Concorde: Jonathon Glancey
- Jonathan Glancey
I’ll admit to this being a potluck book as I’d never really thought about Concorde much before other than as a supersonic plane. As such I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting I found this book. It covers more than just the plane itself but the history of supersonic passenger flight as well as early supersonic flight in general, what Concorde did in its career and the future of passenger supersonic aircraft.
As befitting a book written by the former design and architecture report for the Guardian and Independent, the book is full of details such as who built the house in which various meetings occurs without always going into the details of what was discussed at the meeting itself. The author mentions during the book that he is writing whilst listening to RAF Tornados performing bomb runs at the Tain Bombing Range, by coincidence, this review is being written in the same conditions!
The book definitely discusses a lot of aspects of Concorde but somehow I feel it may leave some readers disappointed. The book almost skirts over the technical aspects of Concorde in its efforts to cover more of the social history of its impact, not that that part is not also relevant to the overall story.
During the 30 year time span Concorde was flying, I was also regularly flying around the world, including in and out of Heathrow but can’t recall ever having seen it in the flesh. This is probably reflective of the fact that there were relatively few of them around; British Airways only ever had seven of them as did Air France. There are various reasons given for the commercial failure of the aircraft overall. Lack of sales caused by fears over sonic booms, environmental protests, the oil crisis of the early 70s pushing up fuel costs, the protectionism of US Governments of their own aircraft industry, the new Boeing 747 wide bodied jumbo jet, and the arrival of the likes of Freddie Laker offering cheap tickets on transatlantic routes.
Will we see supersonic passenger aircraft again? According to the analysis of the author the desire to travel as cheap as possible now makes that prospect unrealistic given the huge production costs of such aircraft. British Airways were able to make Concorde pay towards the end of its life but only by offering an exclusive service to businessmen and rockstars at a time before video conferencing and emails were so commonplace. They appear to have almost made more on charter flights than the regular scheduled flights, just so folk could say they had flown on Concorde, not even necessarily at a supersonic speed.
The book is a nice easy read with a nice selection of photographs. It might not suit someone who is wholly looking for a technical tome on the famous supersonic aircraft but it would ticks most other boxes. It does do exactly as the subtitle suggests, it give you “the Rise and Fall of the Supersonic Airliner”.
I’d give it 3.5Mr Mushroomheads