STORY ARCHIVE :Jan 2003 - March 2003

British Airways presses ahead to re-time Concorde services - 28/3/03

The British Airways summer schedule kicks in on March 30th and the airline is pressing ahead with its plan to re-time the Flagship BA001 Concorde service, from its 10:30 departure time to an 18:30 departure from Heathrow. Many in the industry had suspected that this long planned move, which is seen as a move to increase leisure passengers, would be delayed due to the conflict in Iraq, as the leisure passenger market is the first to show signs of weakness.

The move has not been as enthusiastically received by the business community, who are not effected to the same degree by world events. Many from the world of industry and commerce, have for the part 25 years, relied on the morning 10:30am departure to allow them a full business day in New York. They will now be forced to either fly on the late BA001 and stay in a Hotel in New York, or fly on a cheeper overnight business class seat. For leisure passengers time is not an issue as their Concorde flight it is all part of the fun of their trip.

The re-timing, will however, allow the airline to overnight the inbound aircraft in New York, therefore enabling BA to re-schedule the BA002 to its preferred 8am US departure time, which equated to an arrival in the UK shortly after 5pm. This earluer arrival tiem in the past had allowed loads to increase on the return legs.

In a separate move the airline ha been forced to cancel 4 round trips at the start of April. The airline said the cancellations are because of work needed to meet American security requirements. The Federal Aviation Administration has stated that from 9 April any aircraft flying to or from the US must have a reinforced cockpit door. BA said installation of these on its fleet began later than expected. With only two available for service on some days, the airline said it would not have enough aircraft for "a robust operation", The new re-timing requires 2 aircraft where as the old schedule could be carried out with one.

The main beneficiaries from all the moves will be the enthusiasts at Heathrow who can see a Concorde arrive at 18:00 and then the depart a little over an hour later.

Sir George Edwards dies aged 94 - 7/3/03

Sir George Edwards (right) was the first person, not a member of the flight test crew, to fly in Concorde (July 1969)
One of the leading figures in the British Aircraft industry from the second half of the last century died on March 2nd 2003, he was 94. In the 1970s Sir George played key role in the Concorde programme, as Chairman of the UK manufacturer of the aircraft - The British Aircraft Corporation, it was his enthusiasm for the project that ensured Concorde entered commercial service.

George Edward's career in aviation started in the design office of Vickers (Aviation) at Brooklands, Surrey in 1935 Under the benevolent eyes of the pioneer aircraft designer Rex Pierson, he quickly mastered the peculiarities of aeronautical work, first on the Vickers G4/31 biplane, then on the Wellesley and Wellington bombers of Barnes Wallis’s geodetic “basketwork” construction.

In 1938 he was engaged on the preparation of four special long-range Wellesleys which, in November that year, won for Britain the world distance record of 7,158 nautical miles, flown non-stop by RAF crews from Ismailia, Egypt, to Port Darwin, Australia, in 48 hours.His wartime tasks at Weybridge included the pressurised “crew capsules” for special high-flying Wellington MkVs - the first in British aircraft - and the prototype construction of the Warwick and Windsor bombers, and of Vickers’s last fighter, the prototype, twin-Merlin F7/41, high-altitude Type 432.

By 1945 Edwards was involved with Rex Pierson in the Vickers VC1 - first called the “Wellington Transport” - which became the Viking. It was a twin-engined, 27-passenger “DC-3 Dakota replacement” intended to lead the way to more advanced projects. Altogether 163 Vikings were built for British European Airways (BEA) and other postwar airlines.

On Pierson’s death in February 1948, Edwards was his natural successor as chief designer and chief engineer of the Vickers Aviation works. As such it fell to him to bring to fruition Pierson’s last design, the VC2, a pressurised, turbo-prop, medium-range airliner that was to become famous as the Viscount. Stretched successively from 24 to 47 passenger seats - and eventually to 70 - the Viscount became, under Edwards’s leadership, the most successful of British civil aircraft.

Ever philosophical, Edwards turned, first, to a new medium-haul, 130-passenger turbo-prop transport for BEA and Trans-Canada Air Lines which, as the Vanguard, went into service in February 1961. Sixteen months later the prototype four-jet, 115-passenger VC10 made its first flight from Brooklands, designed for BOAC and RAF Transport Command. Eighty-two were built.

The VC10 and its development, the Super VC10, with their excellent flying characteristics and superior passenger appeal compared with any of its contemporaries, would have sold worldwide in substantial numbers but for a decision by Sir Giles Guthrie, the chairman of BOAC in 1964, to standardise his fleet on the Boeing 707 instead.

By this time, in a coalescing of the 11 major British aircraft constructors into two major groups, Vickers joined with English Electric, Bristol Aircraft and Hunting to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), with its headquarters at Weybridge and Edwards as its managing director. One of the objectives of the Government in urging this, more or less shotgun, marriage was concentration of work upon an advanced, supersonic “tactical-strike-reconnaisance, weapons-concept aircraft” - the TSR2.

The first TSR2 flew on December 27, 1964, and went supersonic on February 21, 1965, clearly demonstrating that it could do its intended job. It was, however, promptly cancelled by the new Labour Government on April 6, 1965. This cancellation anticipated acquisition of the American F111 strike bomber which, however, was never delivered to the RAF. This second blow - strongly contested by Edwards - was taken by him in his usual stoic fashion. He turned instead to the much smaller and much less complicated BAC One-Eleven short-haul, twin-jet airliner with 99 passenger seats. A total of 234 One-Elevens were built by BAC and sold profitably in 62 countries, including the United States.

Meanwhile, the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic jet airliner had appeared on the scene, evolved from design studies by Morien Morgan of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), Farnborough, and A.E. Russell at Bristol. Edwards embraced the concept with enthusiasm and, by force of personality, the honesty of his approach and the attractiveness of his character, welded a warring, Anglo-French consortium into the semblance of a harmonious team. It was a triumphant technical and administrative climax to his career.

He retired from BAC as it became the nationalised British Aerospace in 1975. Then, not a little through his efforts, some half a million people were employed in the British aerospace industry and its supporting companies. He remarked that “the fundamental problem with aerospace is that the business is long-term and politics is short-term”.

Obituary Courtesy of The Times - Sir George Edward's Obituary is available to read, in full, on their website

Air France Concorde suffers rudder delamination - 27/2/03

For the first time since the airline began operating Concorde, Air France suffered a delamination of a lower rudder, at Mach2, on an AF002 flight from Paris to New York.

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration inspectors checked the supersonic jet after it landed at New York's John F. Kennedy airport. They found that a 1 1/2-foot (50-centimeter) part of the left lower rudder and a 4-foot (1.3-meter) piece of the right lower rudder were missing, said Arlene Salac, an FAA spokeswoman.

The Aircraft involved was F-BVFA, the oldest aircraft in the fleet of 5 Concordes at Air France. Some reports stated, incorectly, that this aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing the previous week. F-BTSD was in fact the aircraft the was forced to diver with an engine systems issue the previous week, although Fox-Alpha did divert to Gander in Newfoundland a few days before, when New York's JFK airport was closed due to fog as the aircaft was approaching from Paris..

An investigation to determine exactly what happened was expected to take up to several days, but until then "we can draw no conclusions," said a spokeswoman for Air France in Paris.

Other Concordes would continue flying in the meantime, she said.

" The incident did not have any consequences for the flight, and the plane landed absolutely normally and on time," she said.

Another Air France spokeswoman said there were 38 passengers and nine crew members on board the flight, AF002.

Alan Hicks, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, said no emergency procedures were required. The failure was only spotted after the aircraft had arrived on stand.

With a new, unpainted, rudder fitted ,F-BFVA flew the AF001 service from New York to Paris on Sunday March 2nd, enabeling the airline to go back to its normal schedule, where and aircraft overnights in New York so it can depart an 8am, before the inbound aircraft has arrived.

Weather causes Concorde services to be cancelled - 17/2/03 -Updated

Inclement weather in New York caused both Air France and British Airways to cancel their scheduled Concorde and subsonic services to New York on 17th Feb. Both airlines took the decision that they would not operate their outward bound services from Paris or London, as the weather in the North East US was so bad that the alternate airports would also be closed.

Air France have an Aircraft on the stand at JFK which will operate the first AF001, British Airways are still turning around the inbound aircraft to return as the evening's BA002

This is the first time since the resumption of flight in November 2001, that British Airways has had to cancel a BA001 Concorde service. Although there have been technical issues the availability of a back-up aircraft at Heathrow, has allowed the airline to operate a reliable service on their flagship route.

British Airways flew their BA001 and BA002 services as normal the following day (Tuesday), Air France do not fly a sevice on Tuesday (as well as Saturdays)

On the Wednesday, 19th Feb, Air France operated the AF002 service from Paris Charles de Gaulle to New York's JFK, but the aircraft, F-BTSD, was forced to divert to Halifax, Nova-Scotia, with a suspected fuel leak on the number 3 engine. The aircraft with 47 passengers on-board landed safely, and the passengers were transferred the short distance to New York in a BAe146. The AF 001 service to Paris operated with no problems being reported.

Since returning to service in November 2001, contrary to many media reports, Concorde has had a very good reliably record: With nearly 1000 flight flown, less than 10 have severely impacted on passengers schedules due to diversions, returns, cancellations, or long delays.

British Airways have a excellent record of not having to cancel a BA 001 flight from Heathrow to JFK due to any technical circumstance.. A small number of flight have had technical issue where the aircraft has had to shut down an engine but was perfectly able to continue to its destination. It must be remembered Concorde has 4 engines, and can safely fly on just 2,......Far safer than flying on certain jets with only 2 engines......I know what I would rather fly (ed!)

Concorde replacement another step closer - 14/2/03

According to aviation sources plans are afoot for a new supersonic transport aircraft that can carry between 250 and 300 passengers, at speeds approaching Concorde’s current cruising speed of Mach 2. The new aircraft, which would be developed in the next decade, could cost up to £20 Billion to become reality. Although Concorde theoretically has another 15 years of life left, there would be short break in supersonic air travel between the new airliner being launched and a Concorde services being completed by Air France and British Airways:

BA’s Chief Concorde pilot, Mike Bannister, was optimistic of for the future of supersonic travel: “There will be a pause between Concorde stopping flying and the start of the next generation, but I am absolutely convinced it will happen.”

Bannister explained that although Concorde ran up massive losses in the development phase, the new aircraft could be underwritten by international governments.

Operationally Concorde makes a tidy little profit for both Air France and British Airways, so there would be no problem finding buyers for a new product that could operate on a range of world-wide routes, talking half the time to complete key long haul services, such as London to Sydney or LA to Tokyo, therefore pushing up utilisation figures.

The world’s 2 major aircraft manufacturers are however currently committed to other projects; Airbus are building the A380 'Super Jumbo' and Boeing working towards their new '7E7' efficient airliner. Once these projects have been developed towards the end of this decade, the manufacturers could be ready for their next challenge, fresh with their new found knowledge.

The hard part of designing a new supersonic aircraft is to enable it to fly at normal commercial aircraft speeds economically, as well as flying at very high speeds for no additional cost. A unknown fact to many is that although Concorde is very un-efficient at slow speeds, when cruising at twice the speed of sound it is the worlds most efficient aircraft, due to the design of its airframe, engines, air intakes and exhausts.

The ideal design would allow the new aircraft to fly as economically as present subsonic aircraft over land, but be able to 'throttle up' to supersonic speeds once over the ocean and un-inhabited areas. Over such areas there is no problem with the sonic boom that aircraft traveling at high speed create, which can cause damage and inconvenience to populated areas.

Boeing have already done a lot of research ,both in flying efficiently and at high speeds for their Sonic Cruiser programme , which is current on the back burner. In the late 1990s they flew one of the former Russian TU144 SSTs, in conjunction with NASA, to assist in gathering data. Airbus have all the information on file from the development of Concorde in the 1960 and 70s. Although Concorde was not developed by Airbus, the companies that now form the Airbus join venture were the main aircraft companies in the UK and France that built Concorde. Very recently Airbus had sights on a new SST called the Advanced Supersonic Transport - AST

Work has also been progressing in Japan, on the Next Generation Supersonic Transport Project at their Japanese National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL). Shown in the picture is a cutaway of their scaled test design aircraft that was recently used for a test flight in Australian.The test was failure as the booster system that was used to accelerate the un powered test airframe to Mach 2 exploded. NAL plan to repeat the test with a new booster system, before moving on to their next phase of building a fully self-sufficient aircraft in the 2nd half of the decade

Concorde engineers and crew honoured -Updated 7/1/03

Jeff Jupp, who until recently was Technical Director at Concorde's manufacturer, Airbus UK, was awarded the Society Gold Medal from the UK's Royal Aeronautical Society.

Jeff, who retired as Technical Director in November 2001 after a 37 year career with Airbus UK and its predecessor companies (BAC and British Aerospace), was awarded the Society Gold Medal in recognition of his outstanding leadership in aeronautics, particularly for the wings of the Airbus family of aircraft. His career culminated in him heading the UK team responsible for returning Concorde to airline service in 2001.

During his career, Jeff played a pivotal role in the design and development of the Airbus wings, beginning with his work on the high speed design of the wing section for the very first Airbus - the A300B. He led the aerodynamic design on the A310 wing and then took responsibility for the aerodynamics, structural and systems design integration for the A330/A340 wings. As Engineering Director he led major initiatives in design and process improvements. In the later years of his career Jeff supported the design studies for the latest addition to the Airbus family of aircraft - the A380.

The work of the engineering teams on either side of the Channel from both the manufacturers and airlines ensured Concorde re-entered service in November 2001, where the aircraft has proved the critics wrong and is now as popular as ever with passengers and crews alike. Many services fly at full capacity, showing that recent events have had no long term effect on passenger numbers. For the first time since 1999, British Airways are fully booked on daily back-to-back services to Barbados during the festive holiday period, showing that Concorde has lost none of its magic.

Also rewarded by the Royal Aeronautical Society was Robin Brown, who received the British Bronze Medal. Robin worked on a variety of projects including the conversion of the Fairey Delta FD2 record breaking research jet aircraft into the Bristol Type 221 (both important steps on the path that led to Concorde), followed by involvement in the design of Concorde itself. He then worked on developing the A320 and A330/A340 wings before taking up the position of Chief Engineer at Airbus UK.

In a separate ceremony in France, British Airways flight crew and engineers were awarded the "Success Prose" from the Association Aeronautique and Astronautiue de France (AAAF) for their work in returning the aircraft to revenue Service.

The award, which was the first to be given to a non-French company, was presented to the whole BA fleet at a ceremony in Toulouse just before Christmas. Concorde captain Les Brodie Accepted the award on Behalf of Captain Mike Bannister, (Manager - Airbus, 737/757/767, Concorde) and Claud Freeman (manager of Concorde Engineering).

On accepting the award Captain Brodie said :
"It was a great Honour to receive he award on behalf of British Airways on such a grand occasion. Throughout the presentation the the emphasis was on the success achieved through the teamwork, determination and enthusiasm shown on both side of the Channel."

" I've seen these qualities in a departments at British Airways involved in Concorde. It's these qualities which make Concorde the success it is today."

Commenting on the award Jean Charles Poggi from the AAAF stated:
" For the year 2001 , our jury decided to award this prize to the whole team of pilots and engineers on both sides of the Channel, whose work made possible the timely return to service in November 2001 of the Supersonic Concorde after the Gonesse tragedy."

In a separate award Airbus were honoured by the AAAF for designing and producing the required modifications that were fitted to re-certify Concorde for passenger service.

Sources - Airbus and BA News