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Supersonic Collaboration

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Gibraltar produced stamps in 2019 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the inaugural flight of the supersonic aircraft “Concorde”. The Concorde was designed and built by four collaborating companies, two in the United Kingdom – British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce – and two in France, Aérospatiale and SNECMA (Société Nationale d’Étude et de Construction de Moteurs d’Aviation). The final product was completed in 1969, though its first commercial flight wasn’t until 1976. Only 20 Concordes were ever built, six prototype and development aircraft and 14 that were actually used commercially.

Gibraltar 2019

 Its maximum speed was twice the speed of sound, reaching up to 1,370 mph, and it transported passengers from New York to London in less than 3.5 hours. A crash that killed 113 people in 2000 caused all Concordes to be taken out of service for a year for modifications but in its 27 years Concorde only saw that one single fatal accident. It remained in service for 27 years until 2003.

With special thanks to the London Postal Museum the article continues with facts surrounding original designs put forward to the British and French postal authorities regarding Concorde philatelic products.

The idea of a commemorative stamp to mark the maiden flight of Concorde was first brought to the Post Office’s attention by a Mr. Doubtfire who sent in an unsolicited design in 1967.

At that time there were no plans for a commemorative stamp, however, it was decided to look into what the French Postal Authority intended to do. The French had already commissioned an artist and together they agreed that each country would have its own stamp issued after the flight.

The artists commissioned to design the British stamps were David Gentleman, Philip Sharland and Richard Negus, Michael & Sylvia Goaman and Margaret Calvert. There was also the unsolicited design already seen by Mr Doubtfire and another by a Miss S Down.

The stamp needed to represent the collaboration between Britain and France and depict the plane itself. Margaret Calvert’s design (seen above) overlaps the countries on the map as Concorde flies over. The red, white and blue colours used also unified the countries.

After all the designs were submitted they were sent to the Ministry of Technology to be checked for technical accuracy. Minor changes were made and it was also suggested that sound waves, like those used in Philip Sharland and Richard Negus design below, shouldn’t be included as it drew attention to the sonic booms made by Concorde.

The final designs chosen and approved by HM The Queen in 1968 (see below) consisted of work by Michael & Sylvia Goaman and David Gentleman.

The Concorde stamp issue was accompanied by a presentation pack also designed by David Gentleman. It contained the three issued stamps and detailed information about the plane’s creation and specifications.

When the stamps were created the first-class price was 4d, however due to the delays in the inaugural flight the rate had risen to 5d. The two phosphor bands on the older 4d stamps would still travel first class and it was decided to allow this to pass rather than lose money reprinting.

The first flight of Concorde took place on the 2 March 1969 with the French issuing their stamp on the day of the flight, Britain issued theirs the day after on the 3rd.

Concorde has also featured in other stamp issues such as Airliners from 2002 and the Design Classics issue of 2009 celebrating British design.

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