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Boeing Says No To A SST Replacement

Fri Oct 13, 2000 1:26 am

Boeing's Condit Sees No Supersonic Airliner to Follow Concorde


Paris, Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The aerospace industry is unlikely to produce a new supersonic airliner to follow Concorde, partly because of technical difficulties but also because Internet access in the air will reduce the need for speed, said Phil Condit, Boeing Co.'s chief executive.

Air France and British Airways Plc, the only two airlines that own Concordes, have grounded the planes, following the July 25 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people. Air France suspended services at once. Britain's Civil Aviation Authority ordered BA to do so in August.

Both carriers have said they would like to put the aircraft back into service, but many experts believe the cost of altering them to get fresh certification could be prohibitive.

The industry will develop another supersonic airliner ``only if it's economic,'' Condit said in an interview with Bloomberg News in Boeing's Brussels offices. ``The numbers say it's not.''

Development costs of such a jet, given the technological challenge of producing an engine that was quiet enough, would be huge, he said. ``If I had to guess, I'd say it's in the order of $30 billion.''

Also, unless a plane could be developed with operating costs close to those of a good subsonic plane, he said, demand from airlines would be for only 60 planes or so, insufficient to justify the investment.

Another reason not to develop a successor to Concorde is the ``revolution'' that Condit predicts in air travel. Airlines will soon be able to offer high-speed Internet access, and thus electronic mail, while on board. That'll enable them to accomplish many tasks that now are possible only on the ground.

Boeing's promising such services by late 2001, and two startup companies offering Internet and e-mail access began trials with airlines last month.

``You can be totally connected, work on your laptop, check the news, so your time on the plane becomes productive time, not just transportation time,'' Condit said.

In addition, he said, the trend towards point-to-point services will narrow the potential pool of supersonic fliers.

A supersonic plane would be operated only on high-density routes, such as London to New York or Washington DC to Paris.

That works well for someone in Washington who wants to fly to Paris, he said. But a person in Atlanta who needs to travel to Rome would not want to fly from Atlanta to Washington, board a supersonic plane to Paris, then transfer to a Rome flight. The connections and additional flights would kill any advantages from travelling at twice the speed of sound.

Oct/12/2000 5:03 ET

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