lee told the story of AF4590’s final minutes.

They re-constructed the sequence of events, and last words of the crew; as recorded by the CVR (translated into English), they were:

Co-Pilot: Le Bourget, Le Bourget, Le Bourget.

Pilot: Too late.

Co-Pilot: Negative, we’re trying Le Bourget.

Co-Pilot: No.

The Independant
The final, terrifying two minutes of flight AF4590

(If you’re a bit confused, Le Bourget is another airport in Paris).

Part 3…

In the final section of the programme, the programme looked at the investigation into the crash, and the evidence which appeared to have been ignored by the French BEA, such as the 25kg of extra luggage loaded but not recorded (therefore making the aircraft overweight), and the fact that eyewitnesses at Paris CdG at the time saw the aircraft on fire 200m before it went over the metal strip thought to have burst the tyre.

They also looked at the re-launch of the aircraft after adjustments had been made following the accident; how after 9/11 Air France apparently had only 6 paying passengers in some of its flights; and how this all lead to the retirement of Concorde.

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer


  1. Saw this on monday night.Thought it was very good.Watched it again 4OD.Quiet sad that Concorde was retired from Service when it is still fit to fly,but combination of crash,9/11 and Airbus increasing maintenance costs led to it’s demise.Is sad that these planes are sitting in museums when they should still be in the air.Always wanted to fly on one since I was a kid,but unfortunately never had chance.I reckon that Concorde will make an appearance at the 2012 Olympics opening Ceremony and will prove popular.

  2. Well I hope so, as it is an aviation icon.I probably could stretch to a one way ticket on concorde if it was in service now if I raided my piggybank :))
    Seriously though BA did roll over when Air France pulled out and they missed an opportunity as being the only airline utilising concorde.they may have got some of the French Market I believe and make money from charters. Airbus upping the maintenance costs I think was the real death knell after 9/ don’t spend £1.5 million refurbishing a plane and fitting it with safety features to ground it 2 years later.Concorde was “sabotaged”, so that Airbis could probably get concorde passengers onto their 1st class planes.

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