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Two Unusual Concordes

By Alain Mengus
May 22, 2002

Alain Mengus takes us on a guided tour of the two most unique - and short lived - paint schemes ever applied to the Concorde: the 1996 Air France Pepsi flights and the 1977-1980 British Airways & Singapore Airlines flights to Bahrain and Singapore.

Part 1, the Pepsi Concorde

As its market shares were eroding on the soft drinks market, the US company Pepsi Cola undertook a major re-branding project of 500 million US$, which would be unveiled in 1996 after about two years of work. Pepsi therefore started to look around for a spectacular and efficient manner to advertise its new brand style and enhance its sales. It was eventually decided to have an advertisement operation involving the Concorde.

Pepsi started requesting proposals from both Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA), the sole two Sud Aviation/BAC Concorde operators. Eventually, the French carrier was awarded the contract (of which terms were not disclosed).

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Photo © Magnus Waltersson


Because the new identity of Pepsi was based on the color blue, the aircraft would have to be painted alike. Therefore the Air France maintenance staff had to call Aérospatiale (successor of Sud Aviation) as the airplane, for which temperature is so important, was only certified with a white color scheme. They received approval to paint the fuselage in blue, but were advised to keep the wings in white (because of the fuel temperature).

It was advised to remain at M2.02 for about 20 minutes at most, but there was no restriction under M1.70. This was not a concern for Air France as the aircraft was not due to operate any scheduled flight to New York – John F. Kennedy (JFK) or any such long sector.

A part of the preparation included the constitution of a maintenance package, necessary handling tools and ground equipment, etc., as for any unscheduled Concorde operation.

Air France required its name to be kept close to the cockpit, as well as the seahorse despite the Pepsi scheme. This is a usual requirement from the airline, which was for the occasion very important as Concorde was due to be presented in British Airways’ backyard.

The Concorde registered F-BTSD (c/n 213) was selected for maintenance availability reasons. The paint work was started in late March 1996 at the Air France maintenance facility of Paris – Orly (ORY), where all airplanes go after their D-check to get a new livery. It required 200 liters of paint and 2,000 hours of work.

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Photo © Jose M. Palacios


The whole operation was to be undertaken secretly, as Pepsi wanted to keep all the surprise for the moment when it would unveil its new identity. “Sierra Delta” was thus covered by brown wrapping paper after it was painted, so that as few people as possible would be aware of the event. It eventually left the hanger on March 31st at night, and was quickly rolled to the runway where it took off for London – Gatwick (LGW), where Pepsi had planned to receive its guests. The aircraft was immediately towed to the hanger after its arrival, and made ready for the show. And yet, a few days before the new brand was unveiled, Richard Branson had apparently heard about the advertisement operation, as proved ads for the Virgin Cola soft drink in the British press. A few articles about an Air France Concorde being repainted with a blue color scheme were issued in the newspapers.

The show took place on 02 April 1996, with the presence of Claudia Schiffer, Andre Agassi, Cindy Crawford, and hundreds of journalists invited by Pepsi for the event. People were really astonished to see the Concorde with the blue livery. Flight attendants each had a special pin on their uniform designed for the occasion.

Afterwards, “Sierra Delta” started a promotion campaign in Europe and the Middle East. For the Pepsi commercial operation, there were a total of 16 flights (including the ferry flights from ORY) and 10 cities visited. Each flight, except the first and last ones, would have been occasions to go supersonic.


Phase One

Phase Two


Captain – Y. Pécresse
First Officer – B. Bachelet
Flight Engineer – A. Piccinini

31 March Paris (ORY)-London (LGW)
02 April London (LGW)-London (LGW)
03 April London (LGW)-Dublin (DUB)
03 April Dublin (DUB)-Dublin (DUB)
04 April Dublin (DUB)-Stockholm (ARN)
04 April Stockholm (ARN)-Stockholm (ARN)
04 April Stockholm (ARN)-Paris (CDG)

Captain – G. Arondel
First Officer – P. Decamps
Flight Engineer – M. Suand

06 April Paris (CDG)-Beirut (BEY)
07 April Beirut (BEY)-Dubai (DXB)
07 April Dubai (DXB)-Dubai (DXB)
07 April Dubai (DXB)-Jeddah (JED)
08 April Jeddah (JED)-Cairo (CAI)
08 April Cairo (CAI)-Milan (LIN)
09 April Milan (LIN)-Madrid (MAD)
09 April Madrid (MAD)-Madrid (MAD)
09 April Madrid (MAD)-Paris (ORY)


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Photo © Dayot Jean-Charles



Part 2, Concorde goes to Singapore

Since Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) had been denied landing authorizations at New York - John F. Kennedy (JFK) by the PONYA (Port of New York Authority), both operators of the supersonic airplane had to find another route to operate their Concordes on. An important and lucrative market to BA, besides North America, was Asia and its former colonies, such as Singapore (SIN), Hong Kong (HKG) and the “Kangaroo Routes” to Australia - more specifically Sydney (SYD) - where 747-200s making the long journey had to make two stop-overs.

The first step of a Concorde route to South-East Asia and Australia was the inaugural of BA’s first ever supersonic flight between London - Heathrow (LHR) and Bahrain (BAH) on 21 January 1976 by G-BOAA (c/n 206).

Unfortunately, the route was mainly overland, forcing the Concorde to fly at subsonic speeds on large portions of the LHR-BAH flight. But the aircraft still managed to save ~2.5 hours over the regular flights with a M.95 cruise speed these segments. The supersonic operations over the Saudi desert had to be dropped after some complaints from nomads whose camels reportedly stopped breeding because of the supersonic boom!

The choice of BAH as stop-over for the Concorde operations was due to the ideal location en route to South-East Asia. Furthermore the engines had an improved performance at 55-60,000ft, where the air is colder around the tropics. The better conditions could add up to 200 more miles range (with 75 pax).

On 16 November 1976, Cathay Pacific (CX) launched three weekly HKG-BAH flights to connect its customers to LHR as the airline would not link the British capital before July 1980.

On 26 October 1977, BA and Singapore Airlines (SQ) announced an agreement for a thrice-weekly Concorde service between London and Singapore via Bahrain. On 09 December 1977, BA and SQ started a service between LHR and Singapore - Paya Lebar (SIN) via BAH, bringing the travel time to only 9 hours.

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Photo © Clive Dyball


This service basically was a very early form of code share/alliance between both airlines. The technical crew and operations were supplied by BA at 100%, while the flight attendants were 50/50.

BA had battled hard with the Indian government to gain the approval to fly supersonic over the country, which the Concorde was forced to avoid, adding more flight time and increasing the fuel consumption. The Indian government had demanded that in exchange Air India (AI) would get more slots and 5th freedom rights at LHR.

The Concorde assigned to the SIN route was G-BOAD (c/n 210), re-registered as G-N94AD on 8 January 1979. The G- segment was carried on a removable sticker which was specially manufactured to be able to withstand supersonic surface friction yet be able to be peeled off once the aircraft landed in the US to perform the Braniff sector. The airplane was easily remarkable, as it had been repainted with the Singapore Airlines’ livery on its left side, while BA’s was kept on the right side.
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"The airplane was easily remarkable, as it had been repainted with the...
(Photo © Frank J. Mirande)
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...Singapore Airlines’ livery on its left side, while BA’s was kept on the right side."
(Photo © Andrew Abshier)


The SIN-BAH leg against the headwinds was sometimes payload-restricted because of the temperature at Paya Lebar Airport, even though the Concorde could accelerate straight after its take-off to M2.02.

The service was withdrawn on 13 December 1977 after only 3 return flights, because of complaints from the Malaysian government about the supersonic boom over the Straits of Malacca, on the West coast of Malaysia. But in the summer of the same year, MAS’ plans of further capacity increase on the London route were denied in order to protect BA and CX, causing a clash between the Malaysian and British governments. In addition to these difficult relations, SIA was a tough MAS competitor.

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Photo © AirNikon


On 24 January 1979 the service was resumed with new routings avoiding Malaysia and a recommended take-off from runway 02 at SIN to avoid flying over the Malaysian state of Johore.

The service was ended for good on 01 November 1980, mainly because of falling traffic on the route, which was reportedly losing around £2 millions a year. The loads would have been very low, especially on westbound flights. The operations, especially at subsonic speeds, were extremely expensive, demanding load factors that could not be achieved.

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Photo © AirNikon




Qantas (QF) had drawn similar plans to operate supersonic flights on the “Kangaroo Routes” in the middle of the 1960s. Besides its commitment to the Boeing 2707 in 1966, an option to order eight Concordes alongside fifteen Boeing 747-200s was in the 1970 fleet plans.

Today, the non-stop 747-400 services between London and Singapore have saved time over the 747-200s (~12 hours), while widening the cost gap in comparison with a Concorde service.

Written by
Alain Mengus

A young writer, Alain Mengus has worked with Radiocockpit.com and published a few articles in various aviation magazines. He recently launched the Air Transport Business website. Alain currently lives in Paris.

14 User Comments:
Username: Fritzi [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-24 16:08:32 and read 32768 times.

Well done!!!
It is a very well written and interesting article.

Regards
Fritzi

Username: GDB [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-24 17:21:30 and read 32768 times.

Nice work Alain!

Regards,
GDB

Username: Sabena 690 [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-24 18:56:40 and read 32768 times.

Congratulations Alain!!

This article is really a piece of art!! :-)

Waiting for more of you :)

Best regards,
Frederic

Username: SQ772 [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-24 20:57:28 and read 32768 times.

I would just to clarify that during the time the concord operated to SIN, construction at Changi Airport had yet to be completed.
As such, the airport that the Concord operated to at SIN was Paya Lebar Airport as Changi Airport only came into being in 1981.

Username: StevenUhl777 [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-25 19:37:20 and read 32768 times.

Great article - I just finished watching an old documentary series from approx. 1979 called "Diamonds in the Sky" which talks about the LHR-BAH-SIN Concorde run. It mentioned the dispute between BA and the U.A.E. govt., and showed the negotiations between the UK ambassador and the various royal families of the middle eastern states. Finally, they showed BA plotting several different routes over desolate parts of Oman on the way to SIN to appease the sheiks.

More recently, the Travel Channel has an hour segment on the development of the Concorde, and at the end shows the 7/2000 crash outside CDG, and the modifications and the return to the sky last year.

Again, a great article, very enjoyable.

Username: Tony Lu [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-26 17:04:13 and read 32768 times.

Great article! Very Intresting!

Tony Lu :D

Username: PIAforME [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-29 13:06:24 and read 32768 times.

Very nice article Alain!

I was just wondering what "the 5. freedom rights" are?

"The Indian government had demanded that in exchange Air India (AI) would get more slots and 5th freedom rights at LHR."

Kind Regards

Kamran Sarwar

Username: AFa340-300E [User Info]
Posted 2002-05-29 22:29:46 and read 32768 times.

Hello,


Thanks to all for the interet and positive comment!



Fifth freedom rights by a foreign country mean that an airline of your country can market passenger and/or cargo flights between that foreign country and a third country.

An example: Singapore Airlines has sought to gain fifth freedom rights from the United Kingdom in order to market London-United States flights.

Hope that answers to your question.


Best regards,
Alain Mengus

Username: AApilot2b [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-05 02:43:18 and read 32768 times.

Great article! I love that last photo (the Concorde in front of the BA 747-200)! A lot of nostalgia there.

Username: Skymileman [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-09 02:55:34 and read 32768 times.

Good article, but to most of us aviation enthusiasts, it is really common knowledge about both planes.

-Lane
:)

Username: AFa340-300E [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-11 12:59:15 and read 32768 times.

Skymileman,

Thanks, but if you find more information about the Pepsi Concorde and the SIA/BA flights somewhere else... Please tell me! (oh yes I forgot my website :D).


Best regards,
Alain Mengus
Air Transport Business

Username: ETA Unknown [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-12 02:29:21 and read 32768 times.

I seem to remember towards the end, BA's biggest problem with the SIN flights was Saudi Arabia's refusal to grant overfly rights in response to the BBC showing a documentary entitled "Princess" about the execution of a member of the Saudi royal family.

Username: VapourTrails [User Info]
Posted 2002-06-23 13:17:45 and read 32768 times.

Alain,

Thanks for your interesting and informative article about one of the most fascinating and unique aircraft - Concorde! I had not known the whole story of the Pepsi Concorde idea (F-BTSD) which made great reading for me. The second part of the article 'Concorde goes to Singapore' was also very informative, and proves there is still a lot to know about the history of Concorde (for me at least!). Great work! :DD

VT = :)

Username: Bravo45 [User Info]
Posted 2002-07-24 05:11:46 and read 32768 times.

A very interesting and nice informative article. Thanks a lot.

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