By Paul K. DiCostanzo Managing Editor
The Concorde is making a comeback. The supersonic commercial aircraft renowned for taking passengers Mach 2 was retired from service in 2003. Though a dedicated group of Concorde enthusiasts, Club Concorde, is in the market to purchase one of the remaining retired aircraft’s, and return it to operational capacity by 2019. Club Concorde’s mission has come one major step closer to realizing their dream.
Club Concorde is a select group of Concorde enthusiasts. Many members are former Concorde pilots, flight attendants, and former dedicated passengers. In the Concorde’s 30 years of service, it was operated by a small number of airline personnel that dedicated their career to servicing the turbo-jet airliner. Club Concorde recently announced it has secured £120 million in private funding to purchase one of the remaining Concorde’s, and return it to service. Club Concorde’s efforts are but the newest chapter in the tale of an aircraft with significant history.
The Concorde was one of the great technological accomplishments of the 20th century. The Concorde project dates back to the 1950’s, and its development was a joint venture between the governments of the UK and France. Problems with the Concorde first arose when the project went terribly over budget. The Concorde also faced another unexpected difficulty, the devastating side effect of creating a sonic boom. Once the sonic boom defect was identified, the market for the Concorde dwindled. There was no government that would allow the Concorde to travel over land. The aircraft was then restricted to over sea routes, and the UK and France were forced to sell the Concorde’s they produced to their national carriers at a great financial loss. What was originally believed to be the next great aviation trend had became an albatross.
Despite the initial difficulties with the Concorde taking flight, it finally went into service in 1976 with British Airways and Air France. Once the market value of a trip on the Concorde was established, the mere 14 aircraft’s between the two airlines accounted for nearly 25% of their annual revenue. The aircraft became famous for its in-flight luxury, and a small dedicated community of passengers and aviation professionals. Its most famous routes were trans-Atlantic, traveling between the American east coast and Western Europe.
The Concorde’s service came to an end after three decades in 2003. The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 caused the passing of many of the Concorde’s dedicated passengers, and it also suffered from the decline in trans-Atlantic air travel. The final straw was a tragic crash following a take off in Paris in 2003. The small retired fleet of 14 aircraft’s can now be found in museums and public displays world wide.
For Club Concorde the renowned aircraft was not a trans-Atlantic novelty, it was a lifestyle. The members of Club Concorde are of the firm belief, based on their professional experience, that every Concorde that exists could still be in use today. There was significant controversy regarding the Concorde’s flight worthiness, and many believe it was prematurely retired. Moreover, the Concorde is a symbol of British and French pride. For the UK specifically, it is a symbol of immense accomplishment in the history of the English speaking peoples. Once they have brought their Concorde to service, Club Concorde plans to make it available for educational purposes, flight shows, as well as for charter service.
Sources: The Guardian, BBC World Service, Club Concorde, The Telegraph, theblogbyjavier.com.