Energy and Thermal Physics

The colour of Concorde

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

Concorde’s designers were aware of potential heating of the airframe due to supersonic travel and set a maximum safe limit for the temperature of the aluminium body over the life of the aircraft at 127°C, limiting the top speed of the aircraft. The aircraft was painted with a highly reflective white paint to prevent overheating.

In 1996, an Air France Concorde was given a blue livery as part of an advertising promotion with Pepsi. The pilots were warned to limit Mach 2 flight to no more than 20 minutes due to the additional aerodynamic heating of the new paintwork.

 Concorde would expand by as much as 300 mm when travelling at supersonic speeds and a gap would open between the flight engineer’s console and a bulkhead. On the plane’s final flight, an engineer placed a hat in the gap, where it became permanently lodged as the plane cooled down for the last time.


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