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Concorde Medium-Range Airframe


The British design was for a thin-winged delta shape while the French were intending to build a medium-range aircraft.


Running in parallel with the work in Britain, the French had been investigating the feasibility of supersonic air transport. In the forefront of their work in this field was the French manufacturer, Sud-Aviation.

In 1957, together with Dassault and Nord-Aviation, and with input from Air France, the three companies began to study the possibilities of supersonic air transportation. Like it’s counterpart in Britain, the former Bristol Aeroplane Company, Sud-Aviation had also been subjected to merger when it became part of the SNIAS group, with the name that was soon to become known throughout the world as, Aerospatiale.

The French consortium had concentrated their efforts on a medium-range supersonic aircraft known as the Super-Caravelle. Drawing upon their experience with the successful Caravelle medium-range airliner, Sud-Aviation was of the opinion that a long-range aircraft would be a step too far and believed that a medium-range version was a more achievable objective. If this project was to prove successful, their experience could then be applied to a longer-range model. The French project differed from that of the British proposal mainly in the respect of range, with BAC being firmly of the opinion that the journey time benefits of supersonic flight would best be found over sectors of transatlantic length. When BAC raised its government-imposed requirement for a programme partner, the French company was receptive to the possibility of collaboration but only on the basis that there would be two types of aircraft, one medium-range, and the other one long-range.

During 1961, BAC and Sud-Aviation submitted their respective proposals for a long-range and medium-range aircraft. Although the objectives were broadly similar, there were key differences in some areas of design. However, by this time, consultations between the two governments had already taken place and their findings concluded that there was insufficient ‘joint working’ in either company’s proposal.

Following a formal meeting between the British and French at the June 1961 Paris Air show, and subsequent ministerial-level negotiations, both countries signed the historic agreement to build Concorde.

The agreement stated that the development of both the medium-range and long-range versions were to be given equal priority. In fact there were many heated arguments between Sir Archibald Russell, Pierre Satre and Lucien Servanty who wanted to build this medium-range version SST, the Super Caravelle. Sir Archibald Russell was always convinced that nothing short of a transatlantic range was any good. Some of these arguments even escalated into actual rows between Sir Archibald Russell and Pierre Satre on fundamental differences of technical judgment. There was no immediate winner and the two-version concept appeared in the Anglo-French Agreement until common sense prevailed. Discussions with potential airline customers also cast doubts on the viability of the medium-range aircraft, which was then finally  cancelled in favor of the transatlantic version that became Concorde.

Early in 1965 the preliminary design was frozen and the construction of the two prototypes, one in each country, commenced.

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