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Concorde - Success or Failure?
Running head: THE CONCORDE - SUCCESS OR OTHERWISE?
The Concorde - Success or Otherwise?
Steven B. McSwain
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
The Concorde, a joint British-French venture that began as early as 1956, has been described as everything from an economic disaster to a modern marvel. Key British decision makers viewed supersonic air transportation as a necessity to remain at the front in the race among industrial age nations, as well as being able to keep face with the Americans who had leapt to a seemingly insurmountable lead in the air carrier industry. Through four Prime Ministers and various Parliamentary leaders, the Concorde managed to survive skeptics and go into joint production with the help of government subsidizing and very secret research into development, production, and operation costs. To this day that report remains a secret within the United Kingdom, but many have done their own research into these topics. What they have found leads one to believe that the Concorde is not quite the success, economically speaking, that British Airways and Air France would have the world to believe.
Concorde - Success or Otherwise?
In July of 2000, the Concorde suffered its first fatal accident in the 30 plus year history of its existence. With this crash came the expected questions of the aircraft's reliability and safety record, which were found to be remarkably good as compared to industry standards. Also coming into question is the necessity of supersonic transport, which leads to the world wondering just how good this aircraft is. Is it safe; is it economically sound; is it worth the costs and risks involved? I will attempt to answer these questions as objectively as possible, concentrating on the success or failure of the program in the United Kingdom.
By 1959, the British government considered supersonic transport a confirmed principle and began investigation into production and project development. From 1960-1962, the British and French governments discussed a joint supersonic transport venture, leading to a treaty signed between the two for joint design, development, and production. Also during this time, the USSR began research into developing their own model of a supersonic transport, jokingly referred to by the outside world as the "Konkordski". The United States was also compelled to enter the supersonic transport race for the same reasons the French and British did. These reasons could all be traced back to national pride. The Americans were torn over the subject, with the majority taking a definite pro- or anti- position. President John F. Kennedy even told the graduating class of the Air Force Academy in 1963 that the nation would be committed to the supersonic transport's development: "This commitment, I believe, is essential to a strong and forward-looking Nation, and indicates the future of manned aircraft as we move into a missile age as well" (US State Department, 2001). This prophecy, of sorts, would prove to be untrue, as the supersonic transport (SST) would not be pursued by the United States, due largely to economic
reasons. The French and British, however, would obviously go on to develop the Concorde through the 1960's and early 1970's, with the first aircraft entering service in 1976. These aircraft are no doubt a technological marvel. Supersonic passenger transport is a testament to the rapid pace of human engineering discovery. Though the specific numbers and figures are vague, however, it is universally agreed upon that the Concorde is an economic disaster. No matter how much revenue the Concorde generates, it will never be able to repay what it cost to develop and produce.
For my purposes here, the SST development began in 1956. That November the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee (STAC) was established. The purpose of this group was to assemble a group of government officials and British aircraft and engine manufacturers to begin the debate over the topic. Through previous research into the SST, the people at Farnborough (location of the STAC) had discovered only crude and "silly" aircraft (Gillman, 1977). However, through the help of German aerodynamicist Dietrich Kuchemann, it was deemed some time in 1957 that it would indeed be possible to build the SST.
Not surprisingly, the STAC produced its report ... more
Find essay on British Account
After Christopher Columbus landed in the West Indies in 1492, Spain and Portugal started disputing areas of influence on the South American continent. The dispute was eventually settled by the Pope (Alexander VI), who in 1493, drew up defined areas of influence for the two nations with the idea of spreading Christianity to the natives in those territories. In time the Portuguese territory became known as Brazil, hence the working language of that country to this day is Portuguese, while most of the rest of the continent speaks Spanish.
On 1 August 1498, during his third voyage, Columbus finally sighted the South American mainland for the first time. The next white explorer to reach the continent was the Portuguese navigator Pedro Cabral, who anchored off the coast of present day Brazil in April 1500 - a territory which he then claimed for Portugal. However, the claim was ignored for more than 30 years by Portugal itself, whose sailors had in the interim sailed round Africa to India.
During this time of Portuguese indifference, the Spanish seized the initiative in Central America and the West Indies. In 1519, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, then employed by the Spaniards, first sailed up the Rio de la Plata River. He then proceeded south and in November 1520, first sailed round the southernmost part of South America and sighted the Pacific Ocean.
In 1519, Cortes with about 600 men set sail for South America with a few cannon and horses. A last minute dispute with the Spanish governor saw Cortes' expedition being officially cancelled, but Cortes continued, later bringing back gold and other riches to the Spanish crown as justification for his expedition. The army sailed west along the Gulf Coast, engaging in a major battle against a local tribe.
It was at this first battle that Cortes realized the technological advantage the Europeans possessed: steel armour, guns, cannons and even horses were completely unknown to the people of Central America, and many tribesmen fled at the very sight of a powerful charge horse. These advantages were pressed home remorselessly, and all the native tribes in Central and South America were to pay dearly for being technologically so far behind the Europeans.
At the time of the Spanish conquest of Central America, the Aztecs had created an empire which stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and to the south to the present day country of Guatemala. The Aztecs were by all accounts cruel masters over other local tribes, with the result that some of the subjected peoples actually welcomed the arrival of the Spanish. A few of these tribes would physically help the Spanish invaders against the Aztecs.
The Aztec religion was one of the reasons why there was so much resentment amongst the Amerind tribes: it demanded daily human sacrifice and most of the victims for this sacrifice were seized from surrounding Amerind tribes by the Aztecs.
The Aztec religion also played a major role in destabilizing Aztec resistance to the white invaders: one of their gods was a plumed serpent named Quetzalcoatl, the god of wind and learning. According to Aztec legend, Quetzalcoatl had been tricked and disgraced by another god, Tezcatlipoca, and then travelled to the east. He vowed to return and destroy those who worshipped his enemies, accompanied by all powerful white-skinned gods.
By the time of the Spanish assault in 1519, word of the arrival of the whites, with their plumed helmets, in the Caribbean Sea had travelled to the Aztecs, triggering the widely held superstition that an angry Quetzalcoatl and his white-skinned gods had indeed returned to exact revenge.
This fear created confusion in the Aztec camp: should they attack the newcomers, who might be the avenging god, or should they try and appease them? This hesitancy to act was exploited by the Spanish invaders.
In May 1521, the city of Tenochtitlan - capital of the Aztecs, which was situated on an island - was cut off from the outside. Spanish artillery mounted on ships specially constructed for the shallow waters of the surrounding rivers and lake, bombarded the city. Every day the white soldiers launched fresh assaults on the city defences, whose supplies of food and fresh water ... more
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