The soaring design of Concorde

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Lawrence Azerrad visits KCRW to discuss his new book “Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde.” Photo by Frances Anderton.

It’s been over 40 years since Concorde first entered service, and no commercial plane has ever flown faster.

This month two books about the supersonic airplane are being published. One, released today by Smithsonian Books, is called Last Days of the Concorde.

The other is Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde, based on a huge collection of Concorde memorabilia amassed by LA-based graphic designer Lawrence Azerrad.

Azerrad, who first flew Concorde -- using frequent-flier mileage! -- the year the supersonic airplane ceased flying, tells DnA about his excitement at the experience of flying “faster than a speeding bullet.”

He discusses his love of the elite plane’s design and branding -- “everything from napkin rings to travel maps and luggage tags, everything that a passenger came into contact with had design forethought in it.”

And he talks about the optimism the Anglo-French project represented and “how sad it is that we had this glimpse of the future, and we now live in a world that is lacking this kind of innovation and spirit.”



An image of the book “Supersonic” shows objects from the Air France Concorde, circa 1970s: Raymond Loewy stainless steel flatware (left) and a matchbook.

Many countries, the Trump White House notwithstanding, are however coalescing around innovative efforts to combat climate change. And in this regard Concorde was old school. It was, grants Azerrad, “a gross offender on emissions.”

But now a new age of supersonic flight is in development. Wired reports that “Aerion Supersonic and Spike Aerospace are developing private jets for the wealthy and Boom Supersonic is creating plane for less well-monied flyers.”

However, don’t expect any aspiring Concordes to fly as fast. The new models, expected to enter the skies in a couple decades, will fly “just a hair under supersonic speeds… maybe a mile slower than breaking the sound barrier,” says Azerrad, adding, “so there is no sonic trail that comes from it.”

“It’s the first time ever that an airplane has never had a successor,” John Lampl, a retired public-relations manager for British Airways, told The Atlantic.

For now, books like Azerrad’s are keeping the memory alive. He will sign copies of Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde on Thursday at Il Caffè at Acne Studios DTLA.



Concorde brochure designed by SYNELOG and printed in 1975, offered to passengers of the first commercial flight, January 1976.