Letter: Concorde is a white elephant

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a former air correspondent, I am astonished that Sir Peter Masefield (letter, 5 July) can write so enthusiastically about Concorde, the airliner the taxpayer paid so heavily for without any return. Many people can make 'technological advances' with other people's money.

Concorde has proved to be a big white elephant. It has never earned any sort of profit on the pounds 2bn development costs. No airlines, including the then BOAC, wanted to buy it. British Airways has it now only because an embarrassed government did not know what to do with it.

It has become nothing more than a round-the-houses aircraft for sensation-seekers. It costs more than pounds 5,000 for a return flight to New York - this is well beyond the majority of those who paid for it through their taxes. BA was given it for nothing. Apart from Air France (which had no alternative), no other airline would take it on.

In 1986, Gordon Davidson, former director of Concorde British Airways, wrote to Flight International:

What we must resist is a wave of chauvinistic euphoria which declares that Concorde represents a brilliant national success . . . it brought no dividend to its backers . . .

Lord McFadzean, then chairman of BOAC, told me Concorde was an 'embarrassment' to the airline. BA has done its best by it but I hope it is never forced to buy any successor (which I don't believe will happen).

The US had an aircraft that crossed the North Atlantic in much less time. It was, of course, a military machine. Concorde is a 'political' aircraft, which a Tory government believed would get us into the Common Market. It didn't. And when we tried to get out of the agreement to produce Concorde, De Gaulle threatened to blackmail us.

Concorde is a terrible waste of our money. As a taxpayer, I for one hope that there never is a successor. The people were misled. Cabinet papers show that ministers knew it 'could not stand up on normal economic grounds'. At the outset, we were told the project would cost about pounds 160m. Both our politicians and the late De Gaulle have left many questions unanswered.

Yours faithfully,

LESLIE JERMAN

Theydon Bois, Essex

The writer was Air Correspondent of the 'Scotsman' for 30 years.

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