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Concorde's Last Flight (2010)

This is a film about the rise and fall of the world's first supersonic passenger jet - Concorde. From the moment that it hit the skies in 1969, Concorde was instantly iconic. Considered the... See full summary »

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Jamie Lee ...
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This is a film about the rise and fall of the world's first supersonic passenger jet - Concorde. From the moment that it hit the skies in 1969, Concorde was instantly iconic. Considered the thoroughbred of aircraft, it flew the rich and famous across the Atlantic in just 3 hours and forty-five minutes - with an impeccable safety record. Until, on July 25th 2000, a freak chain of events just outside Paris caused a catastrophic accident: Concorde's first fatality in 27 years of service killed 115 people and those devastating 120 seconds of flight marked the end of the supersonic era. Written by Darlow Smithson Productions

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12 July 2010 (UK)  »

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National Narratives
4 June 2011 | by (Virginia Beach) – See all my reviews

Superficially, this is a collection of interviews from people who built and flew what they consider the greatest aircraft ever built. They literally beam and cry as the story is told. The spine of the story is one of national pride, pride of two nations: France and Britain. The cause of the disaster of 2000 is revealed as a controversy, but this is very much behind the narrative of handsome achievement.

But in this British film about British excellence the story must be flawed. There is the report of the Russians stealing the design from the Brits for their short-lived version, but no mention of the French having stole the basic design from the Americans' B-70. Concorde was never an engineering or financial success. It was tolerated as a wasteful, destructive excess of the rich merely because countries need things of which to be proud. In France's case, it needs to escape the fact that France is essentially an agricultural economy and that French engineers can be excellent. Let's say the obvious: as good as Germans.

The UK story is more interesting. The Brits have always been a manufacturing society. So the story goes, they owe their survival to the excellence of their Spitfires. World War II vintage planes are now an essential part of every national event. So what does such a nation do when confronted with the disaster of their Vickers Viscount, the most unsafe aircraft ever manufactured, an aircraft so unsafe that frequent fliers avoided "English Engineering"? You nationalize aircraft makers and combine them; you accept French engineers in exchange for French subsidies and you make a trophy aircraft.

The only problem is that it is fragile, with serious design flaws. When the flaws are exposed by accidents, you ignore the recommendations. So one goes down with all hands.

A small piece of metal blows a tire. The tire is underengineered and throws a piece against the wing. The wing is underengineered and flexes into a fuel tank. The fuel tank is underengineered and bursts. A nearby electrical bundle is inadvisedly routed and poorly insulated, igniting the fuel. Even then, well designed engine intakes like those of the American bomber design would have tolerated such an event. The American SST design, incidentally, came from Kennedy's now forgotten second grand challenge, the moon shot being the first.

But despite the flaws of the American system at the time, we simply were not prepared to pay the financial and environmental cost for this part of a national narrative. Watching this (well made) film reminds us how desperately the Brits still do.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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