Skip to main content
CNN EditionWorld
The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!

Aviation takes backward step

By CNN's Richard Quest

BA Concorde
Heading for retirement: BA has seven Concordes, Air France five.

Story Tools

Will passengers ever get to fly supersonic again?

Yes, soon
Yes, but not for many years

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The decision to retire Concorde marks a retrograde step in the history of commercial aviation.

There is nothing on the drawing board to replace it -- no new supersonic passenger plane.

British Airways (BA) and Air France did not want to withdraw Concorde, but they had to.

It will be more of a loss to BA, which was always better at capitalizing on its seven sleek supersonic planes. This was because of the importance of the London to New York route to BA. Concorde was right there at the front, high profile and VIP.

Take Concorde away from BA and you are left with just another airline.

Concorde has a longer lifespan than subsonic airliners because its average flights are shorter, it makes fewer trips and so pressurizes and depressurizes less frequently. And because it flies higher it is subject to less humidity and less corrosion.

But it is old. Maintenance costs are growing. It guzzles fuel and there are huge environmental concerns.

And there are not enough passengers prepared to pay.

If you are a CEO in shipping, insurance or banking negotiating a $200 million deal, the $10,000 Concorde ticket may be affordable. But there are too many empty seats.

BA and Air France could have run it at a loss. But airlines are under enormous pressure to manage costs and in the end they decided it was not worth it.

So no more passenger flight at twice the speed of sound. Boeing was planning to build a sonic cruiser at just below the speed of sound but even this has been shelved.

The moment you go through the sound barrier it becomes a much more difficult proposition. At the moment that presents too many obstacles in terms of engineering, the environment and development costs.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Iran poll to go to run-off
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.