Concorde’s ‘droop nose’ will rise again for the plane’s 50th anniversary

CNN  — 

Fifteen years after it last flew, supersonic airplane Concorde’s distinctive drooping nose is back in action.

Since its final landing in 2003, Alpha Foxtrot (the final Concorde model to be built and the last to fly) has been housed at Aerospace Bristol, a UK museum where visitors can view and board the famous aircraft.

Its “droop nose,” designed so pilots could lower the front cone for better visibility during takeoff and landing, was disabled when the plane was decommissioned and drained of hydraulic fuel.

Conservators and volunteers, however, are now working to reactivate the feature. If all goes to plan, the nose will be functional by April 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s first British flight.

Concorde is “definitely the star attraction” at Aerospace Bristol, marketing manager Adam Jones told CNN. Already, visitors to the museum are flocking around the nose as engineers work to fix it. “It’s clearly something that people want to see,” he said.

John Britton, a former Concorde chief engineer, is part of the team of volunteers working on restoring the nose.

The British-French designed Concorde, capable of flying at twice the speed of sound, once transported passengers between London and New York in under three and a half hours. Launched by British Airways and Air France, who owned seven each, the supersonic plane became a symbol of luxury travel.

The Concorde, shown here with its nose in lowered position, has been grounded for over 15 years.

Concorde’s sonic boom would become its downfall, however. Almost all orders for the design were canceled by 1976 as backlash over its noise mounted. In July 2000, the crash of Air France Flight 4590, in which 109 people were killed, further damaged the model’s image. Though Concorde returned to service the following year, it was grounded for good in 2003.

Reanimating the Alpha Foxtrot’s nose – without activating the rest of the plane – is tricky. The Aerospace Bristol team has already installed new cables and a transformer, allowing them to use the plane’s original electrical system.

They further plan to install a motor and power pack donated by hydraulics supplier Zeus Hydratech, which will deliver 3000 psi of hydraulic pressure to the nose.

If all goes to plan, the nose will be functional by April 2019, for the 50th anniversary of Concorde's first British flight.

It’s been over 15 years since the Alpha Foxtrot, the last of the Concordes, touched down for the last time – why, then, does interest in the plane remain so high?

“It’s because there’s nothing else like it even now,” Jones suggested. “It was an incredible engineering achievement and the pinnacle of luxury passenger travel.

“It’s very much a national and a global thing that people are passionate about.”