The Concorde: RIP?

Were the Corcorde jets ever put back into service after that crash, or are they now sitting in aerospace museums somewhere?

Jury’s still out - modifications are being made and further testing proceeding. In a BBC news item a few weeks ago, though, a British Airways spokesman was optimisic about resuming commercial flights.

According to this CNN article, they may be back in commercial service this spring.

You can see more articles by searching for “concorde” at the CNN website.


At the moment, the entire BA fleet is parked at Heathrow, and the entire AF fleet at Paris-CDG except for 1 at the Aerospatiale test facility at Istres. There are a couple of early models in museums, though, at RAF Duxford and at the Le Bourget museum.

The only public reports about the nature of the changes is the proposed installation of flexible Kevlar trays, with sealing materials, in the bottoms of the wing tanks, to prevent or at least limit fuel leakage when (not if) a tire tread blows. Given the location of the main gear abreast of the engine inlets, it’s hard for me to see how engine failure at takeoff could ever be assured not to occur within the probabilities allowed by international certification standards.

To me, the most interesting thing to come out of this is has been the publicity surrounding the frequency of fuel tank punctures from blown tire treads on the Concorde. It’s been a matter of sheer luck that the first actual crash hadn’t occurred years before. It’s easy to see in hindsight that more direct action should have been taken earlier, starting with a different basic layout of the aircraft to put the gear aft of the inlets - obviously too late to change now.

The earlier incidents were all blamed on the blown tires fracturing the metal water deflector and causing that to puncture the wing tanks, and were thought to have been resolved by BA’s installing a retention cable. AF never did that, for reasons still unclear, and that’s why BA initially thought they were clear. Only after inspection of the wreckage did it become clear that the rubber tire tread material itself punctured the tanks and let fuel pour into the the #2 engine.

The optimism about returning to service is coming only from BA and AF, at least in public. BA has gone as far as to proceed with a planned interior renovation of their fleet, just to be ready. However, the Joint Airworthiness Authority has to be given proof that the changes, whatever they are, will prevent any further catastrophes stemming from something as common and unpreventable as cut tire treads. After so many years of (arguably) underreacting to a series of incidents of near-disasters caused by blown tire treads, and with such intense public scrutiny, the JAA will almost certainly be excruciatingly cautious about this.

It doesn’t help that the original design records date from the 60’s, with all that implies, and that the people who designed the craft are virtually all retired. The people working this issue are new to the design, and are no doubt under some pressure to get back to their normal Airbus work. Aerospatiale and Marconi aren’t making a dime off of this - it’s a contractual obligation.

With Concorde’s poor operating cost vs. profit balance, which will be worsened by the increased weight and reduced fuel capacity of this change, it’s hard to make a case based on sheer numbers that it should ever go back into service. But the snob factor, and market image, etc. have been enough before.

Keep reading Aviation Week for updates, if you like.

I have read pretty much all I can find on the subject on the 'net, and I am very optomistic that they will fly again.

Given the crash, will they construct new “concordes?”

If not, and if they eventually decommission the current fleet, then we might have an RIP situation.

Given the crash, will they construct new “concordes?”

If not, and if they eventually decommission the current fleet, then we might have an RIP situation.

I think it may go back into service for awhile, but its on its last legs. It has never made money and mostly constituted ‘bragging rights’. If you read the history of it, both the British and the French wanted to abandon it. But they had signed a contract stating that neither one could (or they’d still have to pay their share of the development costs). So it was a plane that nobody really wanted because they knew nobody could afford to operate it. Both BA and AF relied on large government subsidies to keep it flying.

It’s the law of diminishing returns. It may go twice as fast but it cost ten times more to operate.

No lucwarm, they will not build one to replace the lost one. It is a 30 year old plane and not feasible to do so. I am not even sure if the tooling still exists even if they wanted too.

As for losing money, since the airlines (BA at least) were able to write off the cost of the program with the government, it has been a marginal money maker at best but not a loser when it flies. I do agree though, that before when they were paying all the costs still, it was a big time money loser.

But, I guess thats why it costs $10G for a round trip ticket though.

Actually, if you’re rich, the Concorde wasn’t such a bad deal. It cost $9000 for a 1st class round trip ticket across the Atlantic on a 747.