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A Modest Proposal

This article covers Richard Branson’s rebuffed attempts to buy at least one of BA’s soon-to-be-retired Concordes, the idea being to continue operating it in passenger service on long-distance routes. Branson argues that he can do so profitably, but the airline (and the heritage manufacturer, Airbus) argue that the Concordes are too old to continue flying as passenger aircraft.

But what about an alternative?

The market for overnight and second-day delivery is large and healthy. But what about going one better, by exploiting the same-day delivery niche via refurbished cargo Concordes? Purchase the entire BA fleet, set aside two or three planes for cannibalization, and strip the interiors from the remaining planes and fit them out to carry mail and small parcels. Granted, it would be difficult to work out a profitable business plan within the limitations imposed by the number of planes available, the cost per flight, and the ability (or lack thereof) to fly over or near land at supersonic speeds.

However, if it could be done — even on an experimental basis — it could have a profound effect on space commercialization. Whether or not the Concorde-based venture turns a profit, it would likely whet the appetites of those who could use such a service, and thereby open a market the various suborbital startups could exploit.

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