Most of us have heard of the Concorde. It has gone down as one of the most famous airplanes in aviation history. While it was under development, British Airways, one of its developers, referred to it as the future “flower of the aerospace industry.”
When it was introduced in the early 1970s, it was equipped with the world’s most powerful “pure” jet engines. Its four Rolls Royce engines took advantage of what was known at that time as “reheat” technology. This, according to British Airways, “added fuel to the final stage of the engine, which produced the extra power required for take-off and the transition to supersonic flight.”
Its fastest transatlantic crossing was on February 7, 1996, when it traveled from New York to London in just under three hours. The iconic aircraft finally went into retirement, mainly because of low passenger numbers, high costs, and the aftermath of September 11.
However, what a lot of people do not know is that it’s almost a wonder the Concorde got off the ground in the first place. As a matter of fact, if it wasn’t for some good solid PR, it probably would have remained only a dream in the minds of its creators.
The Concorde started out with serious design problems and then ran into a brick wall with the Oil Crisis of 1973. All airlines were having problems at the time, so few were interested in ordering what was turning out to be a very expensive plane that used huge amounts of fuel. But the real obstacle was not fuel; it was noise.
Governments around the world, especially in the U.S., were concerned about the very loud noise from the plane when it was taking off. In time, one country after another banned the Concorde from traveling in their airspace, which almost doomed the plane’s future existence.
However, many of these criticisms about noise were exaggerated. The Concorde’s developers viewed them as scare tactics, scaring the U.S. Department of Transportation from allowing the plane to fly anywhere in the country. To help turn things around, a PR agency was hired to “proactively debunk” these noise concerns.
One of the first things the PR firm did to help pacify those complaining about noise concerns was to record the Concorde taking off and compare the noise it made to other traditional airplanes taking off. Few could tell the difference.
Then the PR firm started focusing on the business benefits the Concorde would bring to airports around the world. More travelers – and more very well-heeled travelers – would be flying into and out of these airports. It all started paying off.
The first U.S. airport to give it a try was Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. This helped government leaders fly in and out of the U.S. quickly. With this feather in their cap, the PR firm wanted to open the door to New York’s JFK International Airport for business travelers.
Once that was attained, the plane really started taking off. While the Concorde was never designed to travel to airports all over the world, as a result of the PR firm’s efforts, enough governments and enough airports around the globe opened their doors to the Concorde to make it a success. The plane eventually went from a very rocky start to an iconic ending in 2003.