There were several components that enabled and supported the speed and power achieved by the Concorde.
The Concorde had 17 fuel tanks that could hold a total of 31,569 gallons (119,500 liters) of kerosene fuel. The main tanks were located in each wing (five on each side) and fuselage (four).
The Concorde also had three auxiliary or trim fuel tanks (two in front and one in the tail). Here is what the trim tanks were used for:
- As the Concorde reached supersonic speeds, its aerodynamic center of lift shifted backward.
- This shift drove the nose of the aircraft downward.
- To maintain balance, fuel was pumped backward into the trim tanks.
- The redistribution of fuel balanced the aircraft by making its center of gravity match the center of lift.
- When the plane slowed down, the center of lift shifted forward.
- Fuel was then pumped forward into the trim tanks to compensate.
So, unlike other jets, the Concorde used fuel not only for the engines, but also for aerodynamic stability.
Because the Concorde moved faster than sound, the air pressure and friction (collision with air molecules) could really heat up the plane. The temperature of the aircraft's skin varied from 261 degrees Fahrenheit (127 degrees Celsius) at the nose to 196 F (91 C) at the tail. The walls of the cabin were warm to the touch. To help reflect and radiate this heat, the Concorde had a high-reflectivity white paint that was about twice as reflective as the white paint on other jets.
The heat encountered by the Concorde caused the airframe to expand 7 inches (17.8 cm) in flight. To minimize the stress on the aircraft, the Concorde was made of a special aluminum alloy (AU2GN) that was lightweight and more heat-tolerant than titanium.
Now that we have seen the technical features that made the Concorde special, let's look at a typical flight from London to New York.