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The Concorde Saga

            
 
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Case Details:

Case Code : BSTR084
Case Length : 13 Pages
Period : 1976 - 2003
Organization : British Airways, Air France
Pub Date : 2004
Teaching Note : Available
Countries : France, UK
Industry : Aviation

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.



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"It will never really stop flying because it will live on in people's imaginations."

- Jean-Cyril Spinetta, Chairman of Air France in 2003.1

"The airlines have clearly spoken: Commercial supersonics are just not economically -and to some extent, technically - feasible. Maybe in two or three decades, that will change."

- Todd Lecher, a Boeing spokesman in 2003.2

"The costs of operating Concorde, and in particular maintenance and support, have become such that operations are unrealistic for any operator."

- Noel Forgeard, Airbus Industrie Chief Executive in 2003.3

The End of the Supersonic Era

Huge crowds had gathered at Heathrow Airport in London, hours before the actual event was scheduled to take place. Heathrow had set up a grand stand with a seating capacity of 1000 people especially for the event. Those who were not lucky enough to get a seat in the stand crowded around the airport's fences, equipped with step ladders and cameras.

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Some came to bid adieu to one of the biggest technical marvels of the 20th century. Others, to rejoice in the end of their bete noire. It was the last flight of Concorde, the only supersonic4 commercial jet in the world. British Airways (BA) and Air France (AF), the only airlines to ever fly Concordes, had announced in April 2003 that they would retire their fleet in October that year.

The last Concorde flew from the John F Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York to Heathrow a little after four in the afternoon. It was one of the three Concordes that landed at Heathrow on October 24, 2003, the day chosen to close the chapter on supersonic commercial travel.

Speaking on the end of Concorde, Rod Eddington, (Eddington) Chief Executive of BA said, "Concorde has served us well and we are extremely proud to have flown this marvelous and unique aircraft for the past 27 years."5

Concorde was the realization of a dream to fly faster than the speed of sound (Refer Exhibit-I). It was developed in the 1960s to bring supersonic flights out of the military spectrum and within the reach of the general public. It was to be the technology of the future and was expected to transform air travel. The aircraft itself was a technical marvel, with its needle-shaped body, a pointed drooping nose and delta-winged design, which helped it slice through air to achieve magnificent speeds. It traveled twice as fast as ordinary subsonic aircraft. In spite of its technical superiority and the convenience it offered by taking people to their destination in half the time, Concorde was a commercial failure.

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1] James M. Clash, "Last Flight of The Concorde", Forbes, September 12, 2003.

2] Noah Shachtman "Concorde: Fast Flight to Nowhere", www.wired.com October 20, 2003.

3] www.concordesst.com

4] A speed which is greater than the speed of sound in a given medium, usually air.

5] www.concordesst.com

 

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