TED Case Studies

SST Pollution

          CASE NUMBER:          99 
          CASE MNEMONIC:      SST
          CASE NAME:          SST Pollution


1.        The Issue

     The Concorde Supersonic Aircraft was created as a joint
venture between the British Aerospace Company and Air France
that would travel at the speed of sound for transatlantic
flights.  The main concern for environmental groups was the
effect of the planežs engines on the ozone and compounding the
air pollution problem.  The original notion for the plane was
to create a fleet of passenger airplanes that fly faster than
the speed of sound.  The plane itself would climb to an
altitude of 60,000 feet, nearly 20,000 feet higher than normal
airplanes, putting the plane very close to the ozone layer. 
The engine structure for the SST (supersonic transport
aircraft) requires an exotic fuel that when burned, omits
nitrogen oxides (NOx) directly into the ozone layer.  Another
exhaust problem is the emission of water vapor and hydroxyl
radicals (OH).  Each of these types of exhaust emissions
contributes considerably to the greenhouse effect.  The
greenhouse effect is simply the warming of the lower
atmosphere, allowing the upper level of the atmosphere, the
stratosphere, to cool.  Even minor changes in temperature in
the atmosphere have a dramatic impact on weather patters across
the globe (ozone depletion from jet emissions allows more
ultraviolet radiation into the lower atmosphere).  

2.        Description

     In the early 1970s, the debate over the Concorde was taken
up by environmental groups (the Anti-Concordists) against the
purchasing of the planes by PanAmerican Airlines or any other U.S.
transatlantic air carrier.  The other thrust of the
Anti-Concorde campaign was to prevent the United States from
expending scarce national funds into the creation of an
expensive and limited airplane.  The main U.S. developers of the
plane would have been either Boeing or Lockheed, both of whom are
big suppliers of military aircraft.  Environmentally, a fleet of
supersonic aircraft would reduce the ozone faster than the total
worldwide output of chloroflourocarbons (CFCs).  It was also
thought that the plane would be an economic flop since its
operating costs were very high, making ticket prices high for a
limited amount of space.  Interestingly enough, the debate centered
exclusively on the Concorde, whereas the U.S. had a fleet of
supersonic bombers and fighters that produced the same emissions at
the same altitude.  

     Another problem with the plane was noise pollution.  The shock
wave of the plane forcing the air apart when it moves past the
speed of sound creates a sonic boom.   The disruptions from the
sonic boom prevent the Concorde from being used at supersonic
speeds over land.  Therefore, the only real market for the plane
was for Atlantic crossings (the plane had a range of only  4,000
miles, making Pacific crossings impossible).  Presently, U.S.
airlines account for more than 65 percent of transatlantic route
profits.  With total profits from business class cross-Atlantic
flights coming to $60 million a year, the Europeans (namely the
British and French state airlines) could probably cash in on a
lucrative market.  An aggressive campaign by BAC to market the
Concorde to the U.S. airlines provided a forum for environmental
groups to stop the purchase of the
plane, as well as present environmental concerns to the public.

     Although most airplanes emit pollutants into the air,
concern was focused on the Concorde for several reasons. 
First, public concern for the environment was becoming more acute,
creating more scrutiny for large scale projects and
their potential environmental effects.  Second, the fact that the
Concorde would fly so close to the ozone layer where
chemical reactions are more pronounced (see MONTREAL case).  The
original proposal for the development and production of the
Concorde, called for a fleet of 500-1000 planes.  The British
Airline Company had already expended more than $14 billion into the
project, while American Aerospace airlines and producers were
considering buying a large portion of the fleet, or
producing an American version of the plane.

     Another issue was the overall purpose of the plane.  The
plane's passenger capacity was restricted to 100 people, and would
be used primarily for business class flights across the Atlantic. 
The costs of flying the Concorde would have been, in the short
term, prohibitive to the average passenger.  This begs the
question, why do so much damage to the environment for the ability
to fly a few business people to Europe in three hours?(1)

3.        Related Cases

     SULFUR case
     JAPANAIR case
     MONTREAL case
     KORPOLL case

     Keyword Clusters

     (1): Trade Product            =    TRANSport
     (2): Bio-geography            =    TEMPerate
     (3): Environmental Problem    =    OZONE Loss

4.        Draft Author:  Tyler P. Shields

B.        LEGAL Clusters

5.        Discourse and Status: AGReement and COMPlete

6.        Forum and Scope:  USA

7.        Decision Breadth:  3 (USA, UK, France)  

8.        Legal Standing:  NGO

     Interest group pressure and economic failures ended
further production of SST.

C.        GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

9.        Geographic Locations:

     a.   Geographic Domain:       GLOBAL
     b.   Geographic Site:         GLOBAL
     c.   Geographical Impact:     GLOBAL

10.       Sub-national Factors:  YES

11.       Type of Habitat:  ATMOSphere

D.        TRADE Clusters

12.       Type of Measure:  Regulatory Ban [REGBAN]

     The effort by environmental groups was to limit the sales of
the SST to prevent further ozone depletion.

13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impact:  DIRect

     Only 14 Concordes were produced and American production of an
SST was halted before any serious investments were  

14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact:

     a.   Directly Related:        YES  TRANSport
     b.   Indirectly Related:      NO
     c.   Not Related:             NO
     d.   Related to Process:      YES  OZONE Loss

15.       Trade Product Identification:  TRANSport

16.       Economic Data:

     Each plane costs $15 million.  There are only 14 in
service, but original plans envisioned a fleet of more than 100. 
Labor force for BAC on Concorde project was 5,000.

17.       Degree of Competitive Impact: MEDium

     The industry was expected to generate $20-60 million a year
for business class ticket sales.  The only market that the SST
would have an effect would be business class trans-Atlantic travel.

18.       Industry Sector:  Electrical Machinery (EMACH)

19.       Exporters and Importers: USA and FRANCE

     Asian governments were very wary of noise pollution,
ecological problems, and most significantly, cost of operating the

E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters

20.       Environmental Problem Type: OZONE

21.       Name and Number of Species

     Name:          MANY
     Type:          MAY
     Diversity:     2,036 higher plants per
                    10,000 km/sq (United

22.       Resource Impact and Effect:  MEDIUM

23.       Urgency of Problem: LOW 

24.       Substitute: LIKE  products

     Non-supersonic transport has less impact on the ozone.

F.        OTHER Factors

25.       Culture: NO

26.       Trans-Border:  YES

27.       Human Rights: NO

28.       Relevant Literature

Clipped Wings: The American SST Conflict.  Cambridge, Mass.:     
MIT Press, 1982.
Dwiggins, Don.  The SST: Here it Comes, Ready or Not: The Story   
  of the Controversial Supersonic Transport.  Garden
     City, New York: Doubleday, 1968.
Edwards, Jay Thomas.  "Macroeconomic View of the SST: An
     Assessment of Economic Efficiency."  Thesis-George
     Washington University, 1971.
Feldman, Elliot.  Concorde and Dissent: Explaning High
     Project Failures in Britain and France.  Cambridge,
     New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Knight, Geoffrey.  Concorde, the Inside Story.  New York:
     Stein and Day, 1976.


1.   Elliot Feldman, Concorde and Dissent: Explaning High
Technology Project Failures in Britain and France, Cambridge, New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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