Faster than the speed of sound

Concorde enjoys legendary status as one of the most iconic planes ever built, both for its characteristically dagger-like silhouette, and the fact that it could cover any distance in half the time of a regular passenger aircraft.

Introduced in 1969, with its first paying passenger flights in 1976, Concorde had space for up to 128 passengers, and was capable of speeds of Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph). Conceived in a joint effort between the French Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation, Concorde stands as a medal of our collaborative efforts to create something truly impressive, even by modern standards.

Concorde was not small, measuring 62m in length and weighing in at a colossal 78,700kg. It was a passenger jet, designed to carry people and luggage.

Concorde’s signature droop nose, which could drop to either 5 or 12.5 degrees, was designed and manufactured in the heart of Cambridge, at Marshall Aerospace.

Why the long nose?

Concorde was not small, measuring 62m in length and weighing in at a colossal 78,700kg. It was a passenger jet, designed to carry people and luggage. As such, it would have to be made incredibly aerodynamic if it ever hoped to break the sound barrier (approximately 767 mph).

The needle-like nose, which itself measured 7.5m, was designed by the Marshall Group to enable the plane to literally slice through the air, reducing the effects of drag and allowing incredible speeds to be reached.

The Marshall Group: from cars to Concorde

Established just six years after the first ever powered flight in 1903 by the Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur, the Marshall Group began life in Cambridge as a chauffeur service. The company survived World War I, and by 1929, had set up a flying school on the outskirts of the city.

In 1937, Cambridge Airport opened, and in 1938, the Group began providing flight training to the RAF Volunteer Reserve.

Throughout the 1950s, the Marshall Group would work on a number of different projects, including development of the fuel cell, which would later be built upon in the United States, and used in manned missions to the Moon.

Working on behalf of the British Aircraft Corporation, the Marshall Group would enter the 1960s working on designs for the Concorde droop nose and retractable visor. The nose would be delivered shortly after 1967, for the aircraft’s first flight on 02 March, 1969.

Why did the nose need to droop?

To achieve supersonic flight, the plane needs to be as aerodynamic as possible, to reduce friction from the surrounding air. This means a long, pointed nose, and whilst the shape lent itself well to speed, its size impeded the pilot’s and co-pilot’s views.

At take-off, landing and taxi, the nose could be dropped by either 5 or 12.5 degrees, giving the pilot and co-pilot a better view of the runway from the cockpit.

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The Revival of Concorde

British Airways: Celebrating Concorde

Addtional features

In addition to the droop nose, the front of the plane also contained a visor, made from tinted glass, which would slide up over the cockpit windows to further increase aerodynamics, and tuck away into the nose when not in use.

Concorde was the first aircraft of its kind, a commercial passenger jet capable of supersonic travel.

In September 2015, a private group known as Club Concorde, announced plans to buy the Concorde model currently on display at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, with the intention of restoring it to flight readiness.

Concorde was the first aircraft of its kind, a commercial passenger jet capable of supersonic travel, with a Cambridge-born major design feature which has helped to blaze a trail for aircraft design ever since.

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