DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) concurrently put Concorde into commercial service in 1976. Air France’s F-BVFA and BA’s G-BOAA took to the skies simultaneously at 11:40 UTC.
The AF jet (AF025) departed Paris (ORY) bound for Rio de Janerio (GIG) via Dakar (DKR). In the flight deck was Captain Pierre Chanoine. It arrived at its final destination at 16:45 Paris time.
British Airways’ first flight (BA300) saw G-BOAA leave London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and head for Bahrain. Piloted by Captain Norman Todd and Brian Calvert, the flight wasn’t exactly what BA had in mind for its new flagship airliner. The jet would fly the route subsonically over Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Even subsonically, it still shaved two and a half hours off a subsonic plane on the same route.
Coming to America
While Concorde would later become synonymous with transatlantic air travel, the jet was still banned from landing in the US at the time of the inaugural flights. The ban was finally lifted in February 1977 but remained in New York until October 17. Scheduled services between Paris and London to New York (JFK) commenced on November 22.
Air France would operate its South American services until 1982, while BA ceased flying to Bahrain in November 1980.
A Source of Pride
The simultaneous flights were part of the joint effort between the two countries and their respective flag carriers to develop the supersonic jet.
At the time, Her Majesty The Queen sent a message to the French President saying, “On the occasion of today’s inaugural flight by Concorde aircraft of Air France and British Airways, I send you and the French people my warmest congratulations.”
She added, “Today’s flights mark the successful outcome of 14 years of close collaboration between our two nations. It is a source of pride that our countries have today inaugurated a new era in civil aviation.”
Featured image: Airbus/AIACC Club Concorde