The Carter administration proposed rules yesterday that would give the Concorde supersonic-speed jet transport restricted but permanent landing rights at airports across the United States.
The proposed regulations are such that only the 16 Concordes currently built or under construction would be allowed to fly to U.S. cities. Additional supersonic jetliners - domestic or foreign - would have to meet the noise standards that were set in 1969 for subsonic jets. These standards would be waived for the 16 Concordes.
It will be at least four months and probably longer before the rule proposed yesterday can be adopted as final. The Federal Aviation Administration will hold public hearings before issuing a final order. No new Concorde operations to the United States will be permitted until then, and opponents of Concorde are already gearing up for congressional and court fights.
Present Concorde flights serving Dulles International Airport here - 13 a week - will be permitted to continue until the final regulation is adopted, Transportation Secretary Brock Adams said in announcing the administration's decision. If the rule is adopted as proposed, airlines flying the 16 Concordes could use Dulles as frequently as they wished, within the limits of a curfew.
Whether other cities would get Concorde operations would depend on noise rules the airport operators might impose and on whether airlines with Concordes want to serve those cities. Thirteen major U.S. international airports have been listed as appropriate for Concorde operations and others could apply.
Furthermore, Adams said, the administration still supports a 16-month test for Concorde at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Such a test, approved at the same time as one that will be completed today at Dulles, has been blocked by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy Airport.A federal appellate court is debating the legality of the port authority's action.
Adams said bluntly, "Yes," when asked if the practical effect of the proposed supersonic rule was to close the production line for the Anglo-French aircraft at 16 planes.
That is because Concordes as presently manufactured cannot hope to meet the noise standards that the proposed rule would impose on them.
However, as French official conceded privately yesterday, the production line is already closed for all practical purposes. Both the British and French have siad that no more Concordes will be built unless there are buyers for them.
The world's airlines - looking at a price tag of about $70 million, a small payload (100 passengers) and questionable access to the lucrative New York market, have stayed away. Five of the 16 Concordes are unsold. The only ones flying today are operated by the state-owned British Airways and Air France.
In addition to levying stringent noise standards on new supersonics, the administration's proposed rule also forbids Concorde operations at U.S. airports between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
That would represent the first nationwide curfew on peacetime airplane operations, long-time Federal Aviation Administration officials said.
Furthermore, the proposed regulation would continue to give local airports the option of adopting noise rules that might exclude the Concorde. The U.S. government has been steadfastly protecting local option in all its noise rules because it does not wish to assume liability for potential noise suits.
Aviation attaches of both the British and French embassies in Washington characterized yesterday's proposal as "fair."
But in Paris, transport minister Marcel Cavaille denounced the decision as "inadmissible and very grave" because it would limit the Corcorde program to 16 planes. In London, the British said they were "delighted" with the decision.
Both Air France and British Airways issued cautious statements that looked forward to operations in New York.
Rep. James H. Scheuer (D-N.Y.) said the decision "cuts us to the bone." He predicted that if New York approval is won in court, all 16 Concordes will concentrate on serving transatlantic routes to that city.
Arlie Schardt, executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund, said, "We will continue to do everything within our power to see tha tno plane with as many noise, safety and energy deficiencies as this one is ever put into use in this country." EDF led a losing fight against the Concorde test period at Dulles.
Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), a long-time Concorde backer, said he was "pleased we're allowing it" and Rep. Samuel Stratton (D-N.Y.) said he was "delighted." Stratton and other congressmen met with President Carter Wednesday to urge approval of Concorde operations.
The 13 cities included as "appropriate" for Concorde in an FAA environmental impact statement are Anchorage, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma and Washington.
Officials in San Francisco, Seattle and Boston said yesterday they do not want the plane. David Adams, director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan Airport in Boston, declared that the terrible noise polluter' will not be allowed to land there.
Both Dallas and Philadelphia have expressed interest in Concorde service. Newark has too, but its runways are not long enough.
Braniff International has formally applied to the FAA for rights to lease Concordes and crews from Air France and British Airways and provide same-plane service between Dallas and Europe, with a stop here. This would require the United States to certify the Concorde as airworthy, and Adams said that process is continuing.
Adams also said the proposed rule would exclude the world's other supersonic passenger plane, the Soviet TU-144, because the Soviets have never applied for U.S. landing rights and their plane is too loud.
Adams said that the decision was made in close consultation with President Carter and that a ban on the Concorde was seriously considered among various options. Sources said the President approved essentially what Adams had recommended.