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Farewell Concorde

August 14, 2011

And good riddance

The decision of British Airways and Air France to stop flying Concorde has been greeted with sadness by many who admired the beauty and technological sophistication of the supersonic passenger airliner.

iGreens will also feel a pang until they reflect on the environmental damage of this gas guzzler, and the economic damage it has inflicted on Britain and France.

Concorde was conceived as a joint Anglo/French government initiative in 1962.  By 1965 it was obvious that it was never going to make any money, but instead of pulling the plug, as any private company would have done, the two governments went on burning pounds and francs in a vain attempt to salvage some prestige.

By the time of its maiden flight in 1969 no airline was willing to pay for it and only 16 were ever built.

To save face the two governments bullied their nationalised airlines to fly the plane.  Even then they had to give them the planes for free.   BA paid £1 for its Concorde fleet and the British and French governments wrote off the entire £1 billion development costs.

Even then the plane was little more than a toy for the rich.  Neither airline made any serious money flying it, although they valiantly tried to persuade themselves that somehow some prestige rubbed off on the rest of their operations[1].

It was hardly surprising that for years the planes have flown half empty.  They burn 5,500 gallons of fuel per hour and carry only 100 passengers.  As a result the one-way fare from London to New York was £4,000.

The airlines scraped along by offering round trips to tourists who paid through the nose for a glass of champagne and the opportunity to boast to their friends that they had flown on Concorde.  The flight, which crashed on takeoff from Paris in July 2000, was not full of businessmen, film stars or diplomats, but rather a busload of German pensioners.

Since the start of the Iraq war the planes have been less than 20 percent full.  On April 10th, the day BA and Air France announced the end of the service, only 12 passengers made flight AF002 from Paris to New York.

There is too much pollution from wasteful travel in the world.  Most of it is caused by government subsidy of roads, and other travel budgets.  Compared to that Concorde may have been small beer, but it was a high profile example of government waste.

Let us celebrate that this foolish bit of state-sponsored global warming has at last stopped.

Jim Thornton. Nottingham, 12 April 2003

via Farewell Concorde.

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