FORTY years ago a group of British and French engineers designed one of the best civil airliners in the world, Concorde. It was a dream aircraft because it was fast and opened-up a whole new era. Europe this week is congratulating itself on the new Airbus A380, the world's biggest aircraft. It is not exactly revolutionary, Boeing has been pumping out a similar aircraft, the 747 Jumbo, for the last 30 years. It is just big. What concerns me is that this new super-aircraft has still not flown and is too big for many airports to handle. I just don't understand why Europe has embarked on this new plan of building slow large aircraft when surely it would have been better to continue with the development of Concorde. Imagine if the new Airbus was able to travel at even half the speed of the ill-fated Anglo-French jet? That is revolutionary. That would improve the airline industry. That would open up the world; but a flying bus is just a step back not forward. Meanwhile, Boeing who designed the 747 when Europe was busy designing Concorde has said that small is beautiful. Their new jet is much faster with a smaller passenger load, ideal for the new breed of no-frills carriers. They have no plans to develop a Super Jumbo because they already have one, the good Boeing 747. I don't think that Airbus' Super Jumbo will be a success. It is just too big for the changing post September 11, airline industry. Forty years ago Europe was in a position to take a commanding lead within the aviation industry. There was Concorde and there was the Vertical Landing Jet, or the Harrier. Both aircraft were designed at the factories where parts for the new Airbus are being made. The new European plane is meant to challenge the supremacy of the United States but unfortunately all it shows is that they were right 30 years ago. Meanwhile, all the great European inventions will just gather dust. The new plane of the future is slow and needs most of a motorway to land. Not exactly a step forward when you think that 40 years ago European designers were talking of vertical take-off planes which could travel at the speed of sound.
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