19 July 2001 | Liam O'Brien
British Airways' purchasing department has played a key role in speeding the imminent return to service of the world's only supersonic passenger jet.
An airline procurement team has been working closely with EADS, the French supplier of heat-resistant Kevlar liners that have been fitted to the fuel tanks inside Concorde's wings at a cost of £18 million.
Swift procurement of the liners enabled BA to re-commission Concorde up to one month before Air France - which owns the jet that crashed into a Paris hotel last July - providing the plane gets its airworthiness certificate. Flights are expected to start in the autumn.
The BA team, led by David Richardson, its engineering supply chain manager, bought 630 individually made liners for the airline's seven Concordes - 90 liners per plane. The first Concorde to have the liners fitted left a Heathrow hanger earlier this month.
The exercise had used partnering rather than purchasing's traditional aim of getting the best price, said Richardson.
"With there only being one supplier of these liners in the world and the complexity of the project, conventional procurement has taken a back seat to partnering," he told SM. "We have focused on non-price factors such as the timely delivery of the liners, efficient logistics and minimising rejects."
The team also worked closely with BA's operational teams to get Concorde flying safely again.
The liners must work perfectly because the aeroplane's fuel also cools its wings in supersonic flight. In addition to being puncture-proof, the liner's porous surface has to allow fuel to pass through it.