design icons/Concorde

Like the mystique that surrounds it, the Concorde is a complex, intriguing, paradoxical machine. To witness its striking silhouette is to gaze back into the mists of time when Leonardo da Vinci folded parchment into gliders as he pondered the possibility of flight. The jetliner has been alternately described as “strangely beautiful,” “the last romantic airplane,” and “a fuel-guzzling white elephant.”

The aircraft that evokes such poetic and prickly descriptions was designed by Gordon Strang and Lucian Servanty in a collaboration between British Aerospace Corp. and Sud Aviation. The Concorde came into being in 1969, but when it debuted commercially seven years later it was, plainly put, a flop. Conceived in an era when oil was plentiful and cheap, it is a needle-nosed anachronism. Even today, despite the allure of its aerodynamic shape, majestic lift-off, and unmistakable cachet, the 203-foot-long Concorde gulps twice the amount of fuel of its counterparts, creates a shock wave that is heard on the ground as a sonic boom, and doesn’t fly a single mile beyond its exclusive transatlantic route.

Once, the Concorde stood for the future of aviation. Even today, no other jetliner has quite the same elan or the ability to carry 100 people so far, so fast. But with one-way tickets priced at roughly $3,500, and development costs for more efficient versions at $10 billion, designers everywhere are reshaping past views of conquest and profit toward a concern for economics and the environment.

Lucien Servanty (died october 7th 1973) was a French aeronautical engineer. A graduate from the Ecole des Arts et Métiers, he joined Breguet in 1937, then worked at the SNCASO, where he was involved in the redesign of late variants of the Bloch MB.150 line. During World War II, he designed the SO.6000 Triton, France’s first jet aircraft. But Lucien Servanty is probably best remembered today for being one of the main engineers behind Concorde.

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