DA #7: Former Concorde Pilot Tony Yule talks on Supersonic Air Travel


In this episode, I interview Tony Yule, a former Concorde pilot for the British Airways. He flew the Concorde for Six years. We discuss his experience as a pilot and talk about the Supersonic Air Travel.

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The following is an excerpt from the podcast episode:

FIRSTLY I MAKE IT ABSOLUTELY CLEAR THAT I DO NOT REPRESENT ANY COMMERCIAL ORGANISATION INCLUDING BRITISH AIRWAYS AND ALL MY WORDS ARE MY OWN VIEWS, MANY OF THEM ARE CONTROVERSIAL.

Nothing actually happened to Concorde itself as it was a fully operational machine when the end finally arrived in 2003.

The end, these are my words, “Concorde was assassinated”.

OK I admit that those words are very strong but it’s my theory, so let’s say ‘forcibly retired’.This was due entirely to the French, Air France and Airbus with some background help from some very unpleasant senior management individuals within British Airways.

Firstly Air France’s complacency with poor planning for commercial profitability, they were losing money while BA were making big profits, thus it could be said, mismanagement of the operation, of their Concorde fleet.

Latterly, following the crash in 2000, there were a couple of incidents, a minor one with part of the rudder being lost in flight with no risk of loss of life.

Then in March 2003, there was a much more serious one on a transatlantic flight Westbound, an engine was shut down, the crew failed to notice a severe fuel leak, resulting in an emergency landing at the nearest airport on the Eastern seaboard. The lack of fuel remaining on landing, indicated a very serious risk of a crash if that aircraft should have had to make a GO-AROUND.

This incident increased the risk of legal action being taken against the board of Air France, should another accident occur and/or involving any loss of life. Air France senior board members lost confidence in their ability to operate Concorde successfully.

Secondly, Airbus increased the price of the then required maintenance to such a level, putting out of reach the realistic chance for British Airways to make a reasonable profit. Thus Air France having declared their Concorde operation would cease on 31 May 2003 effectively forced BA to cease their Concorde operation in October of that year.

Incidentally, there was a third reason, once again my own view and that is the failure of the British Government to force the rules of the treaty between Britain and France where we would share the costs until the very end.

As I said earlier……assassinated.

Everything that occurs in this world is political or will have political ramifications and while there are strong elements wanting Concorde to RTF, Return to Flight, my belief is it will never happen.

British Airways and Air France have no wish to see her airborne again and who knows what pressure can be put on those authorities who will examine her airworthiness state.

She’s been sitting on the ground for almost fourteen years and the state of the hydraulic and fuel lines could be in a bad state such that no civil aviation inspector will sanction any flight, no matter what repairs are made.

There’s no successor so far because no single company could afford to put up enough money for construction. Remember too that she used fossil fuel which became totally prohibitive in price, she had very high maintenance costs, was seen as a rich man’s transport and quite importantly the world lost a large proportion of First/Business Class travellers from The Crash and 9/11, it would be uneconomic to operate such an iconic machine.

Today, with all the communication devices available to industry, there’s no need for individuals to be ‘there’ at every step of the way on joint projects across the pond.

Let’s just keep her memory alive with people like me giving good and entertain professional presentations around the globe, to generate young people to become engineers in the future of aviation, Boom Supersonic; hypersonic flight; Reaction Engines Limited and space travel.

Its an exciting time moving forward in the industry of flight.

We will fly supersonically in less than five years at a good price. See BOOM TECHNOLOGY on youtube.com or Boom Supersonic @boomaero

Concorde was not difficult to fly. Sir George Edwards, former Chair of British Aircraft Corporation, once said the most difficult part of designing Concorde was making it easy to transfer from any other aeroplane to Concorde. That was the same for passengers too.

Here’s how to fly Concorde or any other aeroplane…..Apply enough power, roll down a runway then pull the control column back and the cows become smaller. To land, push the column forward until the cows get bigger. There you are, a pilot!!

OK fun apart…it’s not the basic flying, it’s all the ancillary stuff. Concorde was a technically advanced flying machine, in fact, two aircraft in one.

First she had to operate without special treatment in the lower atmosphere just like a B737 or B747 etc then had to operate in the hostile atmosphere of ‘Super Cruise’  above 50,000ft at Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, 1350 mph or roughly 2150km/hr.

At these speeds. metals heat and expand. Concorde at Mach 2.0 increased her length by some 8-10 inches or 20-25cm. That stretch and return to normal was one supersonic cycle. Concorde’s life was initially for 4500 s/sonic/cycles. Later increased to 6000 cycles and was being considered for 9000 cycles in 2003 before the plug was pulled.

Concorde was as safe as any other commercial airliner yet perhaps more so, considering the servicing to ensure she could operate safely in the extreme environment she was built for.

Just to remind your listeners that all aircraft are inherently safe, it’s the failure of individuals in whatever trade they work that leads to complacency. Complacency, in my opinion is the biggest single killer in our lives today.

Contact Tony Yule

https://www.facebook.com/spaceman8793

@spaceman8793

Thank you for Listening!

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About Larkins Dsouza

Founded Defence Aviation, clean freak, loves everything aviation, serendipitous & loves to create something new.