MIAMI — Welcome to day three of Concorde Week! To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the ending of commercial operations of Concorde we’re bringing you a feature each day this week on the iconic airplane. Today’s feature looks back at Concorde’s two lesser known operators: Braniff International and Singapore Airlines. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow as we look at stories from readers like you and mark the final day of service!
Just arriving on scene for Concorde Week? Fear not! We’ve got everything you need right here:
Catch up on your Concorde development history with Supersonic—The Origins of Concorde and then read up on Concorde’s two most famous operations, British Airways and Air France!
Everyone knows about Concorde’s two main operators, Air France and British Airways. But did you know there were two other operators of the supersonic airplane? That’s right, both Singapore Airlines and Braniff International operated the airplane for a little while in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Braniff, based out of Dallas, operated the airplane over the course of one year from 1979 to 1980. The carrier had placed options for three of the airplanes in 1966, only to cancel them in 1973. As the carrier grew they struck a deal with Concorde operators Air France and British Airways. Braniff ‘borrowed’ airplanes from both of the two airlines to run service between Dallas Fort Worth International and Europe, with a stop-over in Washington Dulles.
While the flights did not last long, they did invite some interesting curiosities. First, all flights operated by Braniff were manned by company crews, both on the flight deck and in the cabin. Concorde would land in DC, for example, and the French crew would depart the airplane while the American crews boarded. After the return flight from Texas the airplane would be handed back over to the French crew. The flights never went supersonic as they were over land, but all Braniff Concorde pilots were checked out to operate the airplane to its full speed of Mach 2.
Second, in order to operate a domestic US segment the airplane had to be temporarily registered in the US. Upon landing from Europe the G or F was covered over with tape, and an “N” followed by either “-81” or “—94” replaced the first two letters of the European registration. The last two registration letters were left in place. As a result, G-BOAC would become N-81AC, while F-BVFD would become N-94FD. A total of nine Concordes eventually wound up in the interchange program running for Braniff. None of them was ever repainted in Braniff paint, however.
Sales on the flight were never very impressive, and the airline lost lots of month on the route. The service, largely a publicity gimmick, was discontinued in mid 1980 as Braniff’s fortunes, not just on the route but company-wide, began to crumble.
The only airline to ever wear its livery on Concorde aside from Air France and British Airways (BA) was Singapore Airlines (SQ). The joint venture between the two BA and SQ operated service from London to Singapore via Bahrain.
The flights were operated by cabin crews from both Singapore Airlines and British Airways, while the flight deck was manned by British Airways crews only. Only one airplane was repainted for the flight, G-BOAD, with the left side painted in SQ livery and the right side in BA livery.
As was the case for the early days of attempting service to the US, BA had to work hard to obtain overfly rights for most nations on the route, some of whose cooperation (or lack thereof) was politically motivated. Particularly damaging to the plan was India’s refusal of rights, which added 200 extra miles (yet only ten more minutes of flight time) to the flight plan.
Malaysia wound up dooming the flight when after just a week’s worth of runs the government pulled out on permission to overfly the small nation, citing sonic boom concerns. While never confirmed, the decision is widely viewed as political. Malaysia’s own airline had been looking to increase service to London, but was denied. In addition, Singapore Airlines was a strong regional competitor that Malaysia Airlines did not want to see grow even further.
The doomed route only lasted three roundtrips in 1979. While BA and the British government aggressively attempted to reopen the route, it was ultimately shuttered in 1980.