Concorde – noisy and dirty, and we can live without it

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The Independent Online

Concorde's promised revival will be hailed by British Airways and Air France, but many people who have been thankful for its absence in the past year will not be happy to hear that it will win back its wings.

In the year since it has been absent from our skies, there have been ups and downs in climate change negotiations, notably at The Hague last November – where the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions seemed to have been torpedoed – and then at Bonn last month, where the plans got back on track.

And what has Concorde to do with climate change? It is, like all aircraft, a significant polluter. Concorde, in fact, produces more pollution per passenger-mile than any other commercial aircraft. And when one looks at the aural pollution – or noise, to you and me – it ranks up there as one of the most unpopular for people who live near airports; and also for those who didn't think they lived anywhere near airports, until the delta-winged plane roars off with its tiny complement of well-heeled travellers.

True, Concorde is a marvel of technology – but of 1960s technology. It only gets where it does by virtue of burning huge amounts of fuel, and its true costs of development were borne by the British and French governments. Things have moved on. Do you still show off your 1960s watch? Or 1960s calculator? Or 1960s car, except as a museum piece? Why then for an aircraft?

Many people have spoken of last year's crash, in which 113 people died, as a world-shaking moment, with the implication that somehow Concorde had gone on for years and years without mishap. In fact, when you tot up the statistics and flying hours, it turns out that it did not perform so well in terms of distance and hours flown before an accident. It fact, it was pretty average.

Mike Bannister, head of Concorde operations at British Airways, is typical of those who are strongly in favour of a resumption: "I wouldn't want to have to explain to my grandchildren that we used to cross the Atlantic in three hours and now we do it in nine."

But just because we can do something with the technology we have developed does not mean that we have to do it all the time. We managed to fly men to the Moon and back in 1969; yet somehow we have resisted the enormous temptation to have weekly passenger cruises out there. Concorde pollutes the atmosphere and isn't necessary. We haven't missed it. Let's do without it.

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