x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Time Frame: Pepsi's fly-by visit

Pepsi Cola's Air France Concorde touches down at Dubai airport on a flying visit as part of a US$500 million international rebranding campaign in 1996.

Dubai aviation officials watch the arrival of Pepsi's Concorde, leased from Air France for a promotion, in 1996. Reuters
Dubai aviation officials watch the arrival of Pepsi's Concorde, leased from Air France for a promotion, in 1996. Reuters

On April 7, 1996, Air France Concorde registration number F-BTSD touched down at Dubai airport on a flying visit as part of a US$500 million international rebranding campaign by Pepsi Cola, the US soft-drinks company that was battling to hold on to a declining market share.

In Dubai, Pepsi took 100 VIP guests on a supersonic joyride before the aircraft took off for the next leg of a month-long tour that also took in Paris, London, Dublin, Stockholm, Beirut, Jeddah, Cairo, Milan and Madrid. Painting the supersonic aircraft blue to match Pepsi's new branding was a technical challenge. Skin temperature was a vital factor for aircraft capable of flying at Mach 2.04 (2,140kph, more than twice the speed of sound) and all Concordes were rated for supersonic flight with only a white paint job.

Eventually, the Pepsi paintwork was approved, but only for the fuselage - the wings had to remain white because of concerns about fuel temperature. Another condition was that the aircraft should not be allowed to exceed Mach 2.02 for more than 20 minutes.

One of 20 Concordes built between 1966 and 1979 by a joint French-British consortium - only 14 of which went into service, with Air France and British Airways halving the flight time between Paris and London and New York – F-BTSD's days were numbered, along with those of the rest of the fleet, when sister aircraft F-BTSC crashed at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport in July 2000, killing all 109 people on board and four on the ground. All Concordes were grounded for more than a year, but the crash spelt the end for the revolutionary aircraft, which flew commercially for the last time in 2003. F-BTSD, which during its 25-year career flew almost 13,000 hours, made 5,135 landings and went supersonic 3,672 times, made her final flight on June 14, 2003. She is now in retirement at Le Bourget Air and Space Museum, Paris.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae