2003-10-30 / View From the Middle

View From

The Middle
By Charles Rogers
View From The Middle By Charles Rogers

The Concorde — Am I The Only One Who’ll Miss It?

You’ll hate me for this; most of you, anyway.

I hate to see the Concorde go.

I loved it, even though it flew over my beloved Canarsie and surrounding communities and roared the population almost to death — certainly almost to deaf — from its first flight 37 years ago.

I know, I know. Please don’t inundate me with e-mails and notes and letters condemning me for being inspired by this jump into the future that was guilty only of being before its time. There will indeed be more Concordes in the distant future, of course. How could there not be?

Obviously, I’m a nut for flying. I’ve done those things the Concorde did, including that sound barrier thing — but I didn’t pay the (roughly) $10,000 for the opportunity. The plane cruised at 1,350 miles per hour and reached a cruising altitude of 11 miles. Eleven miles high! A few miles more and it would have been weightless. It would have reached into space and the passengers could have landed on the Moon! The journey to London from New York took less than three-and-a-half hours, whereas a normal jet flight takes, roughly, eight hours. Let’s face it, though those rich enough to afford it really didn’t need it for the time-saved factor. More than 99% of the time traveling by this means was strictly pretentious.

Don’t knock it. Doing something because your name is Donald Trump and being pretentious is okay, if you can afford it.

What a romantic venture the Concorde was. One look at it and you knew it was part of a futuristic venture and adventure ready ahead of its time, with its needle nose bending so the pilot could see the ground on landing; the sleek wings, making it appear to be (almost) a flying saucer, if your science fiction-ish mind would bend in that direction; and that sound! Oh, that sound! Of course it rattled houses and even stirred waves in Jamaica Bay. How many times have you stood on the ground and cursed that deafening roar; cursed the sight of the landing gear being brought up into its chassis and nearly cheered as it turned, rose and disappeared into the sun?

I can’t count how many times I have done just the opposite.

Yes, I’ve even stopped my car along Beach Channel Drive in Belle Harbor to watch this anomaly come in for a landing. I’ve lain on the beach there in the hope that it would come along the glide path directly over my head, where I could see the underbelly of this beast that, on takeoff, would enrage thousands but on the quieter landing would be a wonder to behold. It was undeniably awesome.

I can’t blame those homeowners and other residents of the communities here on the ground that were affected. Come 7:30 a.m. every day, their windows rattled and their dishes rattled and their teeth rattled until their stomach rattled too, and, while I stood with a ridiculous smile on my face, watching it go by, they had every right to try to wipe that grin off my face.

It’s moot now. The Concorde just couldn’t make it financially, which is the bottom line anywhere. British Airways and Air France both terminated it following the crash in Paris in 2000 that killed 113 people. Service was suspended for something like 16 to 18 months while investigations took place. When it returned, the airlines just couldn’t recoup that money lost as a result of lawsuits and the just plain fear of flying on that particular plane. It is still not known whether it was because it was the Concorde that the flight crashed or if the crash could have occurred with any other type jet liner, but people made the connection and decided it wasn’t worth the money to take what was perceived as such a risk. Officials eventually said the plane was falling apart and they weren’t making enough money to fix it, so the best choice was to retire it.

Some speculated recently that it would be featured now and then in air shows and eventually would find a resting place somewhere on the USS Intrepid Air-Space Museum. I hope so. If it is, I’ll be there to view it up close, remembering the days I watched it — felt it — roar into the sky from my perch on Canarsie Pier.

There will be more Concordes in the future. They’ll fly higher and faster as they go to the moon or Mars or wherever out there.

One thing’s for sure, though….

They’ll have a muffler.

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