A Lesson in History – Concorde SST

Go Lean Commentary

CU Blog - A Lesson in History - Concorde SST - Photo 130 years go by so fast…

In the 1970’s, when the Concorde Supersonic Transport (SST) jets were designed, developed and deployed, with a 30 year life-span, that time seemed so far off. But that time has now come and gone. Yes, cutting-edge has an expiration date.

It is difficult to think, now in 2014, that 1970’s technologies may still be cutting-edge, except that there are no other Supersonic Transport vehicles for civilian use today. So despite all the scientific and technological advances in the last 40 years, in this area, the world has gone backwards.

There are a lot of lessons here for us to consider with the history of the Concorde, taking into account that the SST had commercial applications, safety concerns and governing issues. This subject therefore parallels with the book Go Lean… Caribbean. The following is the historic reference of the Concorde:

CU Blog - A Lesson in History - Concorde SST - Photo 2Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde is a retired turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner or supersonic transport. It is one of only two SSTs to have entered commercial service; the other was the Tupolev Tu-144; (built by the Soviet Union under the direction of the Tupolev design bureau, headed by Alexei Tupolev; their prototype first flew on 31 December 1968 near Moscow, two months before the first flight of Concorde. The Tu-144 first went supersonic on 5 June 1969, and on 26 May 1970 became the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2). The Concorde was jointly developed and produced by France-owned Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty. First flown in 1969, the Concorde entered service in 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years.

Reflecting the treaty between the British and French governments which led to the Concorde’s construction, the name Concorde is from the French word concorde, which has an English equivalent, concord. Both words mean agreement, harmony or union.

The Concorde needed to fly long distances to be economically viable; this required high efficiency. (Turbojets were found to be the best choice of engines.[68] The engine used was the twin spool Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593, a development of the Bristol engine first used for the Avro Vulcan bomber, and developed into an afterburning supersonic variant for the BAC TSR-2 strike bomber.[69] Rolls-Royce’s own engine proposed for the SST aircraft at the time of Concorde’s initial design was the RB.169 [70]). Among other destinations, the Concorde flew regular transatlantic flights from London Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport to New York JFK, Washington Dulles and Barbados in the Caribbean; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners. Only 20 aircraft were ever built, so the development of Concorde was a substantial economic loss; Air France and British Airways also received considerable government subsidies to purchase them.

While commercial jets took eight hours to fly from New York to Paris, the average supersonic flight time on the transatlantic routes was just under 3.5 hours. The Concorde’s maximum cruising altitude was 60,000 feet, (while subsonic airliners typically cruise below 40,000 feet), and an average cruise speed of Mach 2.02, about 1155 knots (2140 km/h or 1334 mph), more than twice the speed of conventional aircraft.[107]

The Concorde’s drooping nose, enabled the aircraft to switch between being streamlined to reduce drag and achieve optimum aerodynamic efficiency, and not obstructing the pilot’s view during taxi, takeoff, and landing operations. Due to the high angle of attack, the long pointed nose obstructed the view and necessitated the capability to droop to ensure visibility and FAA approval in the US.

The Concorde was retired in 2003 due to a general downturn in the aviation industry after the aircraft’s only crash in 2000 (killing 113 people onboard and on the ground), the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and a decision by Airbus (the successor firm of Aerospatiale) and BAC, to discontinue maintenance support.[5]
Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia (Retrieved October 13, 2014) –

See the foregoing VIDEO for a synopsis of the Concorde’s 27-year history:

Video Title – Concorde: 27 Supersonic Years:

This review of the historicity of the Concorde is more than just an academic discussion; the aircraft was always presented as a glimpse into the future.  Likewise, the book Go Lean…Caribbean is future-focused, aspiring to economic principles that dictate that “consequences of choices lie in the future”. The book serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This confederation effort (aligning many former colonies of the same sponsoring countries of Great Britain and France that designed, developed and deployed the Concorde SST project) will spur a lot of technologically-driven industrial developments.

CU Blog - A Lesson in History - Concorde SST - Photo 4

What have we learned from the 27-year history of the Concorde, in terms of economics, security and governing lessons? How will these lessons help us today?

  • Crisis is a terrible thing to waste – The end of World War II saw an immediate clash and conflict between Soviet-backed communist countries versus Western democracies. There was an “arms and space” race. The Anglo-Franco treaty to design-develop the Concorde was a manifestation of that competition. While the US invested in supersonic technology for military applications, the Anglo-Franco treaty allowed for a civilian application, and exploitation of a populous market for those with capitalistic adherence. The Go Lean roadmap posits that the Caribbean is also in a crisis (on the losing end of globalization, advancing technology and economic dysfunction). The CU will incubate and foster industrial policy to better explore science, technology, engineering and mechanical (STEM) initiatives. With 80 million annual visitors across 30 different member-states, (many of them islands), we have the overall need for air transport solutions and a built-in market acceptance.
  • Promote opportunities for Research & Development – As far back as October 1956, the UK’s Ministry of Supply asked key Subject Matter Experts to form a new study group, the Supersonic Transport Advisory Committee or STAC,[12] with the explicit goal of developing a practical SST design and finding industry partners to build it. The ethos expressed by this specialty group foresaw that huge economic and security benefits could yield by developing cutting-edge solutions in the air-transport industry space . The Go Lean roadmap posits that appropriate investments must be prioritized for new industrial solutions, such as with Information & Communications Technologies. The Go Lean book posits that large states or small ones can have a “level-playing field” by exploring innovative solutions for the New Economy.
  • New “community ethos” can be adopted by the general public – The Concorde aircraft was regarded by many people as an aviation icon and an engineering marvel. During flight testing of the pre-production SST aircraft, it visited a number of “allied” foreign countries. It was not uncommon for ten-mile traffic jams to build up around airports as crowds of a hundred thousand and more gathered to look over the aircraft that was designed to bring faster-than-sound flight within reach of anyone with the price of a plane ticket.[25] The CU will employ messaging and image management to forge new attitudes about technology, R&D, entrepreneurship, intellectual property and STEM initiatives in the region.
  • Negotiate as partners not competitors – France had 3 nationally supported companies (state-owned Sud Aviation and Nord-Aviation, plus private firm Dassault Group) in the aero-space industry, but no jet-engine solution. The British company Rolls Royce had demonstrated great market leadership with jet engines. A collaboration was apropos. The CU maintains that, negotiation is an art and a science. More can be accomplished by treating negotiating counterparts as a partner, rather than not an adversary.
  • Cooperatives and sharing schemes lighten burdens among partners – In 1967, at the start of the new Anglo-Franco consortium, there was the intent to produce one long-range and one short-range SST version. However, prospective customers showed no interest in the short-range version and it was dropped.[25] The consortium secured orders (i.e., non-binding options) for over 100 of the long-range version from the major airlines of the day: Pan Am, BOAC, and Air France were the launch customers, with six Concordes each. Other airlines in the order book included Panair do Brasil, Continental Airlines, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, American Airlines, United Airlines, Air India, Air Canada, Braniff, Singapore Airlines, Iran Air, Olympic Airways, Qantas, CAAC (China), Middle East Airlines, and TWA.[25][30][31] At the time of the first flight (1969) the options list contained 74 orders from 16 airlines. The important function for the CU in these cooperative initiatives is command-and-control. For the Concorde project the labor of up to 50,000 (including sub-contractors and suppliers) people had to be efficiently coordinated. The CU will employ cooperatives and sharing schemes for limited scopes within the prime directives of optimizing the economic, security and governing engines.
  • Bureaucratic response to crisis impede progress – At the end of the pre-production trials, there were orders for 74 aircrafts for 16 airlines, but in the end only 20 Concorde jets were ever manufactured. What happened? Geo-political crisis. Concorde SSTs required more fuel usage compared to subsonic aircrafts. The 1970’s saw a number of crises involving steeply rising oil prices (OPEC, Iran Revolution, etc.)[148] and new wide-body aircrafts, such as the Boeing 747, had recently made subsonic aircrafts significantly more efficient and presented a low-risk option for airlines.[50]. The governmental bureaucracy of the two national governments impeded tactical responses and adjustments to these agents-of-change, resulting in cancellation of unfulfilled orders … and also any continuous technological upgrades to the SST program. “There have always been those who want to go faster and those who think the present speed (of ox-cart, stagecoach, sailing ship) was fast enough”.[25] The Go Lean roadmap calls for the establishment of Self-Governing Entities (SGE), regulated at the federal level, to facilitate R&D in industrial settings. Under this scheme, government negotiation is only required at the outset/initiation; no further bureaucratic stalemates beyond the start-up. Tactically, SGE’s  can nimbly adapt to the demands of the global marketplace. This is the manifestation of a lean technocracy.
  • “Crap” Happens – While the Concorde had initially held a great deal of customer interest, the project was hit by a large number of order cancellations. There was a crash of the competing Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 at the Paris Le Bourget air show in 1973; this shocked potential buyers, and public concern over the environmental issues presented by supersonic aircrafts. Also, the issue of sonic booms and takeoff-noise pollution produced a shift in public opinion of SSTs. By 1976 only four nations remained as prospective buyers: Britain, France, China, and Iran.[43] But only Air France and British Airways (the successor to BOAC) ever took up their orders, with the two governments taking a cut of any profits made.[44] The United States cancelled the Boeing 2707, its rival supersonic transport program, in 1971. Observers have suggested that opposition to the Concorde on grounds of noise pollution had been encouraged by the United States Government, as it lacked its own competitor.[45] The US, India, and Malaysia all ruled out Concorde supersonic flights over the noise concern, although some of these restrictions were later relaxed.[46][47] This lesson constitutes the security scope of the Concorde SST historic consideration. The Go Lean roadmap anticipates that things would go wrong, and plans for risk mitigations in advance. This includes man-made, industrial and natural disasters. In addition, there is the governance plan for the CU to have jurisdiction over the region’s aviation regulations – much like the FAA (Federal Aviation Admin.) in the US.
  • CU Blog - A Lesson in History - Concorde SST - Photo 3Consider the Greater Good – In the end, the realization of a noise pollution threat never materialized with Concorde SSTs – more fear than actualization. A progressive path forward from 1976 should have resulted in even faster supersonic transportation options at cheaper prices by today, 40 years later. Author and Professor Douglas Ross characterized restrictions placed upon Concorde operations by President Jimmy Carter’s administration (1977 – 1981) as having been an act of protectionism for American aircraft manufacturers.[48] To the contrary, the Caribbean need policies for the Greater Good. With island tourism being the primary economic driver in the region, we need proactive air-transport solutions to facilitate visitors’ easy access to Caribbean hospitality. The Greater Good philosophy is directly quoted as: “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong”. The CU/Go Lean roadmap calls for a number of measures that strike directly at this Greater Good mandate.

The related subjects of technology-bred innovations and history lessons have been a frequent topic for Go Lean blog/commentaries, as sampled here:

http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=2480 A Lesson in History: Community Ethos of WW II
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1568 Airline Lesson: Dutch airline angers Mexico soccer fans
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1531 A Lesson in History: 100 Years Ago Today – World War I
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=1487 Aeronautics Lesson: Here come the Drones … and the Concerns
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=673 Transport Lesson: Autonomous cargo vessels without a crew
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=308 Community Ethos: CARCIP Urges Greater Innovation
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=254 Airline Lesson: Air Antilles Launches new St. Maarten Service
http://www.goleancaribbean.com/blog/?p=235 Economic Reality: Tourism’s changing profile

The purpose of the Go Lean roadmap is to shift the downward trends in the Caribbean today, to reverse course and elevate Caribbean society. The CU, applying lessons from the Concorde history, has prime directives proclaimed as follows:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

While the Go Lean book is not written as an analysis of the Concorde, the following detail considerations of community ethos, strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies in the book are still helpful to empower Caribbean society:

Community Ethos – Economic Systems Influence Choices & Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – “Crap” Happens Page 23
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Negotiations Page 32
Community Ethos – Ways to Manage Reconciliations Page 34
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Sharing Page 35
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Vision –  Integrate region into a Single Market Economy Page 45
Strategy – Agents of Change – Technology Page 57
Strategy – Agents of Change – Globalization Page 57
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Department of State – SGE Administration Page 80
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Transportation Department – Aviation Admin Page 84
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Foreign Policy Initiatives at Start-up Page 102
Implementation – Security Initiatives at Start-up Page 103
Implementation – Steps to Implement Self-Governing Entities Page 105
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Ways to Benefit from Globalization Page 119
Planning – Ways to Ways to Model the EU Page 130
Planning – Ways to Better Manage Image Page 133
Planning – Lessons Learned from the defunct West Indies Federation Page 134
Planning – Lessons from Detroit Page 140
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Cooperatives Page 176
Advocacy – Ways to Enhance Tourism in the Caribbean Region – Air Lifts Page 190
Advocacy – Ways to Market Southern California – Transportation Options Page 194
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Technology Page 197
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Transportation Page 205

The image of the Concorde was that of cutting-edge technology for its entire 27-year run. But cutting-edge does have an expiration date; so there must be the culture of continuous enhancing and upgrading any cutting-edge innovation. This is true in the new world of Internet Communications Technologies (ICT), where innovations emerge every year; sometimes even a few times during the year. The battleground has changed, from the Concorde’s frontier of aero-space to the ever-changing frontiers of cyber-space. The Go Lean movement asserts that the culture/attitude/ethos, to be constantly innovative, is most crucial in this new economy, where the only constant is change itself.

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean to learn the lessons from the 27-year history of the Concorde. The people and governing institutions of the region are hereby urged to lean-in for the empowerments described in the book Go Lean … Caribbean. This is a big deal for the region; the current economic engines need technology-based innovations in general, and air transport solutions in particular. This is one way we can make our homeland a better place to live, work, and play. 🙂

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Referenced Sources:
5.     “UK | Concorde grounded for good”. BBC News. 2003-04-10. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
12.   Conway, Eric (2005). High-Speed Dreams: NASA and the Technopolitics of Supersonic Transportation, 1945–1999. JHU Press. Page 39.
25.   “Early History.” concordesst.com. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
30.   “Aerospace: Pan Am’s Concorde Retreat”. Time, 12 February 1973. 12 February 1973.
31.   “Vertrag mit Luken”. Der Spiegel. 13 March 1967. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
43.   “Concordes limited to 16”. Virgin Islands Daily News, 5 June 1976.
44.    “Payments for Concorde”. British Airways. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
45.   Lewis, Anthony (12 February 1973). “Britain and France have wasted billions on the Concorde”. The New York Times, 12 February 1973.
46.   “Malaysia lifting ban on the use Of its Airspace by the Concorde”. The New York Times, 17 December 1978. 17 December 1978. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
47.   “News from around the world”. Herald-Journal, 13 January 1978. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
48.  Ross, Douglas (March 1978). The Concorde Compromise: The Politics of Decision-making. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. p. 46.
49.  Marston, Paul (16 August 2000). “Is this the end of the Concorde dream?”. London: Daily Telegraph, 16 August 2000.
50.   Ross, Douglas (March 1978). The Concorde Compromise: The Politics of Decision-making. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, pp. 47–49.
68.   Birtles, Philip. Concorde, pp. 62–63. Vergennes, Vermont: Plymouth Press, 2000.
69.   “Rolls Royce Olympus history.” wingweb.co.uk. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
70.   Aero Engines 1962, Flight International, 28 June 1962: 1018
107. Schrader, Richard K. (1989). Concorde: The Full Story of the Anglo-French SST. Kent, UK: Pictorial Histories Pub. Co., p. 64.
148. B.CAL drops Concorde plans but asks for Hong Kong licence. Flight International Magazine, posted 30 June 1979, p. 2331.

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