Richard Branson today called on British Airways to hand its Concordes over for £5m - £1m per operating plane - or join with Virgin, Air France, Airbus, BAE and Rolls Royce in setting up a trust to keep Concorde flying. He also pledged £1m towards the establishment of the trust.
Richard Branson said today:
“Virgin Atlantic is currently negotiating to operate Concorde when BA takes it out of service on October 31st. We are increasing our offer from £1 to £1m per operating plane (with spares and everything else we need to keep it flying) and asking them to throw in the two non-operational Concordes for free. We have operators ready to help us keep it flying and would serve New York, Barbados and Dubai, a new destination for the plane. We hope we succeed but ultimately, that ball is in BA’s court. The £5m gives BA a considerable return on the £5 they originally paid for Concorde. Despite that it will still be interesting to see if they allow Virgin to operate these aircraft.
“Failing that, I would propose that all the Concordes currently flying go to a new facility such as the British Aerospace factory at Filton near Bristol where they were designed and built. A heritage trust could be formed and all the original manufacturers and airlines involved in her life could contribute to keeping at least two Concordes flying in a semi-commercial service.
“Special flights, charters and even a small number of weekly scheduled services under the auspices of a charitable structure could easily provide a contribution. Coupled with charitable donations this would keep her flying for the nation well into the middle of the 21st Century.
“Virgin is today pledging that we will donate £1million toward the establishment of the trust if my colleagues at BA, BAE, Rolls Royce, Air France and Airbus agree to show the willpower to enable people to keep flying this beautiful aircraft.”
Referring to Sir George Cayley, the British inventor and scientist who was the father of aviation and the man behind the first manned flight 150 years ago he said:
“I would also propose that, as this project would begin during the 100th anniversary of powered flight - and the real 150th anniversary of aviation - that every Briton who reaches the age of 100 would be given a free flight on Concorde in recognition of Britain’s unique and influential place in aviation history and their own personal contribution to this country.”
Comparing Concorde to some of the other historic British aircraft which are still flying Sir Richard said:
“The millions of British people who go to air displays every year are welcome to watch a 90 year old Sopwith Camel or a 60 year old Spitfire or even a massive 50 year old Cold War V-Bomber reliving it’s menacing trade. As things stand, if they want to see the world’s most advanced passenger aircraft ever built, they can forget it because our once proud national airline is not going to let anyone fly in it.”