By Jason Rabinowitz / Published January 9, 2014
In the 1960s, everything seemed to be a race. Not only did President John F. Kennedy want to be the first country to the moon, but he wanted to be the first country in the world with a supersonic transport solution. In a recently declassified phone call with Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon, the President expresses his utter outrage when he discovers that Pan Am’s Juan Trippe placed order options for the French and British made Concorde just days before the United States was to announce its own supersonic aircraft project- something Trippe knew in advance.
The June 4, 1963 call starts off with JFK asking the Secretary of the Treasury “have you seen what Juan Trippe did,” adding “how could he do that when he knew we were about to go ahead?” JFK was extremely angry at Trippe for potentially compromising the American program, announced a mere two days later.
JFK seemed to be at a loss of words as to why Trippe ordered the Concorde. “I mean, didn’t we have any understanding with him that he wouldn’t go ahead while we were trying to come up with our proposal?” Throughout the call, JFK expressed his rage about the order, considering asking Trippe to print a retraction of the order. “I think that he ought to retract that thing,” JFK said. “I think that you ought to call him up, Doug, and say that we’re [expletive] sore about this. He knew the United States . . . my God, I had it in my speech for tomorrow.”
JFK believed that an order from Pan Am for the Concorde could potentially doom the still unannounced American SST program. “[this order] involves hundreds of millions of dollars in balance of payments, which is going to sabotage a program to put the United States up in the lead in the 70s.”
Throughout the phone call, JFK vents his rage to the Secretary of the Treasury, stating numerous times how he feels about Pan Am after hearing of the Concorde news. “If he is so indifferent to what the United States Government is doing, I think, Doug, you ought to call up and stick it right up his ass. I want him to eat that today, because otherwise we can’t possibly go ahead….And I’m really . . .going to spend our time screwing Pan Am.”
When all was said and done, the Boeing 2707 supersonic jet never entered service. Rising and unjustifiable costs eventually lead to the cancellation of the program in 1973. As for Pan Am, they never actually took delivery of the Concorde. The airline cancelled their order in 1973, the same year the Boeing 2707 project was cancelled. In fact, Pan Am ordered 15 Boeing 2707’s, more than any other airline.
Full audio of the phone call and transcript are embedded below: