Concorde Goes The Way Of The Do-Do
The single commercial
entry into supersonic flight is now museum fodder, after both
British Airways and Air France retired their Concorde fleets in
2003. It was a traumatic decision for many aviation enthusiasts --
especially those in the United Kingdom, where there's still an
effort afoot to keep the supersonic aircraft in the air.
The death knell for the Concorde was sounded twice -- once, when
an Air France version crashed on take-off from Charles de Gaulle in
Paris and finally in the massive industry downturn following the
9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Concorde's passing was
without a sonic boom, but with a whimper. In May, Air France
retired its last supersonic aircraft:
Friday, hundreds of people stood around the fence at New York's
JFK Airport to watch Air France bring to a close 34 years of
supersonic passenger flight. The Concorde flew to Charles De Gaulle
Airport in Paris in just three hours. The 79 passengers, some with
tears in their eyes, deplaned the Concorde, one saying (with
perhaps typical French fatalism), "In France we don't know how to
hold on to what is beautiful."
"Concorde will never really stop flying because it will live on
in people's imagination," Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta
"It's the end of an era in aviation," Dominique Bussereau,
France's transport secretary, told the Associated Press. The last
Air France Concorde flight originated at JFK, as fire trucks
sprayed a rainbow of colored water to send the supersonic aircraft
off in style.
Those who were on board
were fully appreciative of the standard-setting Mach 2 service.
Christophe Mazel, the chief financial officer of Michelin Tires in
Thailand, said of the jet: "You're eating the most beautiful food,
drinking the most beautiful wine. You can't compare it even to
"I kept my eyes wide open during the whole flight" to look out
the window, said passenger Vincent Olivetto, adding, "It's an
unforgettable memory." Olivetto unashamedly admits having shed a
few tears upon landing in Paris.
Then, with the pomp and circumstance normally reserved for a
retiring head of state, Britain put its last Concorde out to
pasture in October:
A Stunning End To A Modern Legend
The aviation world bid a longing goodbye Friday to a noisy,
bothersome, beautiful and remarkable legend. With a grand finale
befitting its reputation, the Concorde landed forever at Heathrow
Airport in London.
In fact, three of them landed in a spectacularly coordinated
finale to the dream which began on a drawing board in 1962.
We've worked this story over pretty good at Aero-News (ANN:
"Last Concordes To Retire Friday" -- 20 October 2003). We've said
our goodbyes and shed our tears. Here's what the rest of the world
had to say:
Air traffic controller Ivor Sims, 51, sending the last Concorde
to its gate: "We have all enjoyed you over the years. Best wishes
from us all."
Vicky Giannakas of Little Neck (NJ) and a BA customer service
rep for a decade: "That's it -- that's the end. It's sad. I shed a
tear. I guess it's off to a museum now."
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens): "While there may be
some who will shed a tear over the final flight of the Concorde,
there will be no crying in Queens today. This is one flight
cancellation that was long overdue."
Julia Zuk, 50, who lives near Heathrow airport: "It's like
wearing stilettos. They hurt your feet, but you know they look a
lot sexier than ordinary shoes."
The Advertiser, Australia: "Russia had the Sputnik and the first
manned space flight. The US hit back with Neil Armstrong's lunar
landing. But in an era of superpower one-upmanship, neither could
boast launching the world's first supersonic jet liner."