Concorde’s first test pilot Andre Turcat dies

  • AFP, Paris
  • Updated: Jan 05, 2016 22:08 IST
This file photo taken on June 1, 1969 during Paris' Air Show shows French test pilot Andre Turcat in the cockpit of the Concorde prototype. (AFP)

Concorde’s chief test pilot Andre Turcat, who was the first to break the sound barrier in the supersonic jet, died at age 94, his family said on Tuesday.

Turcat was the first person to ease the 001 prototype off the Toulouse runway on March 2, 1969 and took the jet through the sound barrier on October 1.

He died on Monday at home in Aix-en-Provence in the French Alps, after a glamorous life that saw the rise and fall of the legendary Concorde aircraft.

He remained a staunch defender of the jet even after an Air France Concorde bound for New York crashed on July 25, 2000 while taking off from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, killing 113 people and sounding the death knell for commercial supersonic travel.

This file photo taken on February 28, 1969 shows the crew of Concorde 001 (from L to R) flight mechanic Michel Retif, chief test pilot Andre Turcat, flight engineer Henri Perrier and first test pilot Jacques Guignard posing three days before the first flight of Concorde 001, the Franco-British supersonic aircraft in Toulouse. (AFP File Photo)

Born in 1921 in the southern French city of Marseille to a family of car manufacturers, Turcat was briefly deployed in 1947 as an air force pilot in what was then known as Indochina, where colonial power France was fighting a war.

In 1952 he was named director of the air force’s school of test pilots, and soon afterwards became chief test pilot for France’s specialised aviation centre.

He was chief test pilot for Concorde from 1964 to 1976.

After turning in his wings, he was Toulouse deputy mayor from 1971 to 1977 and a member of the European parliament from 1980 to 1981.

Married with three children, Turcat published a memoir entitled “Test Pilot”.

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