This week in 1962 – Supersonic civil air travel

Just as readers of The Engineer may one day scoff at today’s predictions made by the magazine, the benefit of hindsight often makes a fascinating prism through which to view some of the choicest morsels from our archives.

Just as readers of The Engineer may one day scoff at today’s predictions made by the magazine — although hopefully not — the benefit of hindsight often makes a fascinating prism through which to view some of the choicest morsels from our archives.

Take one of the magazine’s first references to Concorde back in December 1962, when, with palpable excitement, we reported on ’an agreement between her majesty’s government and the government of France to share equally in financing a supersonic aircraft.’

Quoting a typically ambitious time-lime for a major pan-European engineering project, the article said ’The first flight is expected to made in 1966, and machines are intended to be ready for service in 1970.’

In reality the first flight was in 1969 and the iconic aircraft didn’t enter service until seven years after originally anticipated.

’The cost to this country is estimated at £75-80m, spread over about eight years; some of this liability will be met by the contractors,’ continued the article.

Again, reality didn’t quite match this vision, with the development of the aircraft costing just over £1bn and the entire cost being met by the UK and French governments.

Sadly, despite eventually making operating profits for most of its working life, Concorde was retired in 2003. BA and Air France cited low passenger numbers following the aircraft’s only crash in July 2000 and a slump in air travel after September 11.