Concorde was the legendary British turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner that was ahead of its time when it was released in 1976. Capable of speeds of Mach 2.04 (1,354mph) with room for 128 passengers, the jet could travel from London to New York in under four hours. However, while the British Government was thrilled with the possibility, those in power across the pond were less than impressed.
Planning for the development of Concorde started in the late Fifties, with the creation of the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee tasked with developing the design and finding industry partners to build it.
A year later, a contract was awarded to Hawker Siddeley in Bristol for preliminary designs, who later approached Lockheed and Boeing.
They worked alongside French partners Sud Aviation to develop two identical planes for Britain and France, it was revealed during the BBC’s “Concorde: A Supersonic Story”.
However, the 2017 series explained how this move got under JFK’s skin.
We are talking about a plane, at the end of the 60s that will move ahead at a speed greater than Mach 2 to all four corners of the globe
John F. Kennedy
The narrator detailed: “A year on from the Anglo-French treaty, the first designs of Concorde were released.
“A wooden mock-up demonstrated the interior and high-tech windshield.
“Airlines across the world responded with great excitement, 16 airlines ordered some 75 aircraft, many of the orders were by airlines in the US, which infuriated President John F. Kennedy.
“So he announced a plane that would be bigger, faster and travel even further than Concorde.”
Immediately in a statement to the public, JFK announced plans for the Boeing 2707.
The design emerged as a large aircraft with seating for 250 to 300 passengers and cruise speeds of approximately 2,300mph.
It was intended to be much larger and faster than proceeding designs such as Concorde.
President Kennedy said in his announcement: “My judgement is that this government should immediately commence a new programme in partnership with private industry to develop at the earliest practical date the prototype of a commercially successful supersonic transport superior to that being built in any other county in the world.
“If we can build the best operational plane of this type – and I believe we can – then Congress and the country should be prepared to invest the funds and effort necessary to maintain this nation’s lead in long-range aircraft – a lead we have held since World War 2.
“Spurred [on] by competition from across the Atlantic and by the production of our own companies, the Federal Government must pledge funds to supplement the risk capital to be contributed by private companies
“We are talking about a plane, at the end of the Sixties that will move ahead at a speed greater than Mach 2 to all four corners of the globe.”
The revelation came just one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and at the height of the Cold War.
The US and the Soviets were locked in both a Space Race and an Arms Race and it angered the President that his country may have fallen behind in their quest for technological dominance.
To make matters worse, Kennedy caught wind of Soviet Plans to build the Tupolev TU-144 – a supersonic jet that would be capable of holding 55 passengers and flying at speeds of 1,200mph.
However, with his assassination in 1963 and the rise of environmental concerns, the plans were put on hold for years.
The US sat back and watched as the USSR showed off its prototype in 1968, before going supersonic a year later.
President Nixon took charge of the US in 1969 and despite his strong support for the project, the funding was cut in 1971 by the US Senate.
They agreed that the US had spent too much money on both the Vietnam War and the Apollo Programme already.
The decision would turn out to be for the best.
It later emerged that the Soviets had rushed their design to beat the US and the first signs of this were shown at the Paris Air Show in 1973 when the Tu-144 crashed.
In May 1978, another Tu-444 crashed on a test flight and the project ceased in 1982.
British Airways also announced the retirement of Concord on April 10, 2003, following the crash of Air France 4590.
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