Retrospective: Project Rocket

This is a short retrospective featuring British Airways Concorde, which ended its career with deserving fanfare on 24 October 2003 after conducting a farewell tour of North America and the UK. The cabin was never designed for shut-eye - it was designed for comfort at speeds of up to Mach 2 and with a seating capacity of 100 passengers, the seating arrangement offered substantially less personal space than what was available in First on BA’s subsonic fleet. At 17.8 inches wide and pitched at 37 inches the layout was more generous than World Traveller yet marginally more constrained than World Traveller Plus. That being said, and while there was no in-flight entertainment, the seats were exquisitely detailed and beautifully formed.

In 1999, British Airways commissioned Factory Design to devise a new seat for Concorde. Factory worked closely with Sir Terence Conran, who was no stranger to Concorde himself, and undertook a thorough process of passenger profiling, analysing the behavioural patterns of loyal Concorde customers, material innovation, and research into new and emerging technologies.

Five of the fleet of seven (G-BOAC/D/E/F/G) received the new cabin design and the results were resplendent. The new seats, manufactured by Britax-Contour cost £14,000 for each pair which translates to £25,000 in today’s money.

The new seat comprised of a single monocoque carbon fibre frame, a super light weight material that offered unparalleled compressive and tensile strength, titanium support pylons and featured a cradle mechanism, pedal-style footrest, and contoured headrest. The seat cushions, inspired by Charles and Ray Eames’ chairs, consisted of edge padding clad in ink-blue Connolly leather, into which fabric cushions were inserted.

However, it is the armrest that is probably the most memorable and striking of all. Constructed of milled stainless steel, BA’s Speedmarque symbol was cleverly incorporated into the arm’s design.

We hope the following seat map is as joyful to view as it was to produce, and if you were fortunate to have flown in the rocket we hope this rekindles many fond memories.

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