Concorde

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Belle
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Concorde

Post by Belle » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:00 pm

Last night we watched a 2 hour documentary on this magnificent aircraft ("Concorde: Designing the Dream - Triumph and Tragedy"). I learned something I didn't know before; that it was a number of factors which led to that disastrous accident in France (the 'swiss cheese effect') - a chain of events which lead to catastrophe.

And I also did not know that they'd modified the fleet to make sure that type of accident couldn't happen again but, alas, after 9/11 they never recovered the business they had before this event (which occurred one year after the French disaster). After initial losses in the multi-millions, British Airways put pilots on the board of the company and it was they who got it going with incredibly good marketing. From losses of 10 million pounds per annum the airliner went to profits of 15 million per annum and more. Concorde was actually in the air for 27 years, but positive financial returns were by no means all of that story!!
Concorde pilots were interviewed and they talked about the thrill of operating that phenomenal machine which, after take-off, immediately headed on a steep upward trajectory, "like a home-sick angel" as one pilot put it. Rolls Royce Olympus engines with after-burners which made passengers feel "like somebody was pushing you on the chest and drawing you back into your seat". The man who said this was expressing his sheer pleasure of the experience of Concorde joy flights, which the company had to resort to after 9/11. Lots of information in this great documentary. Less than 70 years after the Wright Brothers' first powered flight, Concorde demonstrated that once the physics of flight were learned and achieved it was afterwards a matter of design adjustments, metal fatigue issues and engine technology itself which changed the landscape. The invention of the jet engine changed things irrevocably.

The chief pilot of Concorde said that five of them landed together on that last flight into London (or was it Bristol?) and he observed the planes sitting together on the tarmac: "I could see 5 perfectly good aircraft with absolutely nothing wrong with them destined never to see service again". It was a poignant moment. And the final pang of grief: British Airways lost millions and millions and millions of pounds on their joint venture with Aerospatiale over Concorde. I said to my husband, "this is what anti-capitalists will never understand; people put vast amounts of their own and investors' money (and sometimes taxpayers' too - Elon Musk, I'm looking at you!) into projects on a risk and reward paradigm and can lose a very great deal of money". I don't want to make them sound like saints, of course, but every item we consume is the result of somebody putting their own capital right on the line. Every time. Concorde was living proof of that reality. And I think Airbus is looking at the same kinds of losses with the A380, probably not ever going to be able to sell enough planes to justify the staggering R&D costs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorde

I'm so glad to have been born in the era of motion pictures, stereophonic sound, FM radio, the internet, Concorde, rockets to the moon and transplantation. Gratitude doesn't even cut it!!

absinthe
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Re: Concorde

Post by absinthe » Sat Oct 26, 2019 12:24 pm

Agreed.....except I think another plane that matches in beauty and elegance is the Lockheed SR71, made of titanium painted a very dark blue to cope with heat dispersal and the only plane in which the pilots must wear space suits.
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I've been looking out on ebay to see if one comes up at a price I can afford..... : :lol:

Seriously, a beautiful plane. Must have been quite some experience flying one and an interesting history.

Belle
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Re: Concorde

Post by Belle » Sat Oct 26, 2019 4:25 pm

absinthe wrote:
Sat Oct 26, 2019 12:24 pm
Agreed.....except I think another plane that matches in beauty and elegance is the Lockheed SR71, made of titanium painted a very dark blue to cope with heat dispersal and the only plane in which the pilots must wear space suits.
.
I've been looking out on ebay to see if one comes up at a price I can afford..... : :lol:

Seriously, a beautiful plane. Must have been quite some experience flying one and an interesting history.
Agree about the Lockheed SR71; another miracle of flight. I'll bet those fly-boys and gals love flying those high-tech aircraft. A couple of weeks ago I was picking my husband up from our airport, which doubles as a jet base for our air force. A few fighter jets took off in quick succession - I think they represent our latest acquisition and I'm unsure about the type. Anyway, everybody pulled over whilst driving to watch them. My husband and I both observed that 'those fly-boys and gals would absolutely love being at the controls of those jets'!! I've got huge admiration for them all.

John F
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Re: Concorde

Post by John F » Wed Nov 06, 2019 6:16 am

Whatever its esthetic appeal, the Concorde struck me from the beginning as needless, serving no important purpose. It reduced the flight time between London and New York by about 1/2, saving maybe 3 or 4 hours from the Boeing 747. To achieve this, passengers had to pay $8,000 one-way ($12,500 today), while during the 1970s Virgin Airways would get you there for $100. Nobody's time is worth that much! For their money, passengers suffered a cramped space that mostly confined them to their seats. The Concorde was a toy for the rich with more money than they knew what to do with.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Concorde

Post by Belle » Wed Nov 06, 2019 12:17 pm

Actually, the documentary said that Concorde was very successful once it was marketed properly - for a good many years. Today it wouldn't be needed so much because of the internet and tele-conferencing but apparently business people used it to get to NYC from London (and vice versa) when they'd very often travel over for a morning meeting and return that same day at 5pm!!

But there were certainly celebrities who flew on Concorde and who fitted the description you've provided!!

John F
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Re: Concorde

Post by John F » Wed Nov 06, 2019 3:54 pm

The Concorde was profitable at the exorbitant price of a ticket, and overlooking the immense cost of building the thing, which was never recovered. As for its purported usefulness to budiness people, again, nobody's time is so valuable that savng three hours at a cost of$10,000 makes economic or business sense. That's just vanity.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Concorde

Post by Belle » Wed Nov 06, 2019 4:57 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Nov 06, 2019 3:54 pm
The Concorde was profitable at the exorbitant price of a ticket, and overlooking the immense cost of building the thing, which was never recovered. As for its purported usefulness to budiness people, again, nobody's time is so valuable that savng three hours at a cost of$10,000 makes economic or business sense. That's just vanity.
We'll have to disagree. Quite a lot of business people work 18-20 hour days and I'm betting they'd say that their time was valuable. My son has flown to South Australia from Perth for a day's meeting!! And my son in politics has flown from Sydney to interstate for a day's meeting, along with his boss and other politicians - our political leaders can do more to than one state in a day. I'm betting yours do too!!

Chalkperson
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Re: Concorde

Post by Chalkperson » Thu Nov 07, 2019 3:25 pm

I worked on Concorde as an Aircraft Enginer (electrical) from 71-73 and I flew on it occasionally in 78-98. and I'm with Belle here.

if the FAA had not imposed restrictions on its flightpaths it could have been very successful.

But it was given access to very limited routes.Paris and London to NewYork and Washington, it became know as a richer person's plane simply because they could not sell more planes to enough airlines.

it was the first Commercial Supersonic Aircraft, as was Concordski, the Russian Equivalent. The cost of a ticket should have been close to first class, but logistics made that impossible.

I once flew with Richard Branson, of Virgin Fame, to Washington and back in a day, David Frost and Rupert Murdoch (members of the the five seat back row club) flew between NY and the US twice a week.

The interior of the Aircraft was almost a dissapoinment, small windows, four seats per row. But, once it got going you were above the atmosphere, the sky was black, you saw the curvature of the earth, and it was basically one long meal.

I have not seen the program, but I'm sure it pointed out the innovations, the tilting nose, the fact it steered by shifting fuel from one wing to another, it was a wonder of a plane.

But, it was not made by British Aerospace, not Lockheed or Boeing, so the Americans made it fail.

Perhaps JohnF should research things before condemning them...
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

Belle
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Re: Concorde

Post by Belle » Thu Nov 07, 2019 4:53 pm

Basically most of the things you've said were in that program. Yes, a wonder of an aircraft and - just imagine - 50 year old technology, since its designing began about the time of the 747!!
It made my heart soar just to watch it and also to hear the erstwhile crew talk about it. What human beings are capable of!! Just astonishing. And you are absolutely correct about the stymied routes which ultimately sealed its fate. The British were at the front of the pack with aviation for a long time. (Harrier Jump Jet, anybody?)

Just today we read in the newspapers that cracks are developing in the A380 where the wings attach to the fuselage, at the back of the wing. These, and all other aircraft, are in a continuous service loop (it's the only way the airlines can recoup their monstrous investment and maintenance outlays) and it doesn't surprise me at the least that the structures of these planes become 'exhausted'. Airline fares are as cheap as chips and I'm wondering if that isn't part of the problem; that they need to be more expensive so that aircraft can spend more time in the hangars, having a 'week off', and subjected to more rigorous maintenance regimes. Implied in those fare structures should also be the cost of investigations for aviation accidents and incidents - costs which, no doubt, are in part borne by the carriers themselves. Few savvy investors will touch airlines in their share portfolios!!!

Cost or safety? Take your pick.

My sister worked for Qantas for 20 years and her last job was managerial. When she left the company (some years ago) it had begun shedding massive numbers of staff. She said to me, "we're looking at a crash scenario if they get rid of any more staff; it's now unsustainable". Lo and behold, they started having 'incidents'!!

barney
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Re: Concorde

Post by barney » Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:50 pm

Cheaper fares have made flying far more democratic. I don't want to go back to the days when only the rich could fly. And is not Melbourne-Sydney one of the world's busiest routes? You can do that for next to nothing on Tiger (which I wouldn't dream of doing because they are so unreliable) up through Jetstar and Virgin to Qantas.
Concorde would be overkill on such a short route, but I would love to have flown it once.

John F
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Re: Concorde

Post by John F » Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:59 pm

Kind of on topic: I remember a 1950s movie, now on YouTube, called "No Highway ni the Sky," based on a Neville Shute novel, that was about "incidents" happening to a new airplane. You might enjoy it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRa4yey8Z2k

(The YouTube link I posted was to an incomplete version. I've replaced it here with a complete one.)
Last edited by John F on Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Concorde

Post by Belle » Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:19 am

Great, John, thanks. I will Chromecast tomorrow and watch.

Oh, I've just realized I've seen it before!!

Belle
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Re: Concorde

Post by Belle » Tue Nov 12, 2019 3:58 pm

barney wrote:
Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:50 pm
Cheaper fares have made flying far more democratic. I don't want to go back to the days when only the rich could fly. And is not Melbourne-Sydney one of the world's busiest routes? You can do that for next to nothing on Tiger (which I wouldn't dream of doing because they are so unreliable) up through Jetstar and Virgin to Qantas.
Concorde would be overkill on such a short route, but I would love to have flown it once.
I flew on one of the first Pan Am 747 flights to the USA in 1971 and the return fare to the UK, via the USA one way and Asia return, was approx. $2600. (I was earning $60 per week at the time.) Fares are beyond cheap now, not just cheap - and I'm suggesting that those fares are unsustainable, given what we know now about the impact upon the structures of aircraft from continuous use (necessary for airlines to recoup their enormous capital investment and ongoing maintenance and operational costs: even a 'fuel levy' doesn't alleviate this problem long term). There is a point at which 'cheap' becomes 'costly'. I call these 'opportunity costs'.

You can fly Sydney to Manchester return on Emirates A380 Economy class for as little as $1490 (if you're prepared to accept the 'red eye' flights). The average Australian wage is now $55,000. Emirates sends me promotional material on this all the time, but it's not enough of an incentive to get me accepting that 'offer' since being crammed for 24 hours in a space so horrendously confining and suffocating is, to me, cheap but with a 'cost' I'm not prepared to pay. Did I mention that the seat sizes are much smaller now than they were in 1971 when I few on that Pan Am 747? Then there's the not insignificant matter of DVT for travellers stuck in the one confined space. They can get up in the A380 and stand near the bulkhead and do some exercises, but on the Boeing 777 or 787 or the Airbus A330 (or similar) that just isn't an option.

Business Class fares remain resistant to discounting and are now still approx. $16,500 return (for 2) Sydney to Vienna. However, you can still travel via ship for less than that!!

My sister, who worked for Qantas, once said that Australia could only ever sustain two major airlines competing for the same business; it used to be three: Qantas, TAA and Ansett. The latter went bust. Now it's 2: Qantas (and its subsidiaries) and Virgin. When flying to Perth one has the choice of either carrier and it's rather odd that they are timetabled contiguously. It gets down to route, convenience and price. But it's still comparatively expensive to fly within Australia. Alan Joyce has been able to turn around the fortunes of Qantas and cheaper fuel costs have quite a lot to do with that but, as I said before, this isn't sustainable enough for any investor to own shares in any airline!!

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