Straight & Level 12 November

Branson’s regret over Concorde
Had Sir Richard Branson had his way, Concorde might still be winging the jet set over the oceans. Back in 2003, the Virgin founder’s £5 million bid for five British Airways Concordes was seen by some as a publicity gimmick (the very thought!).
But 10 years after the supersonic transport’s retirement, Sir Richard remains wistful about the rejection of his bid (he blames long-time foe BA, although Airbus’s refusal to have anything more to do with the old birds played a part) and reveals he still keeps a model of Concorde in Virgin Atlantic livery on his desk.
“We actually fought hard at Virgin to keep Concorde flying,” he writes on his blog. “As well as losing a uniquely beautiful and capable aircraft, it seemed like human ingenuity and technological innovation and had taken a backward step.”
Still, for Sir Dickie every cloud has a silver lining. He says his failure prompted him to launch his suborbital venture Virgin Galactic a year later.
“I have no doubt that during my lifetime we will be able to fly you on a Virgin Galactic spaceplane from London to Sydney in perhaps 2.5 hours with minimal environmental impact,” he enthuses.

Full stop
It must have sounded like a great name for an airline – until, that is, Norwegian start-up FlyNonstop…er…stopped. The carrier was forced to call a halt to its Embraer 190 operations in late October after only a year.

Near miss
A summons to Airbus HQ for a briefing on the volcano ash-detection technology developed by the airframer with EasyJet. Or is it? The email is headed: “Invitation to AVOID press conference, Toulouse”.

Weather beaten
A committee of MPs met two weeks ago to discuss the “winter resilience” of the UK’s airports and transport system. Few of the witnesses made it though…due to the worst gales in years.

Songwriters find their muse in the oddest places. Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders has revealed that one of her biggest hits – Don’t Get Me Wrong – was inspired by the “dong, dong, dong, dong” of a British Airways cabin announcement.

Jat’s all folks
Analyst Andrew Lobbenberg’s latest missive has a tale from one of the last Jat flights before its rebranding, under new patron Etihad, as Air Serbia.
A stewie, apologising to British passengers for the cash-strapped carrier’s inability to serve alcohol, had this weary promise about the new regime: “After next month, we will have beer. After next month, everything will be better.”

There is a long list of aviators and engineers who have sacrificed their lives in the name of technological progress.
The crash of a BAC One-Eleven prototype during a test flight on 22 October 1963 highlighted to the world the dangers of T-tailed jets and the deep stall phenomenon. It led to the addition of stick pushers and stick shakers to the ­­One-Eleven’s control system and the type, of course, went on to be a relatively successful airliner until its retirement in the 1990s. To mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, the seven crew who died when the aircraft came down near Chicklade in Wiltshire have been remembered in a plaque unveiled near the crash site.


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