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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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End of a Dream

British Airways and Air France announced today that their regular Concorde flights across the Atlantic would end this fall. They blame the collapse of the premium business travel market.

While it's sad that this remarkable aircraft will no longer grace the skies, it's not that surprising or even a step back. Concorde was an amazing technological achievement (after a maiden passenger flight, a VIP complained that "It felt like any other airplane", to which a designer replied "That was the tricky bit."), but it was very expensive to operate, and the sonic boom problem limited the routes it could take to too great an extent. BA and AF's claim that it was ever cost-effective was only true once the governments involved wrote off the billions in development costs.

Concorde failed to lead us in any new directions. True, Boeing was making noises last year about a supersonic business jet, but it's clear now that they were just trying to steal attention away from Airbus' announcements regarding their new passenger jet. Once the service stops it's likely to be a long time before the average person (make that average rich person) can break the sound barrier again.