Photographs of a VIP visit by Government Rt Hon Michael Heseltine MP who had been promoted to be Minister for Aerospace in April 1972, a Minister of State rather than a Cabinet minister but effectively running his own department within the Department of Trade and Industry,
One of Heseltine’s main jobs was to sell Concorde, which was difficult because of its cost and limited range (it could fly from New York to London or Paris, but not the short extra distance to Rome or Frankfurt) and capacity (a quarter that of a Boeing 747).
It had been initiated by Macmillan in 1962 as an Anglo-French project to try to get Britain into the EEC, although by the early 1970s Heath was already broaching cancellation with President Pompidou. BOAC threatened to cancel its order, and Heseltine several times summoned the board, who had threatened to resign en masse, to his office, impressing Parkinson by his skills of persuasion. Civil Servants were happy that his love of generating headlines helped the cause of Concorde sales.
The Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Anne were all seen accompanying Heseltine on board Concorde to drum up publicity. In the summer of 1972 he sent Concorde 002 on a tour of Iran, India, Singapore, Japan and Australia. Heseltine and his wife Anne accompanied the plane as far as Singapore (the press joked that Lee Kuan Yew might not let him in with such long hair), and he met it at Toulouse on the way back, but not a single plane was sold.
By this stage there were options to sell 74 Concordes to 17 airlines around the world (the original hope had been to sell 30), but this went wrong because of the rises in the oil price in 1973 and 1979; in the event only 10 were ever sold, five each to British Airways (as BOAC had become in 1974) and Air France.
Heseltine won praise for his efforts at salesmanship, but some civil servants felt that he was more committed to the plane than Tony Benn had been, and that he should have acted decisively to cut back marketing efforts sooner than he did.