The crash of the Concorde in 2000 was a shock. Also known as the Air France 4590 crash, it resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people, and Concorde crash victims included several people who weren't even on the plane. It was the only fatal incident involving the supersonic jet, and, before the crash, the Concorde was considered a relatively safe aircraft – with a history of zero deaths. The crash that effectively ended its nearly three decades of commercial use was caused by tire debris, which hit the fuel tank and caused it to explode.
The Concorde was developed through a partnership between Great Britain and France in the 1960s. The turbojet operated from 1969 until 2003, going commercial in 1976 with a flight from London to Bahrain and a flight from Paris to Rio. Passengers enjoyed flying on the jet because it was significantly faster than other flights. While the plane wasn't exactly luxurious inside, it catered to the rich and famous – who were the only ones who could afford the exorbitant ticket prices.
There were many reasons why the Concorde ceased operating in 2003, and the crash was just the start of its decline.
The British Aircraft Corporation and French Aerospatiale joined forces to manufacture the supersonic plane in the 1960s. Together, British Airways and Air France built 20 planes. The name Concorde is derived from the French word for "harmony," and it was a fitting name because it highlighted the teamwork the countries demonstrated in developing the fastest mode of air transportation to date.
Multiple airlines were excited about the Concorde when plans for its construction were revealed. They believed it was the future of flight. But the planes cost much more to construct than originally anticipated due to unexpected production costs. As a result, each unit was priced at over $20 million, and that dissuaded many companies from buying them. The Concorde was used largely for passengers traveling across the Atlantic ocean. The typical passenger was well off financially and able to afford a return ticket from London-New York for approximately $8,000.
It's understandable why people were so interested in traveling on the Concorde – it was much faster than standard airplanes. The first delta-wing Concorde took to the air on March 2, 1969. Its top speed was 1,354 miles per hour, or Mach 2.04, which was more than twice the speed of sound. Travelers could leave New York and arrive in London just three hours later. Today, it typically takes over seven hours to make the same flight.
Taking a flight on the Concorde was a unique experience. Even though it flew around 1,500 miles per hour, passengers didn't feel and weren't bothered by the high speed of travel. They were served champagne and caviar on board. Celebrities, including Rolling Stones rockers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, singer Barbra Streisand, and actor Richard Gere were among those who traveled on the transatlantic flights. Neal Stebbing, the former director of sales at British Airways, was delighted every time he booked a flight, recalling, "I was like a kid in a candy shop the few times I flew."