Concorde – Gwyn Williams

Gwyn Williams gave a fascinating talk on the UK / French Concorde aircraft project. He had worked for 20 years as an RAF military fast jet pilot. He had then moved to work a further 20 years for the CAA at Stansted as an instructor & safety inspector on the Concorde aircraft until it left service in 2003, when he retired.

The crew comprised pilot, instructor & 2 flight engineers. He described the flight planning process & flight envelope for services to New York & Washington. Noise abatement requirements dictated subsonic flight over land, with acceleration to M2.0 supersonic cruise over the ocean. Flight time to New York was 3 hrs 20 min. He detailed the novel technological aspects of the aircraft, including: fly-by-wire, vortex lift of the delta wing during take-off / landing, pumped fuel transfer system to optimise centre of gravity pitch trim throughout the flight envelope, and variable engine intake ramps to reduce the airflow in the engine to subsonic speeds. These ensured the technological success of the project, though could not ensure its success commercially. The Russian Tu-144 “Concordski” never went into commercial service. The US SST project also never went into service – instead, they concentrated on the wide-bodied subsonic jumbo jet route, which proved much more commercially viable. In current times, the potential advantage of supersonic trans-Atlantic passenger transport had been vitiated by the rapid development of remote communication technologies such as video-conferencing. Gwyn showed 4 interesting flight-deck videos, demonstrating take-off and landing approach procedures. This included use of the “droop-snoot” nose & the in-flight visor.