Sunday, September 28, 2014
A Dream that Won't Come True
For as long as I can remember I've wanted to one day fly on the Concord. From the moment I first heard about this airplane, I always thought that one day I'd have the opportunity. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. However, I did get to see the inside of one a few years ago when I was visiting New York and decided to tour the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. There is one positioned on the deck that can be toured.
I've had several encounters with the aircraft when it was flying. On my very first trip to Europe, I saw passengers boarding one as my plane was taxing at Heathrow airport. In 1986 I visited the Worlds Fair in Vancouver British Columbia and it happened that while I was there, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was making a quick visit to the Great Britain pavilion and the Concord she was on made a slow circle around the city giving everyone on the ground an opportunity to watch it go by. Also in the late 80's, I worked with a woman whose husband treated her to a trip to Paris, flying over on the Concord in time for dinner. All of these events further fueled my dream of one day crossing the Atlantic aboard this Dreamliner.
The inside of the aircraft is much smaller than you might imagine. There is only room for four seats across and very little headroom. If you are tall, you will have to duck a bit. There were only 20 of these planes built and only 14 were ever in commercial service. British Airways and Air France each had seven. It could fly to destinations in less than half the time it took other jets. The fastest recorded time was on February 7, 1996 when a flight flew from New York to London in 2 hours and 52 minutes (aided by a strong tailwind). That alone is worth dreaming about.
On the tour of the one on display on Intrepid, you get to take a peek inside the cockpit. There are quite a lot of dials and gauges in there but, pilots who flew this plane have remarked how it handled beautifully and how they loved flying it.
The Concord was retired in 2003. The decision to discontinue commercial flights was made for economic reasons. The planes were extremely expensive to fly. The decision was further bolstered by the crash of one of the planes in 2000 and then the 9/11 attack on the U. S. in 2001 created a serious downturn in the aviation industry. When Airbus decided to discontinue maintenance of the aircraft, it's fate was sealed.
To make my visit to see the Concord a little bit ironic, when I got to the airport for my flight home, my U.S. Airways flight was taking off from the former "Concord" gate. The signs designating that gate are still visible.
One thing that struck me when I was writing this post was that as far back as the late 50's and into the 70's when they were testing supersonic flight, I remember hearing that sonic boom every now and then. Do you remember hearing that sound? That's a sound that I haven't heard in many years.